$200,000 a year city attorney can’t (won’t?) answer my question regarding tax measure she wrote

11 May

In reading the report city attorney Lori Barker wrote about the telecommunications tax she’s proposed, I noticed this paragraph:

“During the discussion at the January meeting, there was a concern expressed in regard to the application of the tax because it is applied based on the billing address while it is possible that the phone may be used primarily elsewhere.”

Here it actually sounds like Barker is worried that she might be taxing phones that aren’t used in this area. But I don’t think that’s really her concern

“The application of the tax based on billing address is mandated by Federal law in the Mobile Telecommunications Sourcing Act of 2000. That Act was passed at the request of the telecommunications industry to simplify and provide uniformity in how local taxes are applied to wireless telecommunications industry to simplify and provide uniformity in how local taxes. The service providers are responsible under the Act for obtaining and maintaining their customers’ primary place of use.

I read that paragraph over and I asked myself, “what in the hell was THAT?” You know, everybody gets intimidated by that bureaucratic verbosity – it’s intended to work like many primitive, desperate animal defense mechanisms. You know, like those creatures that  take an enormous dump when they are threatened by a predator. That will make many predators back off. Not this predator. When I get a mouthful of excrement, I spit it out, and I say, “please give me a bite that doesn’t taste like shit.”

So, I wrote the city attorney’s office a note:

“To: sbarrett@ci.chico.ca.us

Subject: clarification of report – “update to telephone users’ tax”
Date: Mon, 7 May 2012 17:59:09 -0700
Hi,

 I wonder if someone could explain this comment from the city attorney’s May 1 report,  “update to telephone users’ tax” – page 3
 
“The service providers are responsible under the Act for obtaining and maintaining their customers’ place of primary use.” In other words, if the phone is billed to an address in LA, but used “primarily” here in town, can this city of Chico users tax be applied?  
 
Thank you for your anticipated cooperation – Juanita Sumner 
I have always received an immediate response from city $taffers – even when they are out of the office, they have an automatic feed that sends a note. Not this time. I waited three days, and then I sent another note.
Hi, 

 
I sent the request below  and am wondering if I am going to get any answer. 
 
Thanks, Juanita Sumner
Later that day, I received this response from $taffer Susan Barrett:
Ms. Sumner:
 
Lori Barker is not available today but can talk to you tomorrow about this matter if you give our office a call at 896-7600.
 
Thank you.
 
Susan
I find that highly ironic – she wants me to call.  I only have a cell phone, and I have the cheapest plan available, for the sole purpose of keeping connected with my kids and calling for help when I need it.   I don’t use it for anything non-essential – one call can put me over on my minutes and then the charges increase dramatically. Of course, Barker makes her calls on my dime, and yours. Isn’t THAT ironic – most $taffers are given cell phones paid for by us, so we will also be paying their telecommunications tax! This is just a barrel of monkeys!
But, the real reason I won’t have phone conversations with these people is that I have no record of what was said. Verbal conversations go all over the place, and then SOME PEOPLE will play games and say they don’t remember what was said, they didn’t say that, you said this! Etc. So, I don’t engage in verbal conversations on important subjects, I get it in writing.
Infortunately, for whatever reason, Miss $200,000-a-year-plus-annual-benefits-package-of-roughly-$95,000  does not want to put it in writing!
So, I had to go online to get it. And I sure as hell got it!
Here’s the link to the Mobile Telecommunications Sourcing Act of 2000:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-106publ252/pdf/PLAW-106publ252.pdf

And it says,

‘‘§ 117. Sourcing rules
‘‘(a) TREATMENT OF CHARGES FOR MOBILE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES.—Notwithstanding the law of any State or political subdivision of any State, mobile telecommunications services
provided in a taxing jurisdiction to a customer, the charges for
which are billed by or for the customer’s home service provider,
shall be deemed to be provided by the customer’s home service
provider.
‘‘(b) JURISDICTION.—All charges for mobile telecommunications
services that are deemed to be provided by the customer’s home
service provider under sections 116 through 126 of this title are
authorized to be subjected to tax, charge, or fee by the taxing
jurisdictions whose territorial limits encompass the customer’s place
of primary use, regardless of where the mobile telecommunication
services originate, terminate, or pass through, and no other taxing
jurisdiction may impose taxes, charges, or fees on charges for such
mobile telecommunications services.”

Now, I’m no lawyer, but I think that’s pretty clear, albeit verbose. 

Yes, if you came here to go to school, and you have a cell phone that is part of your family’s phone package in LA, your phone company is responsible for identifying Chico as your “place of primary use,” and applying Lori Barker’s telecommunications tax to your calls. 

Yes, if you live in Oroville, or Red Bluff, or Forest Ranch,  but you work in Chico, you are about to be HAD! Like a fine piece of PORK!

And remember – city $taffers get free cellphones, paid for by us, and so their tax will also be paid by us.

Now, here’s the next question: will those of us who live in Chico but work outside the city get a break because our “primary place of use” happens to be Gridley or Vacaville? Will this Chico tax be applied on calls we make while travelling outside of Chico?   According to Barker’s proposal, this is up to your service provider, so if I were you, I’d be talking to my service provider about this. Or give Lori Barker at call at 896-7600. 

ADDENDUM:

I got this note back from Susan Barrett after my last post:

Ms. Sumner:

 The City Attorney asked me to forward to you the following information:
 
Federal law makes the wireless carrier responsible for obtaining and maintaining each customer’s primary place of use for their phones.  If the primary place of use is in a city other than the city in which the billing address is located, the carrier should apply the applicable tax for the city which is the primary place of use.
 
Thank you.
 
Susan
 
Well, there she admits it – this tax will apply to:
  • college students whose phones are included on their parents’ bills, no matter where their parents live. 
  • people who live outside the city limits but work and do the bulk of their business in Chico 
  • people who live inside the city limits but work and do the bulk of their business outside of Chico (if you’re billed in Chico, you don’t actually believe your carrier is going to check into your place of primary use, do you?)

So, what about that family who lives in Orange, California. They have three kids. They have cell phones for each of their active kids and also for Dad and Mom. Because one kid goes to Chico State, they pay a local Chico tax on their entire phone bill? 

And what about a gal who works at my bank here in Chico, but lives in O-ville? Will she and her husband pay this tax on their whole bill? Barker certainly doesn’t expect us to believe the carriers will scan over our monthly usage, picking and choosing individual calls? If your “primary usage” is in Chico – and that might just mean, between 7am and 5pm – will you pay the Chico phone tax on your entire bill?

And then there’s the transplants who moved here but kept their job and the bulk of their lifestyle (including kids school and sport teams, after school programs, etc) in Vallejo, or Vacaville, or Pleasanton. The carrier won’t even question their “primary place of use,” because their billing address is in Chico.

I certainly hope to see some pissed off taxpayers at Tuesday’s meeting.

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3 Responses to “$200,000 a year city attorney can’t (won’t?) answer my question regarding tax measure she wrote”

  1. Joseph May 11, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    It is outrageous that this highly paid bureaucrat refuses to respond to your question regarding an important public matter like this.

    But to tell the truth it is no surprise to me. These people are called public servants and supposedly work for us. But nothing could be further from the truth. They take as much money from us as they can get away with and attempt to control every aspect of our lives. The reality is we work for them and they tell us how we are allowed to live our lives.

    These people feel entitled and their in your face attitude makes that perfectly clear.

    Just one example, remember the temper tantrum the Grundler threw over that city manager position? Remember his confrontational and threatening attitude?

    I never met the man before and found his attitude hard to believe. Then one night I ran into him at Food 4 Less. He and his husband…er wife..er..what have you, sorry, were strutting down the aisles scowling at anyone they made eye contact with. And for the record I couldn’t care less about his personal life. He can marry a tree for all I care. But when he decides to act like a tyrant on the city council, and he thinks he can decide how to run our lives then I have a real problem. We all have a real problem.

    And if he and his nut job cohorts in crime get their way in addition to paying higher sewer taxes, we will have our sales tax and phone tax increased and they will tax alcohol sales more and even take away your grocery bags. And even then it won’be enough and it will only be a matter of time before they demand more. These tyrants feel they can take as much as they want from you and control any aspect of your life.

    • Juanita Sumner May 12, 2012 at 4:38 am #

      Well, I suppose somebody coming in on this would say, “well, she did answer your question Juanita!”

      But, like I said, I had to wait four days for an answer to a very simple question about an issue that was sitting right on their desk, and when I got it, it wasn’t a simple “yes” or “no”, it was the same kind of legalese I was asking her to explain.

      But, it worked. So I wrote back to say “thank you!” And here’s what I got, at NOON on Friday:

      “I will be out of the office until Monday, May 14. If you need immediate assistance, please call (530) 896-7600. Thank you.”

      If the secretary’s out, you know the entire office is out. It’s not just Barker, there’s two others, both of whom make around $150,000 a year, in salary. We’re paying over $500,000, plus the secretary, and they’re not even in the office when we make a request for service.

      I think Barker would be the first one to tell us, she doesn’t work for “the public,” she works for those seven on the dais, and of course, herself.

      • Joseph May 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

        It’s all a racket, Juanita, in the guise of “the public good.”

        You can’t be sure if or when or how they will respond to perfectly legitimate questions, questions that need to be asked.

        But you can be sure that they will demand more money from you and do more to control your life.

        And for every tax increase they force down our throats and for every new law (like outlawing grocery bags) they pass, it only encourages them to take even more of our money and more of our liberty.

        They honestly believe they should run your life.

        They are tyrants, Juanita, pure and simple.

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