Scott Gruendl and friends in denial over loss of Measure J – still giving away rainbows down at City Hall

9 Nov

With the help of the media, the city of Chico continues to distract us with “Sit/Lie,” while behind closed doors they’re negotiating the employee contracts. Just the other night they handed a bone to the cops – longtime Chico police officer George Laver was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant, a significant pay raise. Days later, the department announced Laver intends to retire soon. He will retire at lieutenant’s salary. This is one form of spiking, and there they do it right in front of us, with the full blessing of our idiot council.

Including Mark Sorensen, who told me personally that Brian Nakamura was hired to wield a big stick with the employees and their unions. But just a couple of weeks ago, Nakamura complained to a full room at a Tea Party meeting that if he tried to make any changes to existing cop or fire contracts, “the city chambers would be packed with people wearing red Chico Fire shirts… ”  The cops and fire bring in big lawyers from out of town, he said, wa wa wa! Sheesh, this big gun assassin I heard so much about is a quivering woos!

They are laying off people Downtown who do work that brings in revenues, and protecting a pack of prized pigs who won’t even pay their own benefits to keep the city from going under. This idiocy needs to stop with the next election.

Scott Gruendl is up in November 2014. Gruendl, Ann Schwab and Mary Goloff, put Measure J, the cell phone tax, on the ballot, and wrote the arguments in favor. They tried to tell us the money would go specifically to police, fire, fixing the streets and maintaining the parks, but instead of putting those specifics into writing they wrote the measure to deposit the receipts in the General Fund, where they could use it any way they wanted. They also lied about the average amount a customer paid in UT, and about what they would be losing if Measure J failed to pass. They wrote the measure to include “all forms of electronic communication now available or those which become available in the future,” with staff deciding what constituted “electronic  communication”, without any input from the public.

Gruendl complained again about the failure of Measure J in an August article in the Enterprise Record. “Two cents actually makes a difference these days,” he complained to the reporter. “We are so cash poor, every dollar counts.

Then why did they promote a guy who’s going to retire in less than a year? So that he could collect pension at that amount for the rest of his life? Because “we are so cash poor, every dollar counts“?

The reporter continues, “[Gruendl] also noted the measure’s failure has not caused changes in city salaries and benefits that opponents of the cellphone tax had argued for, saying they wanted the city to extract funds in other ways. Changing employee compensation continues to be a challenging and ongoing discussion, Gruendl said.”

I’d like to make double note of that fact. Here he actually seems to be bragging that he ain’t going to knuckle under to the citizens who won a majority decision over his measure, that he just won’t listen. He’s just not going to do his job as our elected representative, he’s just point blank refusing to deliver the will of the people over this special interest group. I’d also like to mention, as an employee of Glenn County, he is a member of the very same special interest group – a member of the public employee unions.

But  neither will I forget the way Mark Sorensen held me off by the forehead when I complained about Nakamura’s salary and terms of his plush contract. Sorensen insisted that Nakamura would prove himself worth the money when he wrestled the employee unions to the table, kicking and screaming, bluster, bluster, bluster.

 Now Nakamura is the one doing the kicking and screaming, or more appropriate, whining and squirming. Wiggling out of his job.  Flaking on his promises to get our employee expenses under control. Why would anybody be surprised? The first thing he did was give himself an out-of-control salary, and a contract guaranteeing a lifetime of paychecks for only four percent of his bloated salary. 

Sorensen is no better himself.  Remember, he’s was the one who wrote the opposing arguments for Measure J. I think Stephanie Taber or even I could have done a much better job, but it fell first to the council member who wanted it, and Sorensen snatched that opportunity, within the narrow time limits given by the clerk’s office, to write a pretty lackluster argument that lacked sincerity. As if anybody would believe that Mark Sorensen and his friends give a rat’s patoot about low income people.  I have never been fully convinced that Sorensen didn’t want J to pass, even while posturing for it’s defeat. I’ll bet he was surprised it lost. If it had won, I’m absolutely certain he’d be standing aside while the revenues were poured into salaries and benefits, including his own $21,000 insurance policy. 

 Gruendl told the Enterprise Record “I don’t think (Measure J) really changes how we bargain and negotiate.”  That seems to be true. They still negotiate these contracts as though they’ve got a money tree out back of City Hall. They don’t get it, they won’t get it – Measure J’s defeat was about more than excessive taxation, it was about what they’re doing with the money. But they ignore the will of the people, they never intended to pay attention.  They’re not up there to serve us, they’re up there to serve themselves and their friends. 

Cellphone tax rebate applications start to slow down

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer

POSTED Chico Enterprise Record:   08/10/2013 01:19:22 AM PDT

CHICO — Six months have passed since cellphone tax refunds became available to Chico residents, and the city has since issued $9,550 to taxpayers who want their money back.Chico accounting manager Frank Fields said 191 individual refunds had been issued since February to both residences and businesses, for an average of $50.

The city began offering the refunds in the wake of the failure of Measure J. Nearly 54 percent of voters struck down the proposal to update the city’s phone user tax to include modern technology such as cellphones.

All wireless phone companies have stopped collecting the tax on the city’s behalf. The 5 percent phone tax equated to about $2.50 of a monthly $50 bill or $5 of a monthly $100 bill.

The city will continue to issue rebates one year past the date of any cellphone taxes charged to customers but the number of applications is already starting to dwindle. Only eight applications were submitted in July.

“At this point, somebody could claim back through August of last year,” Fields said. “The one year window is sort of closing every month that goes by. Somebody might have August through January-February. Next month, it will be September through January-February.”

As for the volume of rebate requests, it wasn’t something the city could anticipate, Fields said.

“I don’t know if there was a way to predict what kind of response we would get,” he said. “We had no preconceived ideas about how many refunds we would issue.”

The refund money comes out of the general fund, which is also experiencing the impact of the overall tax loss.

The last three months have been the best indicator of the impact the loss of Measure J will have because only small amounts of tax have been paid to the city, Fields said. Compared to the previous year, the lost cellphone revenue tallies $217,000.

If multiplied to represent the entire year, the loss looks to be about $870,000.

“That’s general fund revenue that’s no longer available to pay for general city services,” he said.

The loss of revenue related to Measure J was noted during the June budget study session, as councilors cut $4.8 million from the 2013-14 budget.

Councilor Scott Gruendl said he remains disappointed by the measure’s failure, especially as the magnitude of the city’s financial situation continues to be realized.

“Two cents actually makes a difference these days,” he said. “We are so cash poor, every dollar counts.”

He also noted the measure’s failure has not caused changes in city salaries and benefits that opponents of the cellphone tax had argued for, saying they wanted the city to extract funds in other ways. Changing employee compensation continues to be a challenging and ongoing discussion, Gruendl said.

“I don’t think (Measure J) really changes how we bargain and negotiate,” he said.

Recently, while walking through Bidwell Park in an area now shuttered to citizens because of budget-related park closures, resident Siobhan O’Neil said she sees a direct link between the city’s cuts and the failure of Measure J.

‘You get what you pay for and what you don’t pay for,” she told the Enterprise-Record. “For pennies a month, we gave up a source of revenue to help with services in an economy that’s still struggling.'”

To obtain a refund, residents must provide documentation, including their cellphone bill and proof the bill was paid. Applications are available online and at City Hall’s Finance Department counter.

Fields acknowledged some people have complained about the amount of necessary documentation but said there is no other option.

“We have to have documentation to show that it was paid,” he said. “Unfortunately, those are usually phone bills. There is no way to bypass that part of the process.”

Since November, any phone tax revenue that has come in has been placed in an account earmarked for refunds. As of Monday, about $286,450 had accumulated.

Whatever remains after the one-year mark of not receiving any cellphone tax revenue will go into the general fund, likely in spring 2014.

Reach Ashley Gebb at 896-7768, agebb@chicoer.com or on Twitter @AshleyGebb.

4 Responses to “Scott Gruendl and friends in denial over loss of Measure J – still giving away rainbows down at City Hall”

  1. Rick Clements November 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    You know if people are not going to try and get their refund, then maybe they should have a vehicle to sign up for their refund and then check a box that allows that refund to be given to the City of Chico to be used for a “specific” charity. That would take the money out of the General Fund and require the City to specifically and legally use that money for the fund the payee recipient donates to. This also allows the person to claim a tax deductible charity donation tax credit. Win, win for everyone!!!

    • Juanita Sumner November 10, 2013 at 7:01 am #

      That could be done just as easily as the electronic application Jim suggested. You should send this idea to Nakamura.

      We should have more control over the Utility Tax taken out of all our utility bills. We should also be able to get the refund/rebate online, send our bills to the finance department electronically, without having to go down to the city building.

      • Jim November 11, 2013 at 6:58 am #

        Better yet, they could do an automatic refund. Just tell the cell phone companies to reverse the tax they have withheld since Measure J was defeated. But of course they won’t.

      • Juanita Sumner November 11, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

        I agree.

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