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Candidate Speaker Series – next Sunday, March 9, Dist 2 supervisor Larry Wahl – and don’t forget, Spring Ahead!

Originally posted on Chico Taxpayers Association:

Next Sunday is Spring Ahead, make note of that. We have Dist 2 supervisor Larry Wahl coming into the Chico library at noon to talk to us about his concerns and answer questions about ours. 

These sessions are very casual and you can ask what you’d like.  Issues we’ve discussed so far include State of Jefferson, marijuana initiative, global warming, staffing in various county offices, and an elected offical’s due diligence to their constituents. 

I don’t think everybody realizes, the June primary will be the end of it for a lot of these county and state offices, and it’s already March. Don’t dawdle, get informed. And, here’s your chance to inform these people what you find to be important. 

Please come on in, I’ll be there at 11:30 to set up chairs. 

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A Good Gaveling

Congratulations to our very own Mary Fitch, who at the February 4 City Council meeting became the first person in our collective memory to be gaveled down while speaking from the podium, without so much as a polite throat clearing by the Mayor, much less a verbal request to wrap up!

Now, you might not think being gaveled down is something to celebrate, but in this instance, we sure do! Since Mary’s only offense was to speak a few seconds beyond her three-minute limit, we cannot help but find humor in the fact that Mayor Scott Gruendl felt compelled to use a hammer, rather than a gentle nudge, to tell Mary to wrap things up. And then, as if that were not enough, he busted his cool and scolded her, ending by saying, “That’s enough” and pounding the gavel a second time.

Here is the video clip – well worth a watch: Mary Gets Gaveled

As a reminder, each of the three of us behind Truth Matters, Chico! was employed by the City of Chico for over a decade. Counting two Council meetings per month over the course of my own 14+ years’ experience, that would amount to over 300 meetings during which I cannot recall a Mayor ever using the gavel as a way to say “time’s up.”

It is a rare circumstance, indeed, for the gavel to be used for anything other than procedural matters such as calling the meeting to order, closing a hearing, closing a public comment period, and adjourning the meeting. In those rare instances when the gavel is used to restore order, it is typically when an audience member is being disruptive and does not calm down after being verbally cautioned. In fact, I have witnessed many back and forth arguments, with raised voices, between speakers at the podium and councilmembers without the gavel being used.

So, Mary must have drastically taken advantage of her allowed speaking time to be gaveled down, correct? Nope. Mary exceeded her allotted 3 minutes by exactly 18 seconds (likely the equivalent of two sentences).

For an earlier post that I worked on, I did an accounting of speakers from the Business from the Floor section of the agenda. I pulled data for a year’s worth of meetings. From that information, I can tell you that on average, one person per month will speak at Business from the Floor for longer than 4 minutes. I also have documented speakers that exceeded 6 minutes.

But instead of looking at historical data, let’s just examine the remainder of the February 4 meeting…

As indicated above, Mary was abruptly gaveled down after 3 minutes and 18 seconds of speaking. Later in the evening, another speaker spent a total of 6 minutes and 41 seconds at the podium without the Mayor picking up the gavel. 3:18 = Gavel. 6:41 = No Gavel.

In the interest of full disclosure, and because it adds to the story, the citizen spoke for 3 minutes and 35 seconds before the Mayor respectfully interrupted, asked the speaker to wrap up, and then apologized. The speaker went on to talk for another 49 seconds before the Mayor again spoke up, APOLOGIZED AGAIN, and politely asked the speaker to finish. The speaker continued, and finally asked the Council to answer a question. There was a bit of back and forth and then the speaker continued on, providing some documentation in support of his concerns, for more than an additional 2 minutes. Total time 6 minutes and 41 seconds. No gavel.

The Chico News & Review even picked up on this oddity in an article published February 6. The article reports, “Rather than giving Fitch the gentle warning provided to most speakers who exceed the three-minute time limit, Gruendl abruptly ended her comments by slamming his gavel.”

Hmmmm, must have been something she said.

Let me take this opportunity to say, “Shame on You, Mayor Gruendl,” for allowing your emotions to override proper protocol and common courtesy, for discriminating against your constituents based on your personal opinion of what they have to say when addressing the Council, and in general for behaving like a petulant bully while cowering behind the shelter of the dais. Shameful.

We thank you for your continued readership and welcome your comments and questions. Nothing we do makes any difference unless we can get the citizens and taxpayers involved.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Beyond Hypocrisy, Indeed

At last Tuesday’s Council meeting, Chico Police Officers Association (CPOA) president Peter Durfee addressed the Council regarding the $25,000 Supplemental Appropriation for the City’s labor negotiator. (Quené also addressed the item, but I want to leave that for a separate post, since my comments will differ significantly.) When we posted the meeting notice, we mentioned that Durfee had also commented on the original appropriation to hire the negotiator, saying in part that $80,000 would certainly not be enough money to complete negotiations with all nine bargaining groups and asking, what then?

So, on Tuesday, Durfee spoke again saying, “I told you so” and calling the City’s negotiator a “hired gun.” Here’s the brief video clip of his comments:  Durfee_Hired Gun

Quené followed him at the podium, and after she finished speaking there was a discussion among the Councilmembers, during which Mark Sorensen opined that complaining about the City having a hired gun when the CPOA had one of its own was “beyond hypocrisy.” Here’s the video clip containing that comment: Sorensen_Beyond Hypocrisy

Newsflash: The City has three top Executive Team members, each with a six-figure salary, whose job descriptions include “labor negotiations.” The CPOA does not. Now, I’m not saying one way or another whether I agree with some of the tactics used by the safety groups during negotiations. I am saying, however, that comparing CPOA’s resources with the City’s is the height of hypocrisy.

If the City’s Executive Team does not have someone qualified to negotiate, among the half million dollars plus in salaries it pays to the three who are supposed to be doing it, perhaps the citizens should take another look at who should be filling those positions rather than dipping into the Emergency Reserve Fund (and the taxpayers’ pockets) to fund an additional six figure contract to correct the deficiency in internal talent. Just sayin’…

We thank you for your continued readership and welcome your comments and questions. Please continue to share our posts with your fellow Chicoans. Nothing we do makes any difference unless we can get the citizens and taxpayers involved.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

hypocrisy_meter__a_graphic_for_facebook_and_forums_by_askgriff-d5myy33

Image: deviantart.com (by askgriff-d5myy33)

Council Meeting Tuesday Night

Tuesday night’s City Council Meeting starts at 6:30 pm at 421 Main Street. The meeting agenda can be found here.

Of particular interest on the agenda are:

(1) Request on the Consent Agenda for a $25,000 supplemental appropriation from the Emergency Reserve Fund to pay the City’s contracted labor negotiator. (I find it fascinating that the agenda describes it as a budget modification rather than a supplemental appropriation. That’s the new Chico Way — transparency at its finest.)

We expressed concern about the original $80,000 Emergency Reserve Fund appropriation both at the September 3 Council meeting and in a September 29 post. A primary concern was that this item had made it to the Consent Agenda with absolutely no public discussion beforehand. Bad form! (Did they improperly discuss in Closed Session?) A second but equally important concern is that this Council is repeatedly spending down the Emergency Reserve Fund for its pet projects. There is a clear restriction on the Fund that the money only be used for “emergency needs as determined by the City Council.” I just can’t see how this qualifies as an emergency by any reasonable person’s definition. Another speaker at the September 3 meeting, Peter Durfee, pointed out that $80,000 would certainly not be enough money to complete negotiations with all nine bargaining groups and asked, what then? Now we see “what then.” (Supplemental Appropriation_Negotiator)

(2) Request for an extension of completion of the audit to no later than March 18, 2014. This topic deserves, and will receive, a separate post. Sorensen has been pushing for findings of improper fiscal management and fraud, in furtherance of his personal mission to destroy the professional reputations of former staff. If these auditors make adverse findings and require the entirety of the City’s debt to be moved into the General Fund, the City will find itself unable to borrow or bond. It truly will become the crisis that Sorensen has been screaming from the rooftops. I’m looking to Chris Constantin to explain what a bad move that would be, and I’m hoping Sorensen will back off and Constantin and his staff will be able to negotiate with the auditors to produce an unqualified audit and allow the City to move forward with its adopted deficit reduction strategy. This could be bad, folks. (Audit Extension)

If you’ve never attended a council meeting before, please know that there are typically plenty of seats, and you can come and go as you like (in case you can’t make it until after 6:30 and/or really don’t want to hang around until 11 pm!). It’s okay to just come and observe — no need to speak unless you are so inclined.

If you do wish to address the Council, there are speaker cards in the back of the chambers, and it’s as easy as filling out two fields and placing it in a basket. (Do make sure your speaker cards are submitted to the City Clerk’s station before your item comes up, particularly if it is on the Consent Agenda or under Reports and Communications, since there may be no discussion whatsoever if there is no request to be heard.)

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can watch from home via live stream or at a later date on the video recording. Our permanent link to the Council Meeting page, along with an explanation of how it works, is here: Watch Council Meetings

Again, we urge you to get involved. This is your community, and being informed and engaged is crucial. The Council works for you, so make your voice heard. Write letters, attend meetings or watch from home, ask questions and make comments on our blog posts, and hold the elected officials accountable at the polls.

We thank you for your continued readership and welcome your comments and questions. Please continue to share our posts with your fellow Chicoans. Nothing we do makes any difference unless we can get the citizens and taxpayers involved.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

City Attorney Update

Back in October, we wrote a post about City Attorney Lori Barker’s announcement that she would be retiring in April after 24 years of service to the City of Chico. In our original post we speculated, among other things, that she might have been ‘invited’ to retire.

Here’s one of the points we made in the original post:

Ms. Barker is the sole remaining member of the City’s former Budget Reduction Strategy Team. She knows the facts and circumstances surrounding every action the City took to address the impacts of the recession and its accompanying loss of sales tax revenues, the loss of Redevelopment Agency funds and Vehicle License Fees via State takes, and the subsequent defeat of Measure J (the cellphone tax) that resulted in refunds of prior years’ revenues. We suspect that her narrative about what actually happened differs significantly from the Council’s recent public statements, and we wonder whether she was quietly attempting to correct it, to her ultimate peril.

We also expressed concerns about contracting out City Attorney services:

We have had our suspicions all along that the City Attorney function would be contracted out, which should be cause for public concern. A City Attorney who is a public servant has a duty to the citizens. An outside law firm hired by the Council might not operate within the same constraints, and we believe a conflict of interest might exist if there was no duty to faithfully put the community’s best interest above the Council’s direction. We don’t like it and hope it does not happen, although the Mayor mentioned it in the final paragraph of today’s article: “Gruendl said the council could decide to fill the city attorney position or consider options for contracting out.” [Alicia actually called that play in her very first chat with the Council on August 6. She says somebody owes her five bucks!]

At its meeting of December 17, 2013, the City Council considered and approved (4-3-0 with Schwab, Stone, and Gruendl opposed), and the City subsequently issued, a Request for Proposals (RFP) for City Attorney services. The staff report is here: 2013-12-17_Staff Report_Request for City Attorney Proposals, the RFP is here: Request for Proposals City Attorney Services, and the video discussion is here at time signature 03:19:00: Council Discussion of City Attorney RFP.   [As an aside, this video contains one of my favorite Gruendl maneuvers. He actually counted the votes to make sure the motion passed before deciding which way he would vote. He tried to explain it away afterward, but I call BS.] The closing date for receipt of proposals was Friday, January 31.

Here’s where this gets interesting:

Former Councilmember Andy Holcombe, who is currently residing in Australia, got wind of the RFP and wrote a letter to both the Chico News & Review and the Chico Enterprise Record (both published on Thursday, January 23). Here is the text of his letter:

I recently learned that Chico City Attorney Lori Barker is retiring.

I am happy for her but, as a former councilor, worried for the city she served so well.

Lori’s great sense of fairness and what is right will be missed.

The city was her only client. We were better councilors, a better council, and a better city thanks to her professionalism.

What worries me is that the position of an in-house city attorney may be contracted out to a private firm. That would be a costly mistake. The cost of an outside firm providing the same level of service and accessibility to it would be more.

The value of day-to-day legal advice to staff may not be quantifiable, but it is huge. An even greater loss if attorney services are contracted out is the intrinsic value of the city attorney position. The city attorney is one of only two city positions hired by the council. The other is the city manager.

The city attorney reports directly to council as an independent city legal voice responsible to council on behalf of Chico, its client. The position is an important balance and buffer to the city manager. The in-house city attorney position has a significant procedural and substantive role in the running of our city. Whatever budget balancing may be desired, we cannot afford to lose the systematic checks and balances of a city well run.

— Andy Holcombe, Victoria, Australia

Then, on Thursday, January 30, the Chico News & Review published an article, an editorial, and a response to Holcombe’s letter submitted by Councilmember Mark Sorensen.

What’s so interesting about that?

The article states that, “[Ms. Barker] did not want to comment publicly on the matter other than to say her decision to retire was not triggered by any inside pressure to do so, as has been suggested by some city government watchdogs.” This statement is followed immediately by the word “But.”

The article then goes on to give an overview of Mr. Holcombe’s letter, points readers to Mark Sorensen’s response, and then provides the following additional quotes received from Sorensen via email:

He went on to say that Barker “was one of the four primary people in the old ‘Budget Team.’ It seemed that the ‘budget team’ carefully plotted the course, developed the talking points, and decided how information would be provided, when, and carefully filtered and shaped the information that was allowed to come to the public and to council.”

Sorensen said such a setup led to excessive city spending that took the city close to insolvency. “[This] further demonstrates the need for far greater levels of city attorney objectivity and independence from internal management and staff,” he said.

That sure suggests internal pressure to me. And it seems eerily similar to what we speculated about in our original post. [It also appears that Sorensen wasn't wearing his tin foil hat when he wrote that email. "...carefully filtered and shaped the information that was allowed to come to the public and to council?" Really?] What do you think?

At any rate, kudos once again to the Chico News & Review for reporting rather than repeating. It’s good to know we have one local newspaper that isn’t simply parroting whatever is put forth by Nakamura and his lap-dog Council.

We thank you for your continued readership and welcome your comments and questions. Please continue to share our posts with your fellow Chicoans. Nothing we do makes any difference unless we can get the citizens and taxpayers involved.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Status Update

Hello readers! Do you have your snacks ready for the big game tomorrow? Denver Broncos versus the Seattle Seahawks – should be a great game!

We gals at Truth Matters, Chico! have been staying busy in our personal lives, which has led to fairly sporadic bursts of activity in our little grassroots effort. We wanted to give you a quick status update, including a bit of trivia about us that might surprise you and a glimpse of what we will be addressing in the coming days.

First, the trivia!

Every now and then, we like to reminisce about how we were transformed from long-term City of Chico employees to regular folks writing blog posts to expose the truth about what happened behind the scenes at City Hall over the past few years and what is currently happening to our beloved Chico under the Nakamura administration. Our identity as Truth Matters, Chico! is now so firmly entrenched that we often forget this was never our intention. When we first addressed Council as former employees, we never would have dreamt that we would be creating a website and becoming local government watchdogs. Creating truthmatterschico.com was not even a twinkle in our eyes.

Our original intent was just to address Council a few times and be done with it. In our (then) naïve minds, we thought the Councilmembers surely must not have been aware of the lies the new City Manager Brian Nakamura was telling; otherwise, wouldn’t they have been doing something about it?? So, we went and told the Council about the lies that could be documented as such, only to quickly discover that there was no interest in hearing the truth if it tarnished the overarching political agenda.

The Council (less Ann Schwab and spear-headed by Mayor Scott Gruendl) began attacking us both personally and professionally from the dais and through the media, in the form of Facebook rantsinterviews to the print mediainterviews to the local news media, and press conferences. When that was their reaction, we realized to what lengths we were willing to go to continue to speak truth and share our knowledge with the community. As you may have realized by now, we are not ones to shy away when confronted by political intimidation; rather, the idea of elected officials using their bully-pulpit in such a brazen attempt to shut us up was so appalling that its effect was to inspire us to broaden and intensify our efforts.

Thus was born Truth Matters, Chico! We have said from the beginning that our agenda is apolitical. No one is exempt from our examination of the facts and our search for the truth. We wanted to share this history with you to provide further clarity about where we came from and why we make the time to research and share these posts with you.

Those of you on the Council who hold your political agenda in higher regard than the truth, you have only yourselves to thank for our ongoing proactive approach to local government goings-on. And we thank Councilmember Schwab for her consistency in asking tough questions and speaking her truth without regard for political fallout.

Now for a preview of upcoming posts.

The Council gave a presentation regarding the “State of the City” on Thursday, January 30. While none of us was in attendance, we are reviewing the video posted by the Chico Enterprise Record, and are compiling our thoughts to put into a group post. Some very serious allegations were made, and we will be responding as appropriate.

A number of our readers have asked about our thoughts on the new garbage franchise the city is proposing. City staff provided a copy of the Request for Proposals (RFP) in the agenda packet for the January 28 Finance Committee (no staff report was included), and we were able to obtain a copy of the consultant’s presentation. We are reviewing both documents, and Mary is working on providing an overview of the RFP as well as potential issues that could result in financial impacts to the rate payers. Look for this information to be posted in the next few days.

The agenda for the upcoming February 4 Council meeting was also recently posted. We are reviewing the agenda and staff reports and will share any items of interest with you by Tuesday morning, but hopefully sooner!

We thank you for your readership and for continuing to share our posts with others. As always, we welcome your questions and comments.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Additional Annexation Thoughts

Kudos to members of the Chico City Council for sticking to their guns and standing strong against the bully Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCo) on January 21! Instead of breaking and bowing to LAFCo’s threatening letter, you stood up for your constituents by directing your staff to work towards finding an alternate solution. Granted, Mayor Scott Gruendl sounded wishy-washy when he talked himself out of supporting LAFCo (at least that was my take); but all seven of you did end up voting correctly. How refreshing!

Last Tuesday, in the rush leading up to the Council meeting, we provided the Council with information about the history of the LAFCo issue that was conspicuously absent from Nakamura’s staff report. We then shared it with you in the post, Chapman, Mulberry and the LAFCo Stick. Now that the pressure is off, here are some additional thoughts about the City’s position on the annexation debate.

Before expounding further, I want to be clear that none of us at Truth Matters, Chico! has a horse in this race. We have no enduring loyalty to the City’s policies, and none of us lives in an unincorporated island within the boundaries of Chico’s Sphere of Influence.

Having established that whatever the outcome of this debate, we will not be personally impacted, following are some additional technical and historical data, as well as points of general information (and some opinions) for you to consider.

Disenfranchisement? – LAFCo has repeatedly accused the City of disenfranchising the residents of the Chapman Mulberry area, which LAFCo’s Board and staff consistently label a “low rent” district. The facts, however, do not support the claim. The City has also chosen NOT to annex the areas of El Monte Avenue and Chico Canyon Road, notably two of the most “high rent” districts in Chico’s Sphere of Influence.

Want to be annexed? – While annexation proceedings can be initiated by the City, there is absolutely nothing preventing any property owner from submitting an application for annexation. In fact, when a resident submits an application for sewer service, there is an opportunity to indicate interest in being annexed concurrently with sewer connection. So, if someone personally feels disenfranchised by living in a County pocket, the solution is as simple as going to City Hall and submitting an application! In fact, the required forms are provided on the City’s Planning Department website. Here are the links to the application for annexation only or the application for annexation with sewer connection. Disenfranchisement? I think not.

How does the City or Council know what their constituents want? – The City proposed, and the Council approved, the idea of initiating annexation proceedings for a County pocket upon receipt of 50% plus one requests for sewer hookup. One of the great things about that proposal is it operates as an informal survey. If every time the City receives an application for sewer service, it asks the applicant to indicate whether or not there is an interest in annexing the property, and/or to sign a Consent to Future Annexation to obtain the sewer connection, then obviously the data to determine whether property owners in a County pocket are ready to annex is being collected. Can you think of a better way?

Condition of infrastructure in County pockets? – There has always been a lot of back and forth between the City and County regarding infrastructure in County pockets. What I can attest to as documented truth is the Overall Condition Index (OCI) of the City’s streets, how that number was negatively impacted by the many annexations that have already occurred, and how that number will be further negatively impacted when the remaining County pockets are annexed.

One of my responsibilities as a City employee was the Pavement Management Program (PMP), which kept an eye on the overall condition of the City’s roads and prioritized repairs based on taxpayers receiving the most bang for their bucks. (There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to road repairs.) Please bear with me – I am trying to not get too technical here, but this is important!

The PMP assigns a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) to sections of roadways by taking into account multiple variables. This data goes through a complex mathematical calculation, via a computer program, and produces a number between 1 and 100 (where 100 is perfect and 1 is completely failed), which identifies the “condition” of the pavement in each section of roadway. All of the PCIs combined determine the OCI – ultimately assigning one number to establish the quality of Chico’s pavement.

Before Chico annexed approximately 7,000 acres of County pockets, its OCI was in the mid-70s, in the Very Good category. After those annexations occurred, Chico’s OCI dropped to the high 50s, the mid-range in the Good category. While I was managing the PMP, we decided to survey all road sections in the remaining County pockets, so we would be prepared to add them into our road maintenance program upon annexation. This survey informed us that Chico’s OCI would take an additional hit, putting Chico’s roadway network at the higher end of the Poor category.

Sales Tax Agreements? – It is difficult to discuss the existing Sales Tax Agreements between the City and the County without sounding overly opinionated; so I will limit my comments to the fact that the Agreements do exist, and in my opinion, it would be imperative that these Sales Tax Agreements be revised or eliminated upon annexation of all County pockets within Chico’s Sphere of Influence. Unfortunately, since both the City and County are parties to the Agreements, both agencies would have to agree to a renegotiation of the terms.

LAFCo staff has been working with City staff for years without resolution? – I can attest to LAFCo’s assertion that it has been working with City and County staff for two to three years, attempting to resolve the annexation issue. Mind you, the term “working with” is being used very loosely. Meetings had been occurring; however, in my experience, for about the first year plus some months, LAFCo staff would brainstorm with City and County staff and agree to proposed solutions, and then make a 180-degree turn at their Board meetings. LAFCo staff would repeatedly blindside both City and County employees with unexpected declarations, and would provide agreements and/or other documentation to the LAFCo Board that had not been shared with the other impacted parties.

The LAFCo Board and staff also had a very different view of the sewer connections permitted within County pockets. The City and County had been working together for years in an effort to assist property owners in complying with the Nitrate Abatement Order (linked in my previous post), which required abandonment of individual septic systems to reduce the impact of nitrates on the groundwater, without imposing additional financial burdens such as forced annexation.

LAFCo, on the other hand, wanted to use the sewer connections as a “stick” to enforce annexations. Both the LAFCo Board and staff publicly stated that if the City allowed property owners to connect to sewer service without annexation, property owners would have NO OTHER REASON TO ANNEX. Not to receive local police service. Not to have drainage issues resolved. Not to have roadway upgrades completed by the City. Not to be included in the street sweeping and leaf pick-up programs. Not to vote on local issues. Did you get that last point? LAFCo believes those property owners don’t care about the ability to vote; they just care about getting that sewer connection! So much for disenfranchisement.

What else might the community not know? – Did you know that only parcels that are already developed can be connected to sewer without annexing? Any new development within a County pocket would require annexation in order to connect to sewer, which would bring in all other adjoining parcels – likely at the developer’s cost – to receive City services and infrastructure. In fact, there are a few undeveloped parcels of land in the Chapman Mulberry area that were discussed in meetings between the City, County, and LAFCo. In addition to an initiation of the annexation process at 50% plus one sewer connection, annexation would also be initiated by any new development.

Thanks for letting me spout off on this LAFCo business; I’ve needed to get it off my chest for some time now. That said, I hope it brings some additional enlightenment to those interested in, and/or potentially impacted by, the annexation debate.

If you have specific questions regarding this or any other topic we write about, please always feel free to email us if you do not want to publicly comment on the post. Odds are, if you have a question, someone else might have the same question. Letting us know gives us an opportunity to further explain anything that seems clear to us but muddy to you non-bureaucrats. Among the three of us, there is a lot of information and specific data floating around in our heads that we may not realize is important or interesting until someone asks!

So if you have a question, bring it to us! We love hearing from our readers. And, we love it when our readers share our posts with their friends, families, acquaintances, mortal enemies…whomever!

Thank you for continuing to follow us and never forget:

Truth Matters, Chico!

Local Candidate Forums – Get Involved!

Juanita Sumner over at Chico Taxpayers Association (CTA) has organized a series of local candidate forums at the Chico library, to give the public an opportunity to meet the people who want to be in charge of our community. Bob Evans will be at this Sunday’s forum, which begins at noon. Links to the CTA blog posts about the forums are provided below, for more information about upcoming speakers.

If you don’t already follow Juanita’s blog, you should. She regularly attends both City and County meetings and has a long history of telling it like she sees it. In my personal opinion, she is one of the most well-informed citizens in Chico, and her blog posts are quite entertaining, as long as you don’t mind a bit of <ahem> colorful language.  :)

Like us, she is even-handed in dispensing her opinions; no one is exempt from her BS detector, regardless of how they label themselves politically. While we don’t always reach the same conclusions as Juanita, we definitely respect her hard work in trying to get information out to the public and get the citizens involved. It can be a lonely and exhausting business, repeatedly sounding the alarm and being rewarded with few if any tangible results, but she’s a trooper; she’s been at this for years.

Anyway, we encourage you to read the CTA blog posts and get involved in this series of meetings with the candidates. Do what you must to be an informed voter, and help protect Chico from the consequences of poor decision-making at the ballot box. As we have mentioned before, a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against bad government.

Here are the links to the CTA blog posts about the candidate forums:

From January 23: Calling all roustabouts – come on down and help me set up chairs for Bob Evans, candidate, Butte County Dist 3

From January 17: Trying to get more candidates for our forum – sign up for our contact list

From January 12: Thanks Al Petersen for a wonderful meeting – next up, Bob Evans, candidate for Supervisor Dist. 3

From January 5: Ever wonder how your house is assessed and your property tax bill figured? Well come on down to the library Sunday and ask Butte County Assessor Candidate Alan Petersen

We thank you for your readership and for continuing to share our posts with your family and friends. As always, we welcome your questions and comments.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Seen or Unseen: 03/11/2008 Finance Committee Meeting

Next up in our Seen or Unseen series, where you, the reader, get to decide whether your local politicians are dishonest or merely incompetent… The March 11, 2008 Finance Committee meeting!

As before, let’s start with the minutes, so we can establish who the players were: 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_Minutes. Lo and behold, in early 2008, the Finance Committee was still being chaired by Scott Gruendl, with Mary Goloff (aka Flynn) and Larry Wahl rounding out the party.

(As a point of information, note that the Finance Committee minutes are prepared as a memorandum to the full council. This is standard procedure, so whatever information is contained in the minutes gets passed along to each and every council member.)

The first item on the minutes: Consideration of Deficit Reduction Strategy Implementation. According to the minutes, the council adopted a balancing strategy on December 18, 2007. So, why all the hoopla at the December 17, 2013 council meeting about the new-and-improved Executive Team “breaking new ground” by addressing deficits?

Want proof? Here are the minutes from that meeting: 2007-12-18_City Council Minutes_re_Finance Committee

I took the liberty of highlighting some fun details, such as Gruendl specifically calling out that “a significant reduction in costs totaling $912,323 has already been realized,” and seconding a motion that, among other things, reduced the Fleet Replacement Reserve by $300,000 for the next four years and reduced the transfer to the Private Development Fund [oh no he di'int!].

That intentional reduction in the Fleet Replacement Reserve should be kept in mind for a later blog post, which will delve into the Administrative Services Director’s shocking revelation to the 2012-13 Grand Jury about the decline of Fund balances over the last several years. The Private Development Fund deficit, always a council sweetheart, was clearly part of these discussions and the General Fund contribution to it was intentionally reduced. Yet now we’re being asked to believe that this is all news to the current council, including Gruendl and Goloff.

(As an aside, these minutes also demonstrate that Larry Wahl had to disqualify himself from downtown issues, along with Ann Schwab. So why all the recent flap about Schwab’s disqualification from the Sit/Lie Ordinance discussions?)

Now, back to the March 11, 2008 Finance Committee meeting. Next up on the minutes is a Financial Status of All Funds. Of particular interest is the following passage: “…as of 6/30/07 a total of 12 funds were in a deficit position.” [audible gasp] But I heard at a recent meeting that no one ever told them there were negative Fund balances!

While the Mayor has routinely snarked over the last few months that he didn’t like the flashy power point presentations provided by former staff, I’m finding them to be PRICELESS. Here are a few of my favorite slides; Gruendl and Goloff obviously nodded off and missed them.

The 12 funds in a deficit position as of June 30, 2007, and the two types of deficits: 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_Deficit Funds

The Private Development Fund’s existing and structural deficits, explained and with solutions offered. Wow! Does one of those bullet points read, “To resolve existing deficit, the City needs to transfer funds from the General Fund”? I thought no one ever told them the negative Fund balance was a General Fund obligation! 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_F862

The impacts of deficits, including the statement that “large deficits negatively impact the City’s cash flow.” But wait! No one ever warned them of cash flow issues! 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_Deficit Impacts

Want to flip through the entire presentation? Happy to oblige: 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_Status of all Funds

So, do we have convenient memory lapses, or intentional false accusations against prior staff? Ultimately, the council is responsible for all city actions, and plausible deniability doesn’t work when there are public records to dispute that plea.

Hey, Council — Here’s a suggestion: Learn the true history, and start paying attention to the lies you are being fed. Question the sudden need for drama, and what the underlying agenda — that someone else is setting — is really all about.

Hey, Readers — We appreciate each and every one of you. Doubly so when you share our blogs with a friend.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Cant_hear_you

Photo credit: snorgtees.com

Chapman, Mulberry and the LAFCo Stick

As mentioned in our Council Meeting post this morning, one of the items the Council will be addressing this evening relates to the Local Agency Formation Commission attempting to compel the City to annex certain unincorporated islands, including among others the Chapman and Mulberry neighborhoods. Conspicuously absent from the staff report is any mention of the historical context of this issue prior to August 2013. Once again, the ‘rightsizing out’ of institutional knowledge has led to incomplete information for the Council.

Since the history is critical to understanding what is at the core of this disagreement, we at Truth Matters, Chico! compiled some relevant documents (with the help of some ‘friends’) and forwarded them to the Council and staff this afternoon. Depending on the outcome of tonight’s discussion, we may delve more deeply into this issue to further enlighten the new Executive Team.

Following is the text of my email:

Upon reading the Staff Report for tonight’s LAFCo item, containing the most recent letter to the City of Chico, I thought it might be helpful for your discussion if I provided some additional historical information for context. Although some of you may already be aware of this, those of you who are new to the Council may not. Since Mr. Nakamura’s letter contained in the agenda report thanks Mr. Leverenz for the historical timeline, and contains no information prior to August 2013, I can only deduce that there is no one remaining on your staff with the institutional knowledge to provide the City’s perspective.

One important point that should not be ignored is what sparked LAFCo’s interest in this new round of annexations: the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Nitrate Abatement Order affecting properties currently on individual septic systems. This Order directs each parcel owner, NOT the City of Chico, to connect the property to a sewer service and abandon septic tanks. While the City must provide the infrastructure necessary for the property to be in compliance, the onus for complying with the Order lies with the property owner.

LAFCo has consistently chosen to disregard the health and safety issues surrounding the Nitrate Abatement Order, choosing instead to focus on its goals, and the potential revenues involved in processing the annexations, without regard to financial and other impacts to property owners. LAFCo is using sewer connections as a “stick” to force Butte County residents to annex into the City of Chico.

I am attaching the Nitrate Abatement Order, as well as a few other documents that will provide additional history regarding steps your former staff took to resolve this issue with LAFCo. I hope it will provide additional insight for your discussion tonight.

Best Regards, Quené

Here are the documents that were attached to the email:

Nitrate Abatement Order

LAFCO Hearing summary 01-07-2011

Annexation Plan Council Report 08-03-2012

LAFCo Follow-up Letter 08-06-2012

This is an important subject for anyone living in the unincorporated islands of Chapman, Mulberry, Forest Avenue, East Lassen Avenue, El Monte Avenue, and Chico Canyon Road. While there are many benefits to being annexed to the City, there are also detriments and costs that should be considered. Please share this post with anyone you know who lives in the impacted areas, so they will be aware of what is at stake.

Thank you for your readership. As always, your questions and comments are welcome.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

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