Tax increases, lack of code enforcement in Susanville

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, but have mostly kept my thoughts to myself. When I read the paper there are often a number of articles where folks are extolling the virtues of living in Susanville and the surrounding area. I think maybe as I’ve gotten older I’ve become crotchety like some do as they age.

Here goes anyway. As I’ve lived here most of my life and my wife was born here, we’ve seen things change considerably, mostly for the worse. I believe while the city and county both need additional funding, and while I’m not adverse to paying more taxes for the right reasons, it’s clear to me that the overwhelming “no” vote on the proposed sales tax increase was more of a vote of no confidence in city and county government than it was a referendum on law enforcement.

I don’t go to the sparsely attended board and council meetings often, but the first I heard that the city may have to consider bankruptcy was in an article in which the county and the city were pushing an increase to the sales tax. As I don’t attend the meetings, maybe discussions were held about other alternatives, if so, I didn’t notice anything in the paper about it.

Our elected officials can say all they want, that I would be more informed and would have known if I went to the meetings, but if finances are in the dire straits they claim to be, they should be much more diligent in getting the word out to the community they represent.

Do you think this would be adequate notification for a corporation to its shareholders or even concerning your own family finances? So as I understand, plan “B” is to cut staff and services? That’s it? Maybe what we need is a more holistic approach with some original thoughts. I know if it were our family finances, I wouldn’t just be saying, “If I don’t get a raise I guess one of you kids is going to have to go.”

It also annoys me to no end how bad the town looks and how dead Uptown is. I’m retired from planning and building so I know a bit about this. Classically poor planning practices and lack of political will pushed the town out with chain stores and killed the Uptown.

No need to call the coroner, everyone knows it’s dead.

We just attended my wife’s class reunion (not about to mention how many years, let’s just say Fleetwood Mac hadn’t even come on the scene yet). Many classmates had moved away and returned to Susanville to attend. There were a number of discussions about how dead Uptown looked, and how poorly streets and many of the buildings were maintained — their words, not mine.

I was appalled to read that the Board of Realtors went to the city about code enforcement; about doing their job, and the response they got was essentially, we don’t have the correct procedures in place, we don’t have anyone who knows how to do it and we don’t have the money.
Nearly two years ago, I walked the first block of South Weatherlow Street toward the river and wrote up a list of code violations on the majority of the buildings on the block. (This is the route tourists travel to get to the Railroad Depot and trailhead, where we have events and what is probably our main attraction within the city limits.
They say curb appeal and first impressions mean everything. I can pretty much guess what their impression must be, “Let’s go to this event and get the hell out of here!” I met with a councilmember who told me they didn’t have the correct ordinances in place and stated, “I don’t run the city.”

Honestly, I remember not even being able to respond to that. I don’t know what the council thinks they are elected to do — pat people on the back and have their pictures taken it seems.

I told this councilmember I was sure they did have the correct ordinances, and I went home and looked them up on the city’s website. In addition, there are the state Housing and Health and Safety Codes that they should be enforcing. I wrote down all of these as they pertained to South Weatherlow Street and gave it to the councilmember who said they would pass it on to the city administrator. Almost two years later I still drive by and see that nothing has been done.

Last I heard the city is still paying this administrator long after he was terminated. If this is still going on they should all resign because (as the grand jury reports), they are still acquiescing their authority to someone who shouldn’t even be on the payroll.

I used to be proud of saying I was from this town, this area, but not so much anymore and it mentally anguishes me. I’ve seen Susanville and Lassen County on several dubious state and national lists which have named Lassen County and Susanville as places with little entertainment, few good restaurants, population declining, etc. While these lists may not tell the whole story they do indicate that there are problems here and people from outside are noticing.

I know it’s easy to sit back and criticize our elected officials. While it is ultimately their job to set policies and oversee the operations of our city and county, it is the citizenry who have become apathetic and have settled for less. It is the citizenry who have not demanded these officials be dynamic and explore other options to solve these problems. Not just solve problems, but to put us on the right track to thrive like other communities.

I don’t know everyone on the council or board of supervisors anymore. I’m sure they all had ideas and good intentions when they were elected. But whenever I’ve interacted with them or certain departments, the attitude seems to be “this is why we can’t do something” as opposed to “how can we make this happen.”

Also in light of the discussion about why those who commit crimes don’t seem to get punished here, I would like to hear a perspective from the judge, the district attorney and police chief as I have read there has been some finger pointing in the past and the public deserves to know. If you want more funding, give us something. Is the problem funding, state law, cronyism or all the above? Regardless of the reason, I believe a better job can be done to make our community safe. If those in authority don’t, perhaps they should pursue another vocation.

One last thought pertaining to increased revenue for law enforcement. Maybe the city on its own accord, should propose an increased tax for law enforcement to include a full-time code enforcement officer and the council outline some priorities and provide updates to the public on what would be done with the additional funding. While I don’t mind paying a little more, like most, I want to know what is going to be done with my money and how it’s going to make our community and our lives better. I want to hear specifics. Give us some hope, give us something to proud of again.

3 thoughts on “Tax increases, lack of code enforcement in Susanville

  • It’s about time the TRUTH of what “isn’t” being done in this city & county, is being told! We have been here 44 years now and things were much better cared for in 1973 than they are in 2018. It’s a sad deal when you drive down so many streets in town, or in the county and things are showing no improvement even after valid complaints have been filed, sometimes years prior. It would be a good thing if law enforcement would include a full time code enforcement officer as they do in many other cities/towns, as Mr. Fuller suggested.
    Thank you Mr. Fuller, for your insight into a valid issue in our Community. So many people we’ve know for 40+ years now, have left or are leaving this area due to the neglect.

  • Very thoughtful and intelligent essay. Many cities in CA are in financial straits because of outrageous PERS retirement increases that occurred around the year 2000 when all the financial and administrative EXPERTS posited that cities, counties and the state could give nearly full retirement to employees. Imagine that! Also imagine that once those benefits are allowed, then every employee on board at that time were immediately eligible for a retirement (at their appropriate retirement age) that was 30% to 50% higher than it was when they came to work that day. This was the definition of what the experts call an “unfunded liability.”. Now I don’t know if this is the case with Susanville, but I am willing to bet that it is significant.

  • Time to consolidate the city and county. Consolidate those department heads. Stop the bickering over annexations.

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