Transparency and truck skirts

Sunshine on salaries, benefits and pensions—and roundabout troubles

The CN&R’s savvy readers never cease to amaze me. What’s on our minds is often on theirs, too. For instance, Tuesday morning, as I was looking over Dave Waddell’s excellent cover story about the exorbitant wages city of Chico employees—and public-safety personnel in particular—are taking home, a reader emailed me a clip from the syndicated Armstrong & Getty radio show on Talk 650 KSTE in which Chico was mentioned.

Speaking with the Sacramento-based radio jockeys was Mark Bucher, president of the California Public Policy Center. He was being interviewed about, well, you guessed it, the exorbitant wages of the state’s public employees. Among other things, Bucher talked about the CPPC’s new database——which he claims is the largest online database of California public employee pensions and salaries, as well as special pay, including overtime.

Bucher noted that about a quarter of the municipalities the nonprofit has queried for such data have refused to provide the info. Chico was not in that 25 percent, so anyone curious about what current or retired city employees are making should check out the site.

During his radio interview, Bucher mentioned a handful of jobs around the state as examples of overcompensation. One of them dovetails nicely with Waddell’s piece. “In Chico, just a regular firefighter: $249,000 a year,” he said.

Interestingly, a few weeks earlier, while Waddell was mired in numbers for his story, another savvy reader pointed me to a pension-reform database— There, I clicked on Chico at the “$100K Pension Club” link, and up popped 21 city retirees. Former Fire Chief John “Steve” Brown tops the list at a whopping … wait for it … $206,524 annually. He’s followed by former City Attorney Dave Frank: $177,960. I can tell the list isn’t current, since former Police Chief Mike Maloney isn’t on it. To see what he’s pulling in, see the cover story.

Roundabout drama. I’ve been wondering since the traffic fixture’s completion last summer at Second and Flume streets how long it would take for a semi-truck to get stuck there. My co-workers and I had seen a couple of close calls over the past six months. But the long-expected day arrived mid-morning Monday, Feb. 24.

I watched the scenario unfold from my corner office, cringing as the very clearly marked 53-foot rig turned too tight and sunk into the soil in the roundabout’s inner circle. The driver’s attempts to surge out of the sinkhole only worsened his plight. Much to his dismay, we immediately started photographing the ordeal. He looked defeated. Poor guy.

To his credit, he got used to it. Between us, the TV news crews, a photographer from the local daily, and the host of lookie-loos who showed up to gawk, this guy is probably in umpteen photos and videos circulating the Facebook pages of locals. It took close to five hours, lots of city employees, and heavy equipment to move the rig.

My thoughts on this situation are twofold. One, either the truck was too big. Or two, our skirt is too small. I suppose driver error is a third option.