Who to Watch in 2014

Thank you to the Chico News & Review for including Truth Matters, Chico! in yesterday’s article, “Who to watch in 2014.”  The article pulls quotes from the August 6, 2013 Chico City Council meeting, the first time Mary and I spoke during Business from the Floor. Quené was sitting in the audience with us that night, silently cheering us on, and decided to throw down the gauntlet with us from that moment forward.

We sincerely appreciate the support our little grassroots effort has received from the community, and hope that more citizens will join us on this journey in the months leading up to the November 2014 election.

Following is the prepared speech referenced in the CNR article.  (Actual wording varied slightly, but this is how I originally intended it to come out!)

____________________

I’ve worked under four City Managers at the City of Chico.

One who under-funded replacement funds and required double-dipping timecard entries that were covered by the Cost Allocation Plan in order to find a couple million dollars under the sofa cushions every year end. The same one who, shortly before retiring, recommended that Council add an additional half million dollars to the Police budget at mid-year, which they were allowed to use to increase staffing (which translated to over a million dollars of ongoing annual costs); he negotiated for contracts that tied salary increases to revenue, which resulted in nearly 10% increases some years; and left behind a six million dollar structural imbalance for the next Manager to address.

One who decided that the organization should be flatter, and recommended that Council reorganize the City into more departments (and department heads), even though that created a Housing and Neighborhood Services Department for which there was insufficient funding. The same one who determined that our reserve funds were carrying too high of balances, and recommended that transfers to those funds be reduced so that money could be actively used rather than just sit around, gathering dust; and who sent forward to Council an unaffordable six-year MOU with the Fire union.

One whose priority was to preserve services to the community despite the greatest recession to date, with a goal that it would be like a duck floating on the water: to the outside eye, all would appear calm and controlled, while under the water, the duck is paddling like crazy. He also believed in the importance of maintaining local jobs, and tried to reduce City staffing through attrition while encouraging creative solutions to maintain those services with less staff and resources. And it appeared that the Council at that time agreed to put our community first, and to put dignity, respect, and integrity at the forefront.

And finally, one who rolled in from out of town, without any attachment to what Chico means to us locals. Whose priorities appear to include giving out fat raises and one year severance packages to “yes men,” handing out layoff notices, and looking to contract out core City services. And this Council, with one notable exception, seems to be co-signing that. Why not protect jobs for Chico citizens? Provide internships for Chico State students? Is contracting out for solid waste, info systems, city attorney, safety, and who knows what else going to grow Chico’s economy, or some other community’s? And how do some of you face yourselves in the mirror after whining about previous City Managers who weren’t keeping you informed, while allowing a current Manager to ask forgiveness rather than permission? (Did that new Assistant City Manager end up below the salary cap after all?)

I know that you all have a very difficult job as City Councilors, but as a citizen I am seeing way too much finger pointing. Please remember that when this current era has passed, if you aren’t asking questions and demanding honest answers, using your own powers of analysis and common sense, then the fingers that are pointed next will certainly be at you. And no amount of dramatic tears or admission of inadequacy* will get you off the hook with the citizens who are seeing diminished quality of life in Chico.

* For those of you who would like to see the tears and admission of being ineffectual, please click here and go to time stamp 02:30:10.

____________________

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

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

WHO_TO_WATCH

Photo credit: newsreview.com
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About Alicia

Please send coffee.

Posted on January 3, 2014, in Media, Meetings and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. You ladies are doing a wonderful job. It is just too bad you were not in Lando’s wedding, perhaps as a bridesmaid or a flower girl. You would still have your jobs or possibly a sweetheart private contract (which more than likely did not even go out for competitive bid).

    Good luck.

    • Thanks for the comment. Always a bridesmaid, never a high paid contractor…

    • Had I been drinking water, reading your comment would have made me do a spit-take (yes, I know, that’s a cheap laugh)!! What I find amazing is how “public” knowledge certain impending actions are and yet if you ask the City for any related documentation of the (ahem) relationship, the response received is “no such documentation exists.” Mysterious indeed and I anticipate it will be discussed further in the near future.

      Thank you for your comment!

  2. Alicia,
    You gave an excellent summarization of the past 3 CM’s . . . incredibly, the current Council didn’t, (or wouldn’t) agree with you. I, however, totally agree with your assessment. And I, too, can’t understand how some of the sitting Council members can even take a sideways glance at their own reflections in the mirror. They are either shameless, or totally dishonest!! I hope the citizens of Chico remember these hypocrites at the next election. Please keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for your nice comments, Chuck. Stay tuned for a new series of posts, starting tomorrow, where we will explore your question of shameless versus dishonest!

  3. I will say, you knew a different Dave Burkland than I did. Obviously, you saw this stuff from the inside, all I ever got from Burkland and his staff was the back of a hand. They ignored my requests for information and treated me like a little child.

    I’m sorry I never met you guys during that period, although, I did meet staffers who handed me information telling me, “if anybody asks you where you got this, you PAID for it…” They seemed scared to death of Burkland.

    He always seemed nervous to me too – I would have described him as the very top card on a house of cards. And somebody opened a window!

    • Hi, Juanita. You may be mistaking Alicia’s accurate description of Dave as an endorsement of his decisions. Many of us disagreed with decisions he made, but he had a true open door policy. We always knew that we had been heard and understood. Once he made his decision, it was clearly communicated to staff, and we would line up behind him to follow his direction, trusting that he was working with Council to achieve its goals. We were free to continue to provide information and feedback, though, so the communication was ongoing and the direction clear.

      And, if the Council’s desire was to cut staff, l feel confident Dave would have done it. The difference is, he would have followed the Code in the layoff process, and although it would have been a morale buster, staff confidence in the city manager’s fair application of the personnel rules would have saved the paralysis that followed in the wake of Nakamura’s hatchet job.

      If someone gave you info and told you to say you paid for it, it was likely an attempt to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that goes with public records requests. Truthfully, it was 2nd floor practice to give citizens copies of whatever they wanted, in the name of transparency. The only time we charged was when we received a formal request for a large number of documents. None of us was afraid of Dave.

      Good or bad, all that has changed now. What else can l say? Thanks for your readership. 🙂

      • I want to second Mary’s assessment of Dave Burkland… I did not always agree with the direction he choose but I knew I was welcome to provide a differing opinion and backup analysis, and knew that he would listen and consider my points. In fact, as staffers, you knew you had been heard and understood because he would sometimes take your points to Council and ask to implement your suggestions.

        With Dave, there was no fear of openly disagreeing with each other. If it was done with respect, there was no fear of retaliation (unlike a previous CM as well as the current CM). I believe Dave’s type of open door policy encouraged creative brainstorming across department lines, to the benefit of the community.

        It is my personal belief that staffing cuts should have occurred during Dave’s tenure, but that was not the direction we were given. I agree with Mary when she states that had Council told Dave to cut staff, that is what he would have done. Dave was clearly a CM whom worked for the Council.

  4. I love the “gocha’s” you guys post. Some of us do have institutional memory and have attended meetings over the years where all this was discussed – and summarily ignored. Recent news coverage and interviews show how you can baffle with bullshit and still ignore facts. I find it very interesting that all the employee bargaining units are keeping very quiet and the agreements are being kept out of the press.

    I catch up at times with guys from the City and it is really depressing how low moral is. They have to reach up to tie their shoes! Would seem the CM would actually WANT to get some perspective from people actually handling money and programs. Sigh.

    • Lynn — your comments are spot on! With how long many of the current councilmembers have been on council, or actively involved as citizens, I have to wonder why only Councilmember Schwab seems to be refusing to drink the CM’s kool aid. All of the info they are denying having been told in the past is out there. I guess it’s more fun to play the part of the victimized councilmember than to admit that one knew there was a problem for years, but has decided to address it differently now.

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