Don’t Believe the Media?

During business from the floor at the August 20 City Council meeting, Chico’s esteemed mayor waited until Quené Hansen, who had factually corrected misinformation provided to the Enterprise-Record by Public Works Director Ruben Martinez, had left the podium, and in a petty attempt to diminish her and deflect from the content of her remarks, said to her back, “I think equally the lesson is we don’t rely on the newspaper either, to provide us with accurate descriptions of what ultimately goes on…”

Here’s most of what Quené said:

As some of you are aware, my name is Quené Hansen and I was a City of Chico employee for over 14 years.  While working for the City, I had responsibility over the Capital Improvement Program, the Sewer Fund Revenue Program, the Development Impact Fees (also known as the Nexus Study), and I initiated an update to the User Fee Study.

I am here tonight to respond to issues raised in an article published in the ChicoER on August 2 entitled “City of Chico’s Capital Projects Fund Carries $2.5 Million Deficit.”  Specifically, I am here to refute statements made by City staff with actual facts.  I understand recent questions have been raised regarding Fund 400.  In your search for answers allowing you to make critical decisions regarding Chico’s budget, it is important to start with a clear understanding of existing conditions. 

The City’s Fund 400 operates as a holding account until expenses are allocated out to appropriate funding sources and as such, it holds expenses not charged directly to a capital project.

In the article, the Public Works Director states that the fund pays overhead for at least three main tasks including answering questions at the front counter of the second floor for topics such as “building permits, construction of secondary units, city sewer proximity, property and fence lines, and potential annexations.”

None, I repeat none, of the mentioned tasks are charged to capital projects overhead or processed through Fund 400.  As a general rule:

          1) Building permits – Fund 862

          2) Construction of secondary units – Fund 862

          2) City sewer proximity – Fund 850

          3) Property and fence lines – Fund 212

          4) Potential annexations – Fund 862 (or General Fund)

Also mentioned by the PW Director are charges related to “…storm drain reviews, talking flood risk analysis with the state and addressing the city’s wastewater outfall in the Sacramento River.”  Contrary to what was implied, these tasks are completed by staff with salaries paid by Fund 850, not a capital expense.  I would suggest the PW Director rely on staff to respond to inquiries instead of attempting to answer questions about a department budget of which he has shown to have no knowledge.

The article continues, “Despite reducing staffing by a third, it was not enough to compensate for the funding loss…”   I assume the PW Director is referring to recent layoffs to second floor staff, staff previously referred to as Capital Projects, Development Engineering, Planning, and Building Departments.  The staff reductions that occurred in those areas have little to no impact on capital overhead expenses.  More on that to be revealed.

In closing, I strongly suggest that Council and City Management not rely on this Director to provide any analytics regarding Public Works Funding.

Here’s the article, if you want to see it for yourself:

2013-08-02_ER_City_of_Chico_s_capital_projects_fund_carries_2_5_million_def

Although the mayor’s behavior toward a citizen who had already left the podium and had no opportunity to respond was hardly representative of ‘the Chico way,’ I have to agree with him to some extent about believing what the media reports.

I’ve read recently that we are “accusing” Brian Nakamura of lying.  I wonder how many examples will need to be provided before the narrative changes to “identifying” his lies.

Here is a perfect example, which I presented to Council at its September 3 meeting:

On Sunday, March 17, the Enterprise Record published an article entitled “City of Chico Getting Strict on Employee Schedules.”

The article begins:

“Working from home and other flexible schedules will no longer be an option for city of Chico employees, City Manager Brian Nakamura has told staff and the City Council.”  Lie #1

It continues:

“Nakamura has given 30-days notice to staff that the city will be eliminating all flexible work schedules…”  Lie #2

And continues:

“He realized the impacts when the Finance Department reported it was about a month behind in completing the budget, partly because of staggered schedules.”  Lie #3

The next day, Brian flew into damage control mode (at 9:45 a.m.) and sent a lengthy email to staff which began: “I’m sure that many of you read in this past weekend’s ER that revisions to flex scheduling are being considered and this is true, but the paper did not make it as clear as I had anticipated and hoped.”

Gee, the article seemed pretty clear to me.

First of all, staff had been told nothing, aside from a handful of us who had been impacted by a February 22 email Brian sent to department heads summarily cancelling flex schedules for any staff involved in budget preparation.  The City Attorney presumably advised Brian of the 30-day requirement for modifying staff schedules and most department heads did not enforce it; however, no written retraction of his edict was issued, resulting in some of us being required to adhere to it.  That’s a fact.

Then, on March 13, just four days before the article was published, Brian “clarified” at a department head meeting that the flex schedule cancellation was not in effect.  That’s a fact.

The actual 30-day notice was not provided until almost a month after the article was published.  That’s a fact.

Finally, the budget was not behind due to flex schedules. It was behind because Brian had directed Finance staff to wait until after the Council finished setting its priorities at the end of January to begin the process.  Afterward, he failed to provide staff any information about what the new organization would look like, which left them attempting to build a budget in the dark.  That’s a fact.

Now, certainly the ER did not get all of that wrong.  In fact, if the ER fabricated those quotes, then this would be its pièce de résistance “Nakamura has not yet heard complaints from staff about the change.”

Well, imagine that!

Here’s the article, if you want to see it for yourself:

2013-03-17_ER_City_of_Chico_getting_strict_on_employee_schedules

Truth Matters, Chico!

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Posted on September 9, 2013, in Truth vs Lies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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