Author Archives: Mary

Gruendl Whines Again

Former Chico Police Chief Mike Maloney recently posted on his blog an unflattering opinion piece about Mayor Gruendl, who lashed out in the comments like a toddler throwing a tantrum. If it weren’t so pathetic, I would have laughed at him… But he’s the Mayor, for crying out loud! He needs to grow up. There’s no whining in politics.

Here’s a link to the blog post:  Chico: We have a problem….with our Mayor….

We’ve told you before all the reasons why Scott’s got to go. Please send him on his way (and Mark Sorensen, too, while you’re at it) by using the power of the ballot box.

Truth Matters, Chico!

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

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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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!

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!

Council Meeting Tonight

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

Of particular interest on tonight’s agenda are:

(1) Consideration of a demand from the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) for the City to initiate annexation proceedings for the Chapman, Mulberry, Forest Avenue, and East Lassen Avenue unincorporated islands. If you live in one of these areas, the outcome of this disagreement with LAFCO will affect you. Particularly in the Chapman and Mulberry areas, citizens have historically opposed annexation. This is, and has been for several years, a very contentious issue between LAFCO and the City. (LAFCo_Annexation_Demand)

(2) Final adoption of labor agreements for four of the City’s bargaining groups. If you intend to have your opinion considered in the Council’s decision making, tonight’s meeting will be your final opportunity. (International_Association_of_Firefighters; Management_Employees_Group; Confidential_Employees_Group, Chico_Employees_Association).

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.

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!

Leaking the Top Secret Operation

Well, here we go again. At the December 17 meeting, I addressed the Council about its running commentary on the 2nd Floor Staffing/Finance Workout Plan, hoping to put that baby to bed once and for all.

It was going pretty well; in fact, the Mayor was very polite and asked me some clarifying questions — and then allowed me to answer. The Administrative Services Director followed up with positive comments, acknowledging that previous staff had taken action to address the plummeting Fund balances. I was pretty satisfied with that much progress.

But then Mark Sorensen jumped right back into full assault mode — seemingly driven by some sort of clandestine, private-frequency radio transmission (perhaps from a spy drone?) reaffirming his theory that former staff had conspired to harm the Council and destroy the City by secretly driving Fund balances into the red.

You think I’m kidding? I’ll link you to the one-minute video clip so you can see for yourself, but I just want to point out that he actually used the words “top secret operation.” Yes, he really did say those words. Out loud. He did.

Here’s the clip: Sorensen “Top Secret Operation”

After Sorensen made his ill-advised (and ill-informed) remark, I emailed him to let him know he was off base, that it would have been more beneficial if he had simply asked me about it during the discussion, and that I would be happy to speak with him publicly or privately to fill him in on the details of the mini-allocation.

He responded by telling me it was something Quené said during her comments that had triggered the thought, as if that excused it, and so I politely replied and repeated my offer to talk with him openly and honestly about anything he wanted to know.

I received no further response, which has unfortunately earned him a dose of embarrassing public enlightenment in lieu of a pleasant, informative conversation. I swear, I just can’t figure the guy out.

Back in September, we three gals had some pretty lively conversations with the Mayor about believing media reports, after which Alicia finally pinned him down and asked him, if we aren’t to believe the media, can we at least rely on what is said during Council meetings? After a little soft shoe routine and some political double speak, the Mayor finally said, “Everybody holds one another accountable in this chamber.”

Mr. Sorensen, consider yourself on notice that you are going to be held accountable. You don’t get to just say whatever you want from the dais and expect it to be accepted as truth simply because you’re the one who said it. There is a truth to be told, but you have been so preoccupied with your personal mission to ruin the professional reputations of honorable public servants that you refuse to listen and therefore can’t possibly understand it, much less explain it to anyone else. You need to stop. Really.

Now, here is some factual information about the Private Development Allocation (known internally as the “mini-allocation”):

As we explored in a recent post, allocations distribute costs, as opposed to transfers, which distribute dollars. The mini-allocation distributes operating costs from the Private Development Fund (Fund 862) to a handful of other Funds that benefit from work efforts by Planning staff, and to a lesser extent, Building staff. Keep that in mind as you read along.

This particular allocation was first developed in fiscal year 2010-11, as part of the 2nd floor finance plan. It was a tool we used to clean up accounting for the Planning Services Department’s operations, so we could quantify the true cost of processing development applications. For the moment, please just trust me that it resulted in a net reduction in costs to the impacted Funds. There was no additional money being spent.

As you can see in the following document, staff cleverly hid this “top secret operation” from the Council on page 2 of the City Manager’s fiscal year 2010-11 budget message — that would be the second page of the proposed budget — where they would be sure to overlook it.

2010-07-06_Budget Message

Ooooooh, and in the next document you will see that former Finance Director Hennessy went to great lengths to bury the mini-allocation in the budget page dedicated to Fund 862 by assigning it a specific department called Private Development Cost Allocation, so no one would recognize it.

That was such a sneaky move that Administrative Services Director Constantin and his new-and-improved budget team mustn’t have even noticed it when they put it in the current fiscal year’s budget! According to Sorensen, it took the City’s super-duper fraud seeking auditors to finally discover it and bring it to everyone’s attention.

(Also notice how Ms. Hennessy mistakenly revealed the uber-classified negative Fund balance at the bottom of the page… Bad form!)

Fund 862_Mini-Allocation

And the final straw: The next document is an example of how the mini-allocation was hidden in the Funds that received the allocation. I’m using the Sewer Fund (Fund 850) budget page, since Sorensen specifically called that out in his “top secret operation,” but if you go to the City’s published budget, you can find the same line item on every single impacted Fund. This is certainly advanced trickery and foul play!

Fund 850_Mini-Allocation

In the documents above, you can see that the allocation appears in the Operating Expenditures section for both Funds. It is a negative number for Fund 862, since it is technically an offset to expenses, and a positive number for Fund 850, since it is a true expense. The numbers aren’t the same for both Funds, because Fund 862 shows the aggregate allocation, whereas Fund 850 only shows its portion of the allocation.

Now that we’ve established there was absolutely nothing “top secret” about the mini-allocation, let’s look into why we created it.

Since at least as far back as 1991, when the Private Development Fund was created, some Planning salaries were budgeted to other Funds, including the Sewer Fund and the Subdivision Fund. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to my paper files (I had to dig through dusty old budget binders to figure out what had originally happened… ack!), so I don’t have the complete list of funding sources to share with you. Suffice it to say that Fund 862 never fully funded Planning’s operations.

Instead of development staff charging their time to what they were actually doing, they charged time based on where they were funded in the budget. To make the funding ratio work out properly, some staff were charging up to 60% of their time directly to other Funds. (Click here if you’d like to see an example of pre-Private Development Allocation funding for Planning staff.) This was specific direction that came from the City Manager’s office, and it was a source of considerable concern for both Finance and development staff.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not being critical of the funding sources; there is a legitimate nexus between development staff work and benefit to other funds. The problem was a lack of accountability and transparency, which translated into the inability to properly quantify costs and develop appropriate User Fees. How can the cost of processing a Use Permit be accurately tracked when the staff person working on it is charging time to Sewer or Transportation or Redevelopment, just to make the budget numbers work?

There is much more to this, and I promise you I will break it all down when I write the dedicated Private Development Fund post, but for now it is enough to say that we unwound that particular problem by allocating costs, eliminating direct staff charges to the benefiting Funds, and then fully accounting for private development costs in Fund 862.

Here’s an oversimplified explanation of how it worked: We added up all of the private development staff charges to Funds other than Fund 862. We applied a 10% discount factor, since we were attempting to cut budgets in all impacted Funds. Then, via the mini-allocation, the costs were distributed as expenses to the benefiting Funds. Here is the official calculation for the original mini-allocation (which, incidentally, is included in the City’s files for anyone to examine — nothing top secret here):

F862 Mini-Allocation for Final Budget Resolution

Once the allocation was in place, we tied it to a percentage of staff salaries for development work, rather than allowing it to continue as a fixed cost to the benefiting Funds. The effect of this can be seen in the dollar decrease from fiscal year 2010-11 to fiscal year 2011-12. In other words, the more we reduced Fund 862 salaries, the more the allocation was reduced, for a net savings to the benefiting Funds. (There was also a reduction in the allocation due to the loss of RDA funds, but that is immaterial to this discussion.)

The other effect of allocating the costs and direct charging only Fund 862 was the ability to assign cost centers to specific Planning staff work efforts and other operating expenses. This was critical in our effort to establish solid data for a new User Fee Study. Incorrect underlying data will always result in incorrect fees, no matter how skillful the technical analysis and mathematical calculations used in the study might be.

We cleaned up Fund 862 to enable us to use a formula based on actual costs for processing the various types of applications, divided by the actual volume of applications. Unfortunately, however, once ACM Rucker and BDSD McKinley mysteriously vanished, the authority behind the effort vanished with them. But that’s another story in and of itself. What a waste.

And so, the mini-allocation was a good part of the finance plan. I doubt it is still functioning properly at this point, since there is no one left who understands the mechanism of tying it to salaries or the process we put in place for monitoring the Fund balance on a bi-weekly basis. Fund 862 finished fiscal year 2012-13 in the black (annual revenues exceeded annual expenditures); it was the first time that happened since 2001. It will be interesting to see how the Fund finishes for fiscal year 2013-14.

So much for Sorensen’s “top secret operation” conspiracy theory. Hopefully, someone who loves him will splurge on a tin foil hat for him, to keep those wacky cloak-and-dagger ideas in check. Hey, it could help…

We thank you for your readership and ask that you continue to share our posts with your family, friends, and neighbors. As always, your questions and comments are welcome. Consider making a New Year’s resolution to be more involved in what’s happening with your local government; after all, these folks work for you.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

tin-foil-hat

Photo credit: blogs.desmoinesregister.com

Council Meeting Tonight

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

Of particular interest on tonight’s agenda are:

(1) Consideration of a draft social host ordinance that would impose liability on persons hosting, or responsible for, events on private property at which alcohol is possessed and consumed by persons under the age of 21. This is one aspect of the Clean and Safe program advocated by the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Chico Business Association. The agenda report linked below clarifies who is a responsible party under the ordinance; discusses enforcement, prosecution, and fines; identifies four exceptions to the ordinance; and sets forth a process for cost recovery. If you are a landlord, this ordinance may affect you, so please read the report and follow the hearings and outcome to make certain you are aware of your rights and responsibilities. (Draft_Social_Host_Ordinance)

(2) Consideration of a proposal to allow the sale and consumption of alcohol at the Bidwell Park Municipal Golf Course (Bidwell_Park_Municipal_Golf_Course_Alcohol_Sales)

(3) Sunshining of tentative labor agreements for four of the City’s bargaining groups. If you intend to have your opinion considered in the Council’s decision making, the best time to address the Council would be at tonight’s meeting. The next step will be to have the agreements put on the agenda for Council approval, and in our opinion, the likelihood of them being amended at that point in the process will be severely diminished. Red-lined versions of the agreements are attached to the agenda reports, so you can see what changes have been proposed. (International_Association_of_Firefighters; Management_Employees_Group; Confidential_Employees_GroupChico_Employees_Association).

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 11pm!). 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.

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!

Special Council Session Tomorrow

In addition to Tuesday evening’s regular Chico City Council meeting, an agenda has been posted for a special “Goal Setting Session” at 6:00 p.m. tomorrow. If you plan to follow the City’s budget process, this will be an important meeting to either attend or watch from home.

I attended last year’s two goal setting meetings, while I was still a City employee. The only thing I took away from the meetings was a realization that Nakamura’s leadership style would consist of quashing any communication between staff and Council by convincing Council they are corporate bigwigs rather than public servants, of further reinforcing the theme of management by fear and secrecy, and of blowing pretty-colored smoke up the Council’s collective skirt. It was during the first of those two meetings that he promised the Council a list of the department directors’ priorities for their consideration, which never publicly materialized, and about which he subsequently lied to Councilmember Ritter on March 5, 2013 (watch for a future post on this topic!).

At this meeting, Nakamura is supposed to “provide the Council with an overview of the priorities and goals that were approved by Council in January 2013,” which as far as I can tell wound up being just a list of vague ideas: Public Safety, Economic Development, Administrative Services (Finance), Transportation / Environment, and Technology. In other words, Nakamura had free rein to do what he pleased, as long as he could jam his agenda into one of the categories on that list. I guess we’ll find out what his interpretation of those “priorities and goals” was, based on where the budget dollars end up.

I was looking at Nakamura’s presentation linked to the agenda and had to laugh. I remember seeing the pre-meeting version of last year’s presentation, which included a blank page right in the middle. Staff thought that was where the department director priorities would show up, but it turned out to be his lame excuse for a rightsized organizational chart. That bombshell was the beginning of the end of staff’s respect for him. I wonder what surprises will pop up during this year’s presentation.

I also noticed that he listed the Cost Allocation Plan (CAP) under Transportation / Environment. How many times can I say that the CAP is a FINANCE study? It distributes ADMINISTRATIVE DEPARTMENT costs across Funds? It has absolutely nothing to do with transportation or the environment. Maybe Nakamura is the source of Sorensen’s ongoing confusion about the CAP; he can’t seem to sort it out from the User Fee Study and still somehow believes the CAP was “buried on the 2nd floor for two years.” The 2nd floor is Building, Planning, and Engineering — not Finance. But I guess those departments could easily be mistaken one for the other. I shouldn’t be so judgmental.

Here is the Chico Enterprise Record’s slightly different take on the meeting: ‘Chico City Council to set goals in workshop Monday

Anyway, I would encourage you to watch the meeting. Perhaps you will get some foreshadowing of the direction in which Nakamura intends to take your city next year. I expect to hear about more consultants and studies and contracting out of services. Is that what you want? Will that grow Chico’s economy or send your tax dollars away to other communities?

Please get involved and make your voice heard. Nakamura still has no clue about what makes Chico such a special place, so if you want your Councilmembers to consider what’s important to you in the goal setting, you’re going to have to speak up and tell them yourself.

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

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Agenda

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