Archive | December, 2018

Fair Political Practices Commission bringing government agencies to task over illegal use of taxpayer money to fund revenue measure campaigns

31 Dec

Thanks Bob, for this link:

https://www.presstelegram.com/2018/12/30/fppc-ups-the-ante-on-illegal-expenditures/

Over the last several years, this column has exposed multiple instances of government entities using taxpayer dollars for political advocacy, a practice that is illegal under both state and federal law.  Because progress in stopping these violations has been difficult, taxpayers will be pleased to hear that on December 20th, California’s campaign watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, conducted a hearing on illegal activity by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART).

The FPPC stated that BART used public funds to pay for a campaign of “YouTube videos, social media posts, and text messages to promote Measure RR, which authorized BART to issue $3.5 billion in general obligation bonds.” Under California law, spending money on a political campaign to pass the bond measure caused BART to qualify as an “independent expenditure committee” and required it to file campaign finance reports, but the transit agency ignored the requirement.

Sometimes I don’t think anybody takes me too seriously when I talk about this law. They ask, “how else is a government supposed to push a tax measure?” The answer is, they’re not. They can put a measure on the ballot, they can put an “Argument For…” on the ballot, but that’s it. They’re supposed to recruit “civic” organizations to do their campaigning for them. If they can’t, that ought to tell them it’s not going to pass. Instead, like Chico Unified Schools, they break the law, knowing the majority of voters and taxpayers are ignorant of the law.

Read the article and then get ready to watch City of Chico and Chico Area Recreation District use all the same illegal tactics to run their revenue measure campaigns. The school district sent out slick fliers for their last bond measure – who do you think paid for those? 

Do you think you should be on the hook for pensions of over $100,000/year?

29 Dec

In 2019 I resolve to keep local tax increases in the news. When I saw this story in the Yuba County based Territorial Dispatch I realized this is something Chicoans need to know about – yes, your elected officials and public staff will lie, cheat and steal for more money to pay their teetering pension deficits. I  don’t care what color lipstick they put on their pig – public safety, street maintenance, a baseball stadium! – it’s all about the pensions. 

Chico’s pension deficit, by the way, is now over $140 million. That’s why the city is looking to either raise the local sales tax or smack a bond on our homes. I think the employees should have to pay it – why should taxpayers making an average $43,000/year be on the hook for pensions of over $100,000/year? 

So, I wrote a letter to the Enterprise Record about it, write yours too!

On December 21 a Sacramento law firm filed an action on behalf of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and two other plaintiffs in Yuba County Superior Court to invalidate Measure K – the “Public Safety/Essential Services Protection Ordinance”. Measure K, a one cent sales tax increase, appeared on the November 6 ballot and received 54.1% of the vote. The suit contends the measure needed two-thirds voter approval as a “special tax”.

County officials deny Measure K is a “special tax”. The text of the measure begins, “To maintain and protect essential services such as 9-1-1 emergency medical/fire response; improving wildland fire containment; maintaining 24-hours sheriff’s patrol; attracting/ retaining jobs, businesses, and qualified sheriff deputies; and other essential services…” Read the ballot title again – how can Yuba County supervisors claim this measure was a general tax? 

Other critics have questioned the use of taxpayer money to promote the measure, which is illegal in California. Regardless, the city of Chico and Chico Area Recreation District are currently working with consultants behind closed doors to bring forward separate revenue measures for the 2020 ballot. Taxpayer money is being spent not only on consultants but on staff time devoted to raising our taxes. 

While CARD has yet to disclose the kind of measure they will pursue, city officials have suggested a bond or sales tax increase for street maintenance – that would constitute a “special tax,” and would require 2/3’s vote.  

Don’t just vote and turn your back – pay attention, know your rights, get ready to hold local officials accountable.

 

Make 2019 a better year for Chico: write your supervisor and tell them to stop bringing transients in from other counties

28 Dec

I’ve been enjoying a wonderful holiday with my husband and kids, trying to think positive, trying to look ahead to 2019 with bright eyes. 

Here’s a “maybe” – Maybe it will be better than 2018! 

Lately I see searches in my stats that indicate people are worried about Chico. “increasing crime in Chico” is one of my top searches. The police chief tells us crime is down, but we all know that’s not true. Look at the Chico Police Logs – every day, there are multiple crimes reported, burglaries, drunk driving in unregistered cars with no insurance, battery on others, weapons and drugs found on people who have warrants out for their arrest. A casual glance says most of the “perps” are  “transients,” “homeless,” or using a PO Box – even General Delivery – as an address. One guy lists his residence as “1297 TRANSIENT, Chico CA”  Some of these people list house addresses – I’m guessing their name is not on any lease.

I will say, at least Chico PD is arresting these people, but let’s see where it goes. I take a name and run it through the Butte County Superior Court case index, here:

https://cabutteodyprod.tylerhost.net/Portal/Home/Dashboard/29

The first name I keyed in didn’t produce anything – for an 18 year old arrested for breaking and entering. So I entered another name. This time I found a guy who had been a serial pain-in-the-ass since 2012, one arrest after another for drunk in public, resisting and obstructing police officers, and then failing to appear in court for his appointed trial, only to have charges dropped when he was forcibly dragged  before a judge.

That pisses me off. We pay big bucks for that. You should really sit in on the court sometime, I have, several times, including a short lived stint as a candidate for jury, another time when a friend of mine was having legal problems. It’s ridiculous, we have judges who are completely senile, and staffers who sit racking up six figure salaries for doing absolutely nothing all day. The lawyers are happy because it means more money for them. It’s a day with Alice and the Mad Hatter, I’ll tell you that. And the victims get stuffed in a teapot while the criminals skate out the door.

The perp in question was eventually arrested on felony charges involving concealed weapons. Look over those arrest logs, enter those names yourself – you will notice the same pattern again and again. They start out with “drunk and disorderly”, or driving a “borrowed car” with no registration or license, within a few years they’re standing over a startled college student in the middle of the night, holding his clock radio, cell phone, and other valuables. I didn’t make that incident up, I found it on the police logs. 

If you check Butte County Accidents and Fires Facebook page, you see there are car thefts reported there almost every day – and that’s usually the owner asking for help. 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/butte.county.fires.accidents.crimes/

You see other  serial criminals there, arrested and released again and again, for crimes like taking a dump behind the counter of a fast food establishment while the pimply faced staff look on in horror. And it’s not late at night, transients have turned retail sectors into mad houses all day every day, harassing staff, customers, even threatening people with bodily harm. 

What could you do about it? Write an email to your Butte County Supervisor and ask them how much the county made from “transfers” to the Butte County Behavioral Health Department this year. You can check the budget for that information, but you should also let your supervisor know you don’t like it. These people are brought in for the $550/day, per person  (or more, that’s an old figure) transfer funding. We have to stop this practice, or Chico will be an insane asylum within a year. 

Here’s the most recent police log I found online, for late November:

http://www.chico.ca.us/police/documents/weeklyarrestquery.pdf

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association taking Yuba County to court over fraudulent tax revenue Measure K

27 Dec

In November the voters of Yuba County barely passed Measure K, a 1 cent/.01 sales tax increase. The measure read as follows:

To maintain and protect essential services such as 9-1-1 emergency medical/fire response; improving wildland fire containment; maintaining 24-hours sheriff’s patrol; attracting/ retaining jobs, businesses, and qualified sheriff deputies; and other essential services, shall the measure to establish a 1 cent sales tax for 10 years in unincorporated Yuba County, providing an estimated $4,300,000 annually requiring accountability, citizens’ oversight/ audits, and all revenue controlled locally, be adopted?”

California law currently requires a 2/3’s vote to pass a “special tax” for revenues that will be set aside for a specific purpose. But Yuba County ran Measure K as a general measure, only requiring 51% of the vote, even while telling the voters that the money would dedicated to public safety. You’ll note, they don’t mention services such as street maintenance or library funding, but specifically mention “emergency medical/fire response, wildland fire containment, and sheriff’s patrol…” 

There is a weird section about “retaining jobs, businesses…” – I’ll say, this measure was at the very least poorly written in a direct attempt to confuse the voters. But I think the specific mention of safety services should mean it requires 2/3’s voter passage. Of course I’m not a lawyer.

Luckily the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has plenty of lawyers on staff, and a couple of vigilant Yuba County businessmen were quick to ask for help. HJTA retained a Sacramento law firm to file an action against the County of Yuba to stop the implementation of the tax. 

From Lou Binninger, at the Territorial Dispatch in Yuba County:

https://www.eterritorial.com/47-guest-writers/lou-binninger/14419-measure-k-challenged

On Friday December 21, 2018, the Sacramento law firm of Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk filed an action in Yuba County Superior Court to invalidate Measure K – the Public Safety/Essential Services Protection Ordinance that appeared on the November 6 ballot. Measure K received 54.1% of the vote. The suit contends that the measure needed a two-thirds voter approval to become law.

The suit’s plaintiffs are Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), a nonprofit public benefit corporation comprised of over 200,000 taxpayers, Charlie Mathews, a local rice farmer and businessman, and John Mistler, former Yuba County Supervisor and owner of the Territorial Dispatch weekly newspaper. Defendants are the County of Yuba, its Supervisors, and the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

54.1% – no wonder the Yuba County Board of Supervisors  decided to cheat! They knew they could not get the required two/thirds. 

Binninger also raises the question of using public funds to run a tax measure campaign.

“The suit does not address the county’s biased media campaign or the use of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to sway voters. Measure K opponents argued that both were illegal. The California Fair Political Practices Commission has jurisdiction over where monies are derived and how they are used for a campaign.”

The city of Chico is currently using hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to mount a revenue measure campaign, not only in $taff time, but in consultants. The Chico Area Recreation District has already hired various consultants, spending over $100,000 that I know of, to put their own revenue measure on the ballot. The school district has run at least four bond campaigns using taxpayer money. 

We need to hold city of Chico and CARD staff up to the law. We need to be ready to make our own complaints to the FPPC and court. And we need to be ready to take it beyond Butte County, because the county of Butte is not likely to take such complaints seriously – they’re in the same boat with Chico!

 

Janus vs AFSCME: Reform California to hold workshop for public employees who want their union dues back

26 Dec

Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled on a case brought about by a public employee who didn’t want to be a union member or pay union “fees“. In Janus vs the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the court ruled, “Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable raises serious First Amendment concerns. That includes compelling individuals to subsidize the speech of other private speakers.”

In fact, non-members who have paid “fees” are eligible for rebates of at least some of their money – as much as 78% of member dues, for the privilege of having a job. According to Reform California, ” many of our friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family are eligible for an average rebate of $800 this year alone!”

The law supposedly restricted these “fees” from being used for political purposes, but given our own city clerk’s abysmal record of holding these PACs up to the rules, I’ll guess there’s never been any audit of how they are really collected or spent. Not in Chico, or Butte County, that’s for sure. 

Reform California and the California Policy Center are hosting a workshop to help non-union employees who have been ripped off for these “fees” to get their rebates. Get more information about that here:

https://reformcalifornia.org/event/briefing-helping-friends-get-their-union-dues-refunds/

 

Read more about the Supreme Court decision here:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1466_2b3j.pdf

Reform California collected 200,000 signatures against “text tax” in 72 hours

21 Dec

I know people were mad about the “text tax” proposed by the California Public Utilities Commission to pay for “low-income” and transients to have free cell phones, but I’d long ago begun to believe the California Establishment doesn’t care what the taxpayers think. 

And then I checked my e-mail and found this from Carl Demaio, of Reform California.

Dated December 17, he says, “After an outpouring of public outrage, the crazy Text Tax proposal from Sacramento politicians has been withdrawn – for now…

A rare success for California taxpayers!

How did it happen? With YOUR support, Reform California mounted an immediate counter-campaign that included a digital ad buy, an online Stop the Text Tax petition that was signed by over 200,000 individuals in 72 hours, and aggressive outreach to the media to ensure they saw this bizarre proposal. You know an idea is extreme when even the liberal national media mocks it!”

Wow, 200,000 signatures in 72 hours!  Thanks Carl! I was afraid the defeat of Prop 6 would send Demaio back to his corner, but I see he’s come out swinging.

Carl Demaio is the man who almost single-handedly funded the “Yes on Prop 6” campaign, the measure that would have repealed SB1, a gas tax increase that was enacted last January by the state legislature. Demaio still believes, and I agree – Prop 6 suffered a narrow defeat largely because California Attorney General Xavier Becerra used misleading language in writing the ballot measure. State agencies like Cal Trans used taxpayer money to mount a misinformation campaign. Of course the media was no help, telling people the state would have no money for road work if Prop 6 passed. It was a marvel of propaganda.

Demaio warns us, “Because the Text Tax was only tabled for now, please continue to forward the “Stop The Text Tax” Petition to your friends: here’s the link.

I signed it, I’ll ask you to sign it too. Here’s a good reason – despite the threats to cut off road maintenance if we passed Prop 6, crying they have no funding, directly after the election, on November 18, the Legislative Analyst’s Office announced California will have a “significant surplus” of $15 billion by June 30, 2020. Right now there’s about a $9 billion surplus. That’s BILLION, Honey.

While I haven’t heard any plans to remount a gas tax repeal for 2020, I do expect to hear more taxpayer outrage at the polls in two years. 

Oh, by the way, if you want to join French, Portuguese, Spanish, and other patriots in tax protest, get your yellow vest! Over 4500 people have been arrested in protests in those countries, I’ll ask, what the fuck is wrong with Californians? Too much ganja? 

Harbor Freight Tools in North Chico has good yellow vests for under $5 – I love that, make a bold statement for less than five bucks. And be safer on your bike! 

https://www.harborfreight.com/catalogsearch/result/index/?dir=asc&order=EAScore%2Cf%2CEAFeatured+Weight%2Cf%2CSale+Rank%2Cf&q=yellow+safety+vest

Harbor Freight is located at 130 W. East Avenue, Suite A, across the road from Raleys. If you sign up for their catalog you get coupons in every issue – for Christmas we got a 20 percent off coupon.

Like Carl Demaio says, “While we celebrate, we know it is only a matter of time before they cook up another crazy and extreme tax hike — and we’ll be ready to fight it with your help!”

 

Text tax dropped – what will they try next?

17 Dec

Wow, it was good to see people get their panties in a  rumple over the “text tax” – upset the lobster pot a little.

Meanwhile, according to Rueters, “protesters angry over gas taxes and the high cost of living have been blocking roads across France, impeding access to fuel depots, shopping malls and some airports.” People have been killed, I don’t know how many. An organizer complained on Deutsch Welle News that the government is leaving Parisiens like her with less money to spend, small businesses are failing as a result of both high gas prices and low sales. The French economy, she concluded, is tanking because of over taxation.  

Welcome to California. The California Public Utilities Commission, saying they want to use the money to support “low-income” programs, tried to tack another tax onto our cell service, wiggle it in among the stack of “fees” already listed in the fine print on the back of our bill. Thank goodness for the Federal Communications Commission, although, I don’t understand the ruling, I’ll take it. I don’t think they should be able to tax us by way of our utility bills, but I’m not running the circus.

And what a circus it is! Our taxes already provide transients with free cell phones, give me another straw for my camel’s back why don’t you? 

How soon we forget – I almost have. In 2012, the city of Chico tried to get the voters to approve a tax they’d been collecting illegally, a cell phone tax. Even after the tax had been declared illegal by way of a lawsuit in the 1990’s, cities all over California were still collecting it, the same man had to sue each city individually, including Chico, to make them stop collecting it. Instead of stopping collection, and refunding the money to users as is the law, current city councilor and former mayor Ann Schwab wrote a measure for the 2012 ballot to trick voters into making it legal. 

When friends and I approached voters at venues like the Chico Farmer’s Market, we were shocked to see how shocked people were about this tax – they’d never looked very closely at their bills. And you had to look very closely. So they couldn’t believe the city was actually taxing their cell phone usage, on a percentage of the total bill. They got mad pretty fast. The measure failed. The city had to give refunds. 

That scam and this recent ploy by the CPUC to tack another tax onto our phone bills reminds me – they know what’s legal and illegal, and they don’t care. They will try anything to get more revenues. Right now the city of Chico and CARD are using taxpayer money to hire consultants who conduct “surveys” and write leading ballot measures to try and trick the voters into raising their own taxes. Don’t fall for it. And write your letters to the editor now, tell them you’re not falling for it. Maybe we can save them (ourselves) the cost of another ballot measure.