Chico city council plays their little violin for the “homeless” while sticking it to the rest of us with Utility Tax

13 Feb

I received two rate increases in my last PG&E bill, one a “general rate case application” and the other for the decommission of the failed Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant.

I also got a letter from Cal Water detailing their pending rate increase. A CPUC hearing held in Chico this week drew a few protesters, but I’m unaware of any city council member or county supervisor who bothered to show up. 

It’s better to approach the CPUC directly, anyway. The hearings are just a dog-and-pony show required by law, overseen by shills hired away from the utility companies. It’s a good idea to write to the CPUC – in past a CPUC commissioner actually turned down a water rate increase, asking for further hearings, because he’d had so many protests from ratepayers. That increase went through, but not at the original amount requested by Cal Water.

There is a “formal protest” option, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The local CPUC rep told me I should get a lawyer to fill out the forms when I inquired about it. He said they’re very complicated and mistakes will result in your complaint being round-filed. I asked then-supervisor Maureen Kirk to do it but she turned me down. The city of Chico didn’t even discuss my suggestion that they mount a formal protest. That’s frustrating, because we pay for the city and county to have a lot of legal counsel, more than any of us could afford. And that’s what it takes, paying a lawyer.

But why would the city lift a finger to stop utility rate increases when they collect millions in utility tax – about $7 million last year. The budget projection for this year was over $8 million, but that was before the Camp Fire drove who knows how many refugees into residence in Chico. Whether they live in hotels or rentals or have bought homes, they will contribute to a heavy spike in utility tax. 

So, I’m actually hoping this nasty weather we’re having right now will result in higher PG&E bills, maybe people will get pissed off enough to start rattling their chains. Our city leaders are always posturing, posing and primping. Ann Schwab’s proposal for a rent control ordinance is a pretty brassy beginning to her 2020 campaign – she’s already pulled her papers. Randy Stone and Scott Huber have pasted their faces all over the “warming tents” – Stone has pulled his papers for 2020 and Huber used “the homeless” as his 2018 campaign. 

I think these petty gestures are very insincere, so I wrote a letter to the editor about it, see below.

REMINDER! start gathering together your utility bills, UT rebates will be available starting May 1. More about that later!

Chico council members have made goodwill gestures toward the growing low-income population in our town but have yet to offer anything of substance.

An ordinance to protect renters from landlords?  California tenants already get a minimum 30  days (60 days after one year’s tenancy) notice for any change in tenancy. Local jurisdictions mandating their own reasons to evict is contrary to state law.

A $100,000 budget for warming tents that attract less than a dozen street people? There are three publicly-funded shelters in town, as well as CHAT’s rotating “Safe Space”. 

These  gestures seem little more than grandstanding when council tacks a fee onto our PG&E, Cal Water and landline phone bills. Currently the city taxes our utility bills at the highest rate allowed – 5 percent. Utility Tax is one of the  city’s biggest revenue sources, raking in almost $7 million last year. While the city incurred some costs with the evacuees, UT revenues are sure to spike in 2019 – all those new residents, and rate hikes coming from Cal Water and PG&E. 

I saw no member of council at the Cal Water rate increase public hearing. Nor has the city mounted any formal protest against PG&E’s plans.

If council members sincerely want to help low income folks, they would reduce the UT, and protest the rate hikes. Instead they are using expensive staff time to figure out how to get us to approve yet another tax on ourselves.

Empty gestures are easily made with other people’s money. Let’s see something that really matters.

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Chico city council plays their little violin for the “homeless” while sticking it to the rest of us with Utility Tax”

  1. Mikey February 14, 2019 at 1:22 pm #

    Why are PG&E customers paying for the decommission of the San Onofre Nuclear Plant? That plant is owned by Southern California Edison.

    • Juanita Sumner February 14, 2019 at 2:51 pm #

      Thanks for paying attention – I meant to say DIABLO. So Cal Edison wanted to stick their customers for San Onofre but I don’t know how that case played in court.

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