Letters for September 19, 2013
City manager remarks
Re “Welcome to Chico” (Cover feature, by Tom Gascoyne, Sept. 12):
That Brian Nakamura is not fit to manage the city of Chico is evidenced by his admission that “he came to town a few days before his interview and visited local business owners to get a grasp on what was happening here.”
One can no more “get a grasp on what is happening here” solely by giving ear to the “where is the money?” bleatings of business owners, than divine the whole of Chico from a seat in a police car, or a pew at the Neighborhood Church.
This is especially true when one regards the only businesses specifically named by Nakamura in the piece: BevMo!, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Krispy Kreme. None are native to Chico. All are chains. BevMo! is a shameless booze wallow. Dick’s pushes killing machines, enabling humans to efficiently slay one another. And Krispy Kreme oozes forth hideous fat-bombs that blow out aortas.
But perhaps that’s Nakamura’s “vision” for the city—a place where people get greased up on donuts, grab a couple of jugs, and search for shit to shoot. That sounds to me more like Squeal Like A Pig, Arkansas, or Icepick, Minnesota. Maybe Mr. Nakamura can next offer his services to some such garden spot. Soon.
For the story about Brian Nakamura’s first year, I specifically said that Mr. Nakamura took a reduction in total compensation to come to Chico to clean up a mess. That’s a fact when you include all forms of compensation, including deferred compensation and benefits.
It is as easy as reading the Hemet contract versus the contract with the city of Chico. No deep investigative reporting is required.
Compared to past city managers, compensation is roughly 20 percent above Dave Burkland, 8.2 percent above Greg Jones, and 7 percent below Tom Lando. But a very large sum indeed.
While the Brown Act prevents disclosing closed-session discussions, I can say that I went into the city-manager selection process believing that we could hold the line on city-manager compensation. I was wrong. All of the serious contenders for the job were in the same level of compensation. At the same time, there was deep concern that the city was headed for serious trouble without professional intervention.
I am reminded of a Red Adair quote: If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
The city was already damaged by amateurs.
Mr. Nakamura, we wish you the best, but we’re not happy with how things are going. The budget is now the excuse for everything either done or undone. Eight-month delays in access to public information are unacceptable. Transparency is a requirement of democracy.
Apparent delayed police response unless there are weapons brandished or bodily harm creates fear in everyone. City services being privatized reminds us of what happened in Baghdad. Labeling unlivable, tiny housing “in-fill” or “casitas” is a developer’s game. Would you live in these shoeboxes that benefit only the developers building them? No, you would not.
Bureaucracy that requires permits to swap out existing toilets in private houses or face fines feels like a chapter from George Orwell’s 1984. Walking over human “piles” in downtown or facing harassment by aggressive panhandlers isn’t worth it—we’ll shop elsewhere.
Our park is a unique treasure. We want it open and staffed, but fix the inept management. Be creative. Find different options. Utilize existing volunteer groups—they want to help. Look up from the numbers—those numbers represent humans. Look to cities that have figured these problems out. You will be held accountable, as will those who hired you.
Look at the last two towns Mr. Nakamura has managed as places to live and work compared to Chico. They are not known for visual art or music, have low high-school graduation rates, a small number of parks and high use of public assistance.
These places did not become big job-attractors while he was there. Chico no longer qualifies as a “Tree City” now that we no longer have an arborist or the proper city tree-maintenance crew. With no art commissioner, would we make the Top 100 Art Towns list again? Add in cuts to our park maintenance and you can expect Chico’s standing as a desirable place to live and visit to fall. Less tourism, less attraction for innovators: less money being circulated.
When you cut services and the employees that provide them, you cut the number of people who buy homes and locally made goods and services. Mr. Nakamura has struck at the heart of our tax base. Can you say “austerity”?
I have a great idea: Let’s sell Bidwell Park to developers, cut down our urban forest and sell it for lumber, and get rid of those hands by city hall. Then we can all move to Banning.
R. Sterling Ogden
A vote for Jefferson
Re “More than a state of mind” (Newslines, by Ken Smith, Sept. 12):
I completely agree with the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors approving a “declaration to withdraw from the state of California.” Tehama, Shasta, Del Norte and Humboldt counties should follow suit. The main reason is water!
There is no reason we in the North State should give our most precious resource to the corporate-run farms of the San Joaquin Valley. Many years ago that area produced local produce according to seasonal weather and snowfall in the southern Sierra. Since then, we have seen many drought years yielding the major river sources such as the San Joaquin—among the most heavily dammed and diverted of California’s rivers—little water to divert to agricultural interests.
Despite this, the corporate-farming operations have continued to plant thousands of acres of water-intensive crops such as almonds and other nut crops on the west side. These depend on Sacramento River water.
Now our esteemed Gov. Jerry Brown wants to divert our water past the Delta via the tunnel project. We need to send a clear message to Sacramento: Quit buying into the corporate-lobbyist interests.
A modest proposal
Re “Clarity on the way” (Second & Flume, by Melissa Daugherty, Sept. 5) and “The time for answers” (Editorial, Sept. 5):
I read with great interest the column Second & Flume and the related editorial that appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of the CN&R. Both suggested that until there is a full disclosure, including who is responsible for the city’s financial meltdown, this community will not move forward.
Unfortunately, the thorough audit of the city’s financial state and answers to how we got here will not be complete for several more months. Perhaps in the interim the CN&R could invite our two seemingly most informed city council members, Mark Sorensen and Mayor Scott Gruendl, to pen a guest comment that could at least shed some light on what is known at this point in time. That would certainly help the community.
Sorensen and Gruendl are both respected council members who at times do not see eye to eye, but in this particular instance seem joined in the effort to confront the financial problems the city faces. If asked, I’m sure they would respond.
Stephanie L. Taber
Editor’s note: The CN&R is happy to entertain such a write-up.
Thanks for sharing
Re “A paralyzing pain” (Healthlines, by Robyn Alana Engel, Sept. 12):
I am writing in response to Robyn Alana Engel’s article about having severe depressive episodes. Recently, I went through one of the worst episodes I’ve ever had. Things were slowly falling apart, my thoughts consumed me, and I knew I was about to fall. I fell, and I fell hard.
Robyn’s article reminded me that I am not alone. For years, I thought what I was feeling and the way I was behaving was normal, but when I was diagnosed with bipolar and major depressive disorders a few years ago, finally it clicked. I, too, spent time at Enloe Behavioral Health and met others like me, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I finally fit in.
Robyn, I am so glad you wrote your article. It was another great reminder that I am not alone. And neither are you. I wish you the best.
Last week’s Greenways story, “Tiny loans, big impact,” by Claire Hutkins Seda, contained an incorrect date for an event organized by the Women’s Microfinance Collaborative. The group will host guest speaker Michael Allen, of Colorado-based nonprofit Friendship Bridge, on Sept. 22. The error has been corrected online. –ed.
Another Jefferson fan
Re “The Jefferson plan” (Editorial, Sept. 12):
A great idea! Just think, the new state could: prohibit rogue city councils from endangering health, obstructing disabled people and financially damaging low-income people with plastic bag bans; abolish rogue agencies like CARB that seek to put farmers and businesspeople out of business apropos phony “analysis” by charlatans and impostors; prohibit municipalities from adopting the UN’s anti-American Agenda 21 and joining ICLEI; prohibit school districts from teaching the anti-liberty, anti-capitalist “Common Core” curriculum.
It could constitutionally prohibit state income taxes; constitutionally limit real property taxes to 1 percent of purchase price annually; prohibit wealth redistribution schemes (i.e., stealing from those who produce and giving to those who won’t), including energy cap-and-trade and “renewable” energy subsidies; limit electric utility rates to fossil-fuel generation cost plus reasonable profit margin; prohibit installation of wind turbines and large solar arrays; require “green” energy purchasers to pay the fully absorbed cost thereof, including land, equipment and maintenance; declare the federal EPA a criminal enterprise and prosecute its operatives for violations of Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights and killing endangered species; impose draconian penalties on administrative bureaucrats for civil-rights violations, up to and including death.
Go, State of Jefferson!
The minutes matter
Re “A matter of minutes” (by Tom Gascoyne, Sept. 5):
City-meeting minutes are months behind because the clerk sits picking and choosing what will be recorded. We are not getting an accurate or correct record of what happens in these meetings; we are getting what the clerk thinks we need to know.
I went to a Finance Committee meeting on Nov. 28 to ask specific questions of then-Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy regarding amounts the city paid toward “the employee’s share” of pensions. Hennessy gave me a figure $3 million short of the truth. Councilman Mark Sorensen pointed that out to me via email the next day.
A couple of weeks later I saw the report of that meeting—the conversation I had with Hennessy had been left completely out. I had to ask City Clerk Deborah Presson to include that conversation. There are no video tapes of those committee meetings; the clerk’s report is the only record we have. If it’s not accurate, it’s up to the public to demand better.
At that time, I asked the council for a discussion regarding how these reports are made. It never happened. I only found that out a few days ago when Presson finally posted the report for the Jan. 2, 2013, council meeting.
What about logging?
Re “Grading the foothills” (Newslines, by Tom Gascoyne, Aug. 8): “A graded hillside east of Oroville is one of at least seven properties whose owners have been sued by the county.” Robyn DiFalco, executive director of Butte Environmental Council, said she is very aware of and concerned about what is going on in the foothills. “I think this is one of the most alarming and egregious environmental violations taking place.”
Say what? Robyn, time to wake up: The environmental damage you claim is caused by marijuana cultivation is nothing compared to the cataclysmic destruction perpetrated by Sierra Pacific in its quest for profit. If you are not aware of this, you may wish to take a ride up Highway 32 and hike back behind the yellow gates. You will discover multitudinous, huge clear-cuts. Massive amounts of soil have been churned up and left exposed by Sierra Pacific throughout the upper Big Chico Creek watershed.
Do you really think that the marijuana production in our foothills is a more alarming and egregious environmental violation than the logging by Sierra Pacific? Thinking before you speak would be good. Waking up to reality would also help.
Tired of transients
Regarding the transient problem in Chico. Listen, I’ve lived in California my whole life. I understand that the homeless population is large here and I get that there’s no solution, given the economy. However, I work at a local hotel in Chico and am constantly harassed by homeless people. Should I call the police? Why? Will they show up? Unlikely.
Being a 26-year-old, unassuming female, I’m incessantly beleaguered by transients coming onto my property in search of cigarette butts. Out and about, I have no problem with the occasional guy bumming a cig. But I’m trying to preserve my workplace for my guests, doing my job. Is it fair that I have to be harassed for that? With constant and unyielding rudeness to the point of worrying for myself? Is it fair that I realize I can’t rely on local authorities to help me?
What can Chico do about this ongoing issue? I see a lot of residents being nothing but nice to the homeless population, for what in return? Ill will and impoliteness? What can we as residents do for our city? Since the police will not control the problem, we must.
Remember the children
As you may or may not know, September is National Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. The color for awareness is gold. Our children deserve the same amount, if not more, of awareness and attention as Breast Cancer Awareness receives in October, yet they seem to be overlooked because they don’t have a voice! Pink is everywhere and unfortunately gold is not.
We, as adults, must be their voice. Statistically, childhood cancer is a very frightening thing: Each day 46 children are diagnosed, seven will die, and it remains the No. 1 disease killer among children; more than AIDS, cystic fibrosis and genetic anomalies combined! In 20 years, only one new drug has been approved for childhood cancer. This is an outrage! What these children go through when fighting cancer is horrendous and it seems to be swept under the rug instead of being fought for the way it needs to be.
I was thinking this would be a great opportunity to cast awareness on this disease that children are fighting right now, in this country. Please help to shed light on this plight, as it is the very least these little warriors deserve.