Monthly Archives: November 2013

An Open Letter to the City Council

This post contains a follow-up letter to the City Council regarding events that took place during Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting and were described in our previous post, A Matter of Minutes. The letter contains portions of a slideshow that the City Clerk created and used to train City staff on proper minute taking, and it takes her to task for her seemingly intentional disregard for her own rules when it comes to accurately reporting unflattering or embarrassing information revealed during recent Council meetings.

Both the behavior of the Council and the inadequacy of the Clerk’s record are unacceptable.

As we have mentioned in other posts, the Council routinely makes snide and/or argumentative comments after we have left the podium and are unable to answer. For that reason, I have chosen to respond in writing. The following letter will be emailed this morning to the Council, the City Clerk, and the two local newspapers. Then, if the Council has further comments, they can make them in writing.

2013-11-23_Letter to Council re Clerk Minutes Training

The government exists to serve the people. When government officials begin to believe themselves superior to those they serve to such an extent that there are repeated displays of scorn and indignation, it’s time to remind them of their role.

Again, we urge you to get involved. This is your community, and unless you are informed and engaged, you will suffer the consequences of the Council’s poor judgment. Write letters, attend meetings or watch from home, ask questions and make comments on our blog posts, and hold the elected officials accountable for their behavior at the polls.

Thank you for your continued readership. Please also continue to share our posts with your family, neighbors, and friends. As always, we welcome your comments and questions.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

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Update: Remedial Funding

Welcome to members of the Chico City Council who are reading our website! We always knew you would eventually, since it’s the politically astute thing to do — keep an eye on those speaking out in opposition to you — but this past Tuesday’s Council meeting was the first time we received clear confirmation that at least some of you are following our posts.

You addressed nearly every point in my original Remedial Funding post before opening the floor for public input; effectively heading off at the pass any comments we were prepared to make. Recognizing that you aren’t getting sufficient information from your Executive Team is the first step toward better decision making, and we applaud you for that.

For our readers who were not in attendance at the meeting or unable to watch the meeting streaming live, here is a video clip of the discussion on the Consent Agenda Item 2.2, a request for a supplemental appropriation to allocate $25,000 from Fund 312 to remediate a mold problem at Fire Station No. 5. The video is approximately 21 minutes long, but it is definitely worth a watch. The Council was finally asking tough but appropriate questions, and the staff was clearly unprepared to answer them.

Public Works Director Ruben Martinez and Facilities Manager Kim Parks should be embarrassed about their inability to answer Council’s questions and ashamed to have requested funding from a source about which they clearly have no knowledge. Had I still been on staff, and responsible for this project, I assure you I would have been prepared to answer any questions that could arise from a staff report (especially one that I drafted!) and would not have needed to defer to the City Attorney regarding proposed funding and the impacted project. I mean, really, is it the City Attorney’s job to answer project-specific or funding source questions? Absolutely not!

Now, back to the Councilmembers: Your decision was wrong. While the mold remediation needs to occur, and quickly, use of an inappropriate funding source is still not acceptable. In my original post, I even told you which funding source should be used. I cannot comprehend why you did not simply vote to approve proceeding with the mold remediation, but directing staff to use a different funding source.

Both the Public Works Director and the Facilities Manager should be familiar with Fund 930, the Municipal Buildings Maintenance Fund. Furthermore, Accounting Manager Frank Fields was seated at the dais during the meeting; his job description surely requires him to have the ability to answer questions about funding sources. That entire question and answer session was ludicrous; where are the competent staff? The answer, of course, is they were ‘rightsized’ out the door. Pathetic.

I am no longer paid by the City to provide technical analysis regarding programs or projects. And I intentionally did not get into specifics on the Chico Municipal Airport (CMA) Groundwater Remediation Project in my original post, because I wanted the funding source issues surrounding the Fire Station No. 5 mold remediation to be its focus. That said, it appears that someone other than the City’s current staff will have to provide guidance regarding the CMA Groundwater Remediation Project as it relates to the use of Fund 312 monies, and I guess that someone will have to be me…

Here’s my advice: Handle the CMA Groundwater Remediation Project with extreme care.

The State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is the City’s oversight agency. Any changes in its management or staff can result in additional expenses. As we have seen recently within the City, loss of institutional knowledge in an agency can lead to unforeseen problems, and reinventing every wheel can be costly. It has already happened once with DTSC staff and the CMA Groundwater Remediation Project, and it can certainly happen again.

Additionally, if the newly approved Revised Remedial Action Plan results in activation of the City’s Contingent Remedy, there will be additional active groundwater extraction and treatment wells required to achieve the Remedial Action Objectives. This may seem insignificant, but keep in mind that the CMA is surrounded by environmental concerns — specifically vernal pools and Butte County Meadowfoam (BCM).

When I last calculated an estimate on the CMA Groundwater Remediation Project for takes of BCM, the anticipated value was 19:1. That means for every one acre of BCM impacted, the City will be responsible for the cost of 19 acres’ worth of environmental impact. I can say with some certainty that this ratio will not get better; BCM continues to be an environmental concern that is becoming more and more difficult to offset, due to a lack of available environmental credits.

Well, I hope I did not put our readers to sleep with that! It is important to both understand and acknowledge the big picture when considering what responsibilities the City has for each project and how each project impacts total funding availability. Funding decisions should never be made in a vacuum.

The $25,000 appropriation from Fund 312 to pay for mold remediation at Fire Station No. 5 may not seem like a big deal, but every little bit adds up. As with any budget, a few dollars here, a few dollars there, and suddenly you have spent more than what you have.

As the City Attorney mentioned during the Council meeting, Fund 312 has already been used to pay for lead remediation at Horseshoe Lake. The Public Works Director has continued to attempt to tap Fund 312 to pay for the required ongoing monitoring and reporting of that cleanup. I would opine that Horseshoe Lake being charged to Fund 312 was either the result of someone’s lack of knowledge of funding sources or someone simply picking the low-hanging fruit instead of doing what was necessary to fund the project appropriately. That certain someone succeeded because the project was approved for funding without consulting with Capital Projects staff, and it did not become apparent until after the money had already been spent.

Here is a fact to digest: Had the CMA Groundwater Remediation Project not been able to use Redevelopment funds for a number of years, all settlement funds received under the Consent Decree and used to create Fund 312 would have already been expended. That is correct; Fund 312 would have a zero balance, and the City would have already been required to find alternative funding sources to continue this State-mandated work. This over-expenditure is not the City’s fault; the original Remedial Action Plan required remediation on a parcel of land not included in the Consent Decree (and please take my word that this was a huge and costly issue).

The point remains, even if Fund 312 had been completely restricted to use on the CMA Groundwater Remediation Project, all revenue would have already been expended. No one could be proposing to use Fund 312 for mold remediation anywhere.

You can see this by comparing the Capital Project page for the CMA Groundwater Remediation project and the current Fund Summary for Fund 312. I have highlighted the areas of interest. If you calculate how much Redevelopment money was expended on the CMA Groundwater Remediation Project ($564,194 + $18,898 + $765,381), you come up with $1,348,473. Compare that total to the $774,045 that was available in Fund 312 at the beginning of the current fiscal year. You see that expenditures have already exceeded what was available from the Settlement Agreement funds.

Yep, if Redevelopment funds had not been used, Fund 312 would be running a deficit of $574,428 ($774,045 – $1,348,473). And, as acknowledged by the City Attorney, the Fund Summary states in part that, “…[the] Chico Municipal Airport remediation will continue for decades…”

But barrel on ahead, Council! Approve inappropriate spending from Fund 312 based on an opinion written by an employee that retired more than seven years ago, with no updated financial analysis of the impacted project. Do it, because that is just brilliant!

WRONG WAY_GO BACK

Update: Stoning a Cop

Since last Friday, when we published our original post regarding Councilmember Randall Stone’s public accusations of racism and homophobia against Chico Police Officer Todd Boothe, new information has been steadily developing. We want to keep you updated, because Stone must be held accountable for his outrageous and irresponsible behavior. If the Council will not hold him accountable, then the citizens must hold the entire Council accountable at election time.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, during Business from the Floor, Chico Police Officers’ Association (CPOA) President Peter Durfee and Chico citizen Stephanie Taber spoke out against Stone.

Durfee asked that Stone be removed from the Chico Police Department’s Community Advisory Board; that Stone recuse himself from any and all Council matters related to the CPOA and its members; and for a formal apology from Stone to Officer Boothe, his family, and the members of the CPOA. Perhaps his most compelling comment was, “This Association protects your streets, your families, and the City. It’s hard to protect from the front while you are getting stabbed in the back.”

Stephanie Taber echoed Durfee’s call for the Council to remove Stone from the Advisory Board and specifically identified the policy he violated when he publicly aired what was clearly a confidential personnel matter. She also said, “By taking his concerns regarding what he found on a Police Department employee’s personal Facebook page and publicly describing them as racist, he has undermined his position as a positive link between the community and the Police Department.”

We could not agree more.

The entirety of Mr. Durfee’s and Ms. Taber’s comments are transcribed here, or you can watch the short video clip from the Council meeting.

After the City Council meeting, Action News Now reported that “Several issues were decided at tonight’s Chico city council meeting but it was an item not on the agenda that may have people talking. It was the first city council meeting to take place since Councilman Randall Stone publicly called out a Chico police officer accusing him of posting racist pictures on his Facebook page.”

You can read the report and watch the video here: Police Officer Association Asks Stone For Apology

On Wednesday, Action News Now reported that Stone had not attended that evening’s Chico Police Department’s Community Advisory Board meeting, due to a scheduling conflict. [I believe that, don’t you?]  The report also stated that City Attorney Lori Barker is investigating Stone’s behavior to determine whether he violated policy or law by making an internal investigation public.

So, Ms. Barker will be investigating Stone, her boss, right after an unprecedented number of Closed Session “performance evaluations” over the last few months. We hope her upcoming retirement will permit her the freedom to be neutral, rather than being persuaded to look the other way, which seems to be the MO at city hall these days — It’s the new Chico way

You can watch the entire news video here: First CPAB Meeting Since Councilmember Accuses Officer of Racism

KRCR-TV also reported on Wednesday, saying in part, “We tried contacting Stone but he referred us to city attorney Lori Barker for comment. We tried calling Barker but she declined as well saying this is an ongoing investigation.” Durfee was quoted as saying, “Where does it stop? Can we not publicly criticize our public leaders anymore?  Can we not criticize the President of the United States if we don’t agree with our [sic] policy?  Can we not criticize our city council people?”

Haven’t we read that somewhere before? Why, yes, yes we have! In our very own blog! This is just another instance of a strict zero-tolerance policy on criticizing the Council or Executive Team.

You can watch the entire news video here: Police Officers’ Association demands councilman’s apology

While all of that is interesting and relevant, today’s Chico Enterprise-Record article, “Flap over police post continues,” contained some astounding quotes from Stone. Here is a personal favorite of mine, because it really gets to the heart of Stone’s attitude and belief system. “The police community advisory board is just a press conference,” he said. “It’s like lunch with the chief; not that it doesn’t have value, but I don’t know what it does.”

Who is this guy, anyway? He doesn’t know what the Advisory Board does, yet he openly devalues it, and then he refuses to step down. I personally sort of hope the Chief serves up a a sh#t sandwich for Stone at his next luncheon. (Or maybe a huge crappy rock cookie would be more appropriate.)

Our advice to Stone is to step down quietly, apologize for his misbehavior, and hope the citizens will forget about this debacle before election time rolls around. He is an embarrassment to the City Council and the community. (Disclaimer: That is just my opinion… On the other hand, I do think I’m correct in my assessment, having closely observed him in action since he was elected and seated.)

Since we linked to bloggers in our last post, here are the latest posts from Mike Maloney and Chico Taxpayers Association, with very different opinions:

What’s next Randall Stone? (November 19, 2013)

Trostle needs to GO! (November 21, 2013)

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

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

A Matter of Minutes

At Tuesday night’s Council meeting, the minutes for the first four meetings at which we spoke were on the agenda for approval. As expected, they did not reflect the nature of any of our comments. The clerk either ‘misunderstood’ the points we made, or ignored them altogether. This inane effort to pretend everything is coming up roses during the meetings is completely out of hand.

I pulled the minutes from the Consent Agenda to address concerns about the integrity of the record. Because there were five sets of minutes included as one agenda item, it was clear I could not cover them all in the three-minute time limit. So, I submitted a separate speaker card for each of the four meetings I wanted to address. I opened my remarks by telling the Council what I had done and respectfully requested their indulgence in allowing me to finish my comments without interruption.

It didn’t work, but l guess the outcome made for a pretty interesting show. The video clip is about 12 minutes long and is definitely worth a watch.

Did you notice in the video how the Mayor was absolutely intent on keeping me from getting through my comments on the September 17 meeting? As l mentioned to him, that’s because he knew what was coming next.

September 17 was the meeting at which the March 5 minutes debacle occurred, but more importantly, it was also the meeting at which l exposed the Mayor’s crazed Facebook rant. The difference is that l originally exposed it during Business from the Floor, when the Council Chambers were virtually empty; last night l was speaking during the Consent Agenda, in front of a packed house.

I was also unable to point out that, in addition to having denied the existence of the March 5 memo, the clerk had responded to our Public Records Request for the backup documentation related to it by stating that “Nothing exists that is responsive to your request.” Well, now that we all agree the memo exists, rest assured we will be demanding the supporting documents again.

Is it just me, or would you also agree that having received a request for the backup documentation in August, the clerk might have thought it prudent to go back and watch the meeting video to make sure her recollection was correct? She sure made a big enough stink about our records requests disrupting her life. Perhaps watching the Council meeting video would have been a better way to spend her time than giving that television interview griping about how we were trying to destroy the City by asking for public information.

And here’s some alarming news: According to the Mayor, the official record is neither the video nor the minutes. Apparently there is an expand-o paper file somewhere in the clerk’s office that contains any items that were not included in the agenda packet, not posted to the web, and/or not identified in the minutes. Somehow, citizens must divine that there might be a document of interest in the paper records — even if its existence has been denied. If true, shouldn’t that gap in the public’s web access to City Council public records be called out somewhere on its information page?

Councilmember Schwab was the only one who seemed to acknowledge the importance of having a correct permanent record, and l applaud her for continuing to stand up for what she believes is right, particularly in the face of the ongoing condescension and mockery from others on the Council. Although she and l are miles apart politically, she has the courage of her convictions, and my admiration for her continues to grow. Truth matters.

Councilmember Sorensen’s comments were a bit disturbing. If you watched the video clip, you saw how aggravated he was about the Council being asked to “tinker with the minutes… especially post-mortem.”

Well, l agree that Council should not have to tinker with them. The clerk should get them right before she puts them on the agenda for review; that’s her job.

The ‘post-mortem’ remark is puzzling, though. When, exactly, do the minutes become post-mortem? Is it when they are placed on the Council agenda for approval? If so, how can anyone comment on or tinker with them ante-mortem? Just wondering…

He also seemed to be suggesting that as long as the minutes get done, their accuracy is immaterial. Maybe in his view that is true; however, as l mentioned during my comments, inaccurate minutes are a disservice to the public. How else can a citizen who is unable to attend meetings get a true accounting of what happened, unless he or she has hours to spend watching entire meeting videos? Why even bother with minutes if there is no requirement for them to be accurate?

What really disturbs me most is Sorensen’s comment that the minutes are action only, and Business from the Floor is not an action item. To me, that screamed foreshadowing.

One thing we at Truth Matters have struggled with on an ongoing basis is whether we should publish predictions about the Council’s next dumb move, to try to head them off at the pass and prevent it, or allow them to go ahead and do the dumb thing and then call them out on it afterward. In this case, I am going to go with making a prediction, because the official record is important stuff. Perhaps when Sorensen reads this (and we’re quite sure he will), it will dissuade him from suggesting what I suspect he is already considering.

So, here goes: I predict that the Council will direct the clerk to change the Business from the Floor section of the minutes to a simple list of persons who addressed them, with no description whatsoever of what was said. This is what the clerk already does with other agenda items. The problem with changing Business from the Floor to a list of speakers is there is no detail in the agenda that would identify the topics. It would make the clerk’s and Councilmembers’ lives easier, for sure, but it would be a horrible disservice to the community.

If they wanted to add service to the community, they could certainly do that by moving Business from the Floor to the beginning of the meeting. As it currently stands, people wait through hours of bureaucratic double speak and political grandstanding just to get their 3 minutes in front of the Council. There are many communities that provide that courtesy to the citizens, including Hemet, which hears Communications from the Public immediately after the Consent Calendar. (As an aside, Hemet also provides an opportunity for public comment on Closed Session items, which I addressed in a previous post.)

If you’re interested, here is what was left unsaid last night, due to the Mayor’s interruption: Remainder of Minutes Presentation

Based on the reactions of Sorensen, Stone, and Gruendl, one would think I had asked the clerk to spend her entire life doing something irrelevant. All I want is the truth, because it matters.

We thank you for your continued readership. As always, your questions and comments are welcome.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

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Photo credit: escunited.com

Remedial Funding

It looks like Public Works Director Ruben Martinez is playing pin the tail on the fund list to choose funding sources again. We think he should remove his blindfold and try reading the Fund Summaries for allowed uses, but that is just our opinion. Maybe he needs a remedial budgeting class. We can only speculate about how he is coming up with the funds he has been proposing.

One thing is for sure; whatever method Martinez is using, it’s not working for him, or the taxpayers. Municipal finance rules are there for a reason, and it is clear he does not understand them.

We have already described to you his lack of knowledge of Fund 400 (Capital Projects), as well as his inappropriate use of Fund 850 (Sewer). At the November 19 City Council meeting, I will be pointing out yet another misuse of City funds by Martinez. The fund being negatively impacted this time is Fund 312, the Remediation Fund.

A few days ago, we shared the agenda for this City Council meeting. Item 2.2 of the Consent Agenda is a request for a supplemental appropriation to allocate $25,000 from Fund 312 to remediate a mold problem at Fire Station No. 5. The City is looking into whether or not its insurance policy will cover the cost of the project; but even if it is covered, the $25,000 request is still proposed to pay the City’s current insurance deductible.

(As an aside, our resident insurance expert, Mary, says there is no way this is a covered loss. Mold is a maintenance problem, specifically excluded in standard property insurance policies. She also asks a couple of thought-provoking questions: If the total cost of the project is $25,000, why are they even checking with the insurance company? On the other hand, if the project cost exceeds $25,000, why are they only asking for $25,000 to remediate the problem? If you are interested, you can read more about mold remediation and insurance here.)

I mentioned above that Fund 312 is the Remediation Fund. Does that mean it pays for any and all remediation projects? Nope. It was created to pay for groundwater remediation, primarily at the Chico Municipal Airport.

There is some important history regarding this Fund. (I am about to get highly technical here; please bear with me. I will try to limit it to a paragraph or two!)

Back in the early 1990s, the State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), sued the City of Chico, and more than 15 others who owned properties in the vicinity of Chico Municipal Airport, for groundwater contamination. Previous military and industrial activities that occurred sometime between the 1940s and 1980s resulted in the release of hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the soil, therefore contaminating the groundwater. The primary VOC identified as a concern was trichloroethylene, most commonly referred to as TCE. In case you are interested, TCE is a chlorinated hydrocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent. (In laymans terms, it was a great degreaser!)

Neither the City of Chico nor most of the property owners included in the lawsuit were directly involved in the release of TCE into the groundwater; however, as they are now the owners of the property where the problem exists, they were named as responsible parties. I am going to skip discussing the many steps of the lawsuit to get to the important part – a Consent Decree was placed on the properties, requiring groundwater remediation, and a Settlement Agreement was established to pay for the expected remediation. All of the parties listed in the lawsuit had to pay into the Settlement Agreement, and because the City of Chico was the local municipality and owner of the Airport, the City was listed as the Responsible Party for the cleanup and was given the Settlement Agreement monies to cover necessary work.

Fund 312 was created using the monies from the Settlement Agreement. While other monies have since been transferred into Fund 312 from Fund 850 (Sewer) to pay for groundwater remediation projects at other locations, the remainder of the money is clearly dedicated to remediation of the properties identified in the Consent Decree whose owners paid into the Settlement Agreement.

The Fund Summary for Fund 312 describes many of these important details; it specifically states that the use of the Fund is restricted, and it states that the authorized uses for this Fund include only capital and operating expenditures related to groundwater remediation. The Fund Summary concludes that “The City contemplates that Chico Municipal Airport remediation will continue for decades, therefore, use of these funds is committed to this purpose.” Can it be more clear?

Also important to note is the sentence directly before what I have quoted above: “…liability of all other parties is limited to monies already provided in the settlement.” To be clear, if the monies in Fund 312 run out, the City will have to find alternative funding sources until the remediation is complete – a decision that DTSC will make. The Consent Decree was issued by a U.S. District Court and is legally binding.  If Fund 312 is depleted, the City cannot just say, “Oops, guess that project is done.”

Let’s go back to Martinez’s funding request for mold remediation at Fire Station No. 5. He is asking the Council to allocate $25,000 from Fund 312. Mold remediation is not an allowed use of Fund 312. Period.

It is curious that the Municipal Buildings Maintenance Fund isn’t being charged for this project. If staff and Council do not want to charge the Municipal Buildings Maintenance Fund, at the very least, would this not be a cost of the Fire Department (100% General Fund)? After all, it is a Fire Station being impacted.

One thing is for sure, use of Fund 312 to pay for mold abatement at a Fire Station is inappropriate. If this funding request is approved without changing the proposed source, it will be just one more indication that this Executive Team and Council cannot be entrusted to make the right decisions regarding our City.

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

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

pin-tail_~Pin_Tail

Stoning a Cop

So, about this week’s big story, Councilmember Randall Stone publicly accusing a Chico police officer of racism and homophobia… We have decided to add our two cents to the discussion, despite the likelihood that regardless of our conclusion, one or more rogue Council members will resume accusing us of inciting, or at a minimum embracing, racism. For the record, we abhor hate speech in all its forms; however, we passionately defend an individual’s right to express unpopular views to the extent it is protected by the First Amendment.

(If you haven’t kept up with the Stone vs Boothe story, links to media articles and local blogs are provided at the end of this post.)

Moving along….

To begin with, we neither support nor condemn Officer Boothe. We don’t know him, and it is not our place to judge his fitness for duty. It is also not the media’s place, or even the citizens’ place, until after all internal fact finding is complete and the City’s personnel procedures have been followed. We don’t know enough about the cop shop to even have an opinion as to whether or not Boothe’s private Facebook activity can be introduced into the official investigation. What we do know is that personnel matters are among the very few City procedures that are confidential, and they are therefore not subject to the public records act. So, on that point, we remain neutral.

What we wholly condemn is Stone shamelessly compromising that process out of some bizarre need for public retaliation and self-aggrandizement. His status as a Councilmember permits him virtually unlimited access to a bully pulpit, and he has abused the power of his office by identifying Boothe as a police officer and then making damning statements about him to the television and print media. Trial by public opinion will ruin this cop’s reputation to such an extent that even if he is fully exonerated, the spectre of the accusations will follow him wherever he goes. That is unacceptable. Period.

That’s not to say we haven’t formulated an opinion of Boothe as an individual. We think that at best, he is either technologically challenged and can’t figure out how to work Facebook’s privacy settings, or not politically savvy enough to realize how damaging those photos could be to his reputation; at worst, he may actually be a racist and a homophobe. We just don’t know. We haven’t searched the web to find what he posted, because truthfully, his personal views are none of our business. Having said that, this should serve as a good reminder to us all to carefully consider what we share on social media. What may seem humorous today can come back to haunt us later. Boothe is learning this lesson the hard way, as many have before him.

But, here’s the rub: As a private individual, Boothe has a right to express his personal views, whether Stone likes them or not. Protecting unpopular speech is at the core of the First Amendment. As a private individual, he also has an unfettered right to criticize elected government official Stone without fear of being publicly crucified in retaliation.

There is a glaring difference between elected government official Stone publicly labeling Officer Boothe a racist cop, sans any investigation into the facts or regard for his right to due process, and Joe Citizen accusing Boothe of being a racist and demanding an investigation.

What makes this incident even more despicable is Stone’s position as the Council appointee to the Chico Police Advisory Board. He is either fully aware of Boothe’s rights and protections under the City’s personnel rules and willfully chose to circumvent them in favor of pursuing his own agenda, or he is indisputably unqualified to sit on that Board and should be removed immediately.

This type of retaliatory behavior has become entirely too common among members of the current Council. The current city manager has convinced these elected officials that they operate as a board of directors, and as a result, they behave as though they are corporate bigwigs rather than servants of the public.

While we are not condoning Boothe’s personal behavior, we have tremendous empathy for the damage Stone has caused to his reputation. We, too, have felt the effects of public condemnation as a result of this Council’s inexcusable reaction to criticism.

Because we had the audacity to speak out against the current city manager, this Council, led by Mayor Gruendl, launched an all-out public assault on our personal and professional reputations. They used their bully pulpit at the dais, held press conferences, showed our home addresses to a television crew, ranted on social media, and made outrageous accusations that our free speech was the cause of physical and emotional harm, racism, and threats of violence. As if that were not enough, the Mayor actually threatened to release ‘embarrassing information’ from our personnel records.

That feels horrible. Even though we knew before we began speaking out against the city manager there would be a price to pay, we never imagined that price would be personal and professional attacks from the Council. But because we weren’t cops, the long-term effects on our livelihood are likely to be minimal, and our families will not be forced to endure lifelong stigma as a result of the unfounded accusations.

Officer Boothe’s consequences will be much more severe. He and his family will undoubtedly pay dearly over the course of their lives for Stone’s public assault on his reputation. Accusations of racism against a cop cannot simply be rescinded as if they were never made. People are generally quick to remember an accusation, because it is so inflammatory, but far less likely to remember the exoneration, which may not even make the front page of the local paper. The accusation is all over the media. It is all over the internet. It can’t just be taken back. Words have power.

And so, when it is all said and done, we are very angry about this situation and ask, who will hold Stone accountable? Who will investigate him to determine whether he violated this cop’s civil rights? Even if Boothe is ultimately found guilty of racist writings, where are Stone’s consequences for his petty and ruthless behavior? Two wrongs will never make this right; in fact, the second wrong makes a complete mockery of the concept of elected officials as public servants.

These overt attempts to bully and intimidate individuals in order to stifle or retaliate for free speech must be stopped. Stone and the rest of this unprincipled, self-serving Council must be held accountable.

The next person targeted for criticizing them could be you, or someone you love. These people work for you, so don’t let them forget it. We urge you to attend and speak out at Council meetings, write letters to the editors, write letters to the Council, and please do your civic duty and VOTE! Elections have consequences.

As promised, here are some links to media pieces and local blogs about this story:

Action News Now (November 11, 2013): Chico City Council Member Accuses Police Officer of Racism

Action News Now (November 12, 2013): Police Chief Angry “Racism” Investigation is Public

KRCR-TV (November 12, 2013): Councilman accuses police officer of having racial material

Mike Maloney Musings (November 12, 2013): Randall Stone(r), Incompetence and Racism

Chico Enterprise Record (November 13, 2013): Chico police officer’s Facebook photos, comments spur department investigation

Chico Enterprise Record (November 14, 2013): Editorial: Officer’s online posts imprudent

Chico News & Review (November 14, 2013): Opinions: Police drama

Chico Taxpayer’s Association (November 14, 2013): Thanks to Randall Stone for shedding light on some cockroaches. See how they run!

Clearly there are very strong views on this story. And Officer Boothe sits by silently, while he is tried in the court of public opinion. Councilmember Stone, we have one word for you: Disgusting!

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

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

LORD STONE

November 19 City Council Agenda

The agenda for the November 19 City Council meeting can be found here. Staff reports can be read by clicking the blue link below each agenda item.

We urge you to get involved. Even if you cannot attend the Council meeting, you can provide written comments on any item of interest, and you can watch the meeting from home, either by live streaming while it is being held or by video after 8:00 a.m. the following day.

If there is anything on the agenda that you don’t understand, please let us know. We will be very happy to clarify for you. You can email us at truthmatterschico@gmail.com or comment below this post. 

This is your government, spending your tax dollars, and deciding what is best for you. Find your voice and be heard.

Thank you for your continued readership.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Into the Weeds: Operating and Capital Budgets

In the most recent Into the Weeds post, I provided an analogy to help you understand the difference between Funds and Departments in municipal accounting. That concept will be important now, as we discuss the differences between Operating and Capital budgets; and even more so once we begin discussing Revenues, Allocations, and Transfers. As a reminder, I am keeping permanent links to all of the Into the Weeds series on a separate page, so you can easily go back and reread old posts when necessary.

Operating Budgets are developed and accounted for at the Department level. They are designed to pay for the anticipated costs associated with conducting a Department’s routine business. These budgets are similar to your household budget, in that you have a pretty good idea what your annual expenses will be, based both on past experience and expectations for the coming year.

The City separates its Operating Budgets into several Categories (Salaries & Benefits, Materials & Supplies, Other Expenses, etc.), which are then separated into Line Items (Salaries – Overtime, Office Expense, Training, etc.). Here is an example of what an Operating Budget looks like:  Sample Operating Budget

Some Departments have Operating Budgets in more than one Fund. A good example of this would be the Community Development Department (CDD). Because CDD conducts some of its business on private projects for which a fee is charged, those costs are budgeted in the Private Development Fund (Fund 862).  CDD also conducts some operations on a time-and-materials basis, primarily large developer projects such as subdivisions or development agreements; those operating costs are budgeted in the Subdivision Fund (Fund 863). Most of the City’s residual Housing operations are grant funded, so CDD has a budget in the Community Development Block Grant Fund (Fund 201). Finally, some CDD operations are conducted in a General Fund (Fund 001) budget, specifically non-project related activities that benefit the community as a whole, generally at the direction of Council or mandated by another agency.

When you look at the published City budget, you will not see the Line Item detail provided above. Instead, you will see an Operating Summary Report, which totals up all of the Department’s Operating Budgets by Category and then breaks them out by Fund totals.

While I would like to show you what Community Development’s Operating Summary Report looks like, this fiscal year’s budget ignored the new organizational structure altogether. So instead, I will show you what the Planning Division’s Operating Summary Report looks like, since it includes three of the four Funds mentioned above.

Planning Operating Summary Report

The top section shows Category totals for the entire Department, across all Funds in which it operates. The bottom section shows Fund totals, without any detail. (What you originally saw is an internal budget page. It includes Line Item details for all Department expenses, with separate budget pages for each Fund in which it operates.)

Capital Budgets are created to fund special projects rather than ongoing operations. There is generally a beginning and ending to a project, defined by creation of a specific, tangible asset.

Most Capital Budgets fund one-time infrastructure improvements (such as the Water Pollution Control Plant Expansion), although they are also sometimes used to fund consultant studies (such as the General Plan Update), if the cost exceeds $20,000 and/or multiple Funds are being used to pay for them. Expenses frequently cross fiscal years, so the City budget looks 10 years out to capture the entirety of the project.

Although some projects do have a fixed annual Capital Budget, work generally occurs at different locations each year. A good example of a project like this is the Annual Pedestrian Improvements. A fixed amount of money is budgeted for citywide improvements, and work is prioritized based on need.

Unlike Operating Budgets, City Capital Budgets are developed and accounted for at the Fund level. While each project is assigned to a certain Department for management purposes, all staff work on the project is charged to one budget account number without regard for departmental lines. Also, whereas Operating Budgets are developed using annual expense Categories (Salaries & Benefits, Materials & Supplies, Other Expenses, etc.), Capital Budgets are developed based solely on the total cost of the project.

Separation of project costs in a Capital Budget occurs after the expenses are incurred and is based solely on Activity Codes. In other words, staff salaries and postage and consultant costs and construction materials and contractor payments are all lumped together, separated only by whether the expenses were related to Property Acquisition, Project Design, Environmental Review, Construction, Inspection, etc. This is a critical concept that will tie into our future discussion of how the Capital Projects Fund (Fund 400) works.

In the City’s published budget, there are a couple of ways to look at Capital Budgets, but the simplest way is the Capital Improvement Program detail pages. Since Quené recently corrected some of the Public Works Director’s funding misstatements about the West Trunk Line Improvements project, and its funding and activities are clean and simple, we’ll just use that as our example.

Here is the detail page for the project: 16016_West Trunk Line Improvements

Notice the heading in the upper left corner – it assigns this project to Building & Development Services (which no longer exists). As I mentioned above, that assignment is for project management only. The Actuals column includes cumulative costs incurred, from project inception through the previous fiscal year, regardless of what Department incurred them.

Below the heading, the far left column shows Activity Codes 4110 (Preliminary Design / Study) and 4140 (Design) with expenses that have already been incurred. Beneath those, you will find Activity Code 4998 (Project Budget) with all projected costs for the current and future fiscal years. The final Activity Code, 4999 (Overhead), includes actual costs incurred as well as a budget in the out years, estimated at 15% of project costs. (Budgeted overhead rates vary from project to project, depending on a variety of factors. This particular project qualifies for a 15% rate.)

The second column indicates that the project is paid for solely by Fund 320 dollars, which is why you only see each Activity Code once. If there were two funding sources, you would see each Activity Code twice – once for Fund 320 and again for the second Fund.

Just so you can see what a more complicated project looks like, here is the project detail page for the SR 99 / Eaton Road Interchange project. The only thing I need you to see is that some of the Activity Codes are repeated for different Funds. This is what I meant when I wrote that Capital Budgets are developed and accounted for at the Fund level.

So, that’s plenty for one day. If you have questions about anything I’ve covered, please, please let me know. As we move forward with this series of posts, it is important that you grasp the concepts. I don’t want to lose you in the weeds!

Next up will be a discussion of Revenues, Allocations, and Transfers. Once we get through that, we can start looking at some of the issues currently being thrown around as political hot potatoes. That’s when the REAL fun begins. Whee…

Thank you for your continued readership. There are serious matters moving through the City bureaucracy, and it won’t be long before they come forward to the Council. Every Chico citizen and taxpayer should be concerned, so please continue to share our posts with your family, friends, and neighbors.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Missing Our New Posts?

While we have great intentions of uploading a new post at least every other day, life happens and we get behind!

For those of you who check our website every day to make sure you do not miss anything from us (I love how dedicated you are!), did you know that you can receive notifications of new posts by following us on Twitter (@Truth_Chico), on Facebook (Truth Matters, Chico), or even by following this page?

If you are not a member of Twitter or Facebook, you can follow this website simply by clicking on the +Follow button, likely at the top of the window, and signing up for a WordPress account. This only requires a username, email, and the creation of a password. Then, if you choose Edit the Blogs You Follow, you can set your notifications for Truth Matters, Chico! to Send New Posts by Email either Instantly, Daily, or Weekly, causing a notification to be sent to your email account whenever we have new information for you.

How awesome is that?!

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

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Photo Credit: chasingeyes.com

Photo Credit: chasingeyes.com

Get Involved!

We have created a new tab called “Watch Council Meetings” that contains a permanent link to the City’s main viewing page for streaming of live Council meetings, as well as agendas and videos for previous meetings.

Please share this with your Chico friends and neighbors. A well-informed citizenry is the best guardian of the public good.

Here is a link to the tab:   Watch Chico City Council Meetings

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

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

get-involved

Photo credit: guidancecouncil.ca
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