Archive | May, 2019

CARD consultant admits a tax measure might not succeed, will take lots of “education”

29 May

Chico Area Recreation District has hired a consultant, EMC, of Oakland, to help them put a new  tax measure on the 2020 spring ballot. EMC recently conducted a survey of 405 district “likely voters” (meaning, picked and chosen)  and brought the following conclusions to the CARD board at their May meeting.

https://www.chicorec.com/files/1117523aa/Survey+Results+Presentation.pdf

“A parcel tax measure may be feasible for the March 2020 ballot but a bond measure would be a significant challenge.” Furthermore, “Initial support for a parcel tax for local parks and recreation is near the two thirds threshold needed to pass.”

Keep that word “initial” in mind, I’ll get back to that.

“Given the survey findings and the current community climate following the Camp Fire, we recommend that CARD begin an extensive public outreach and engagement effort before placing a measure on the ballot. Informational communications are essential to the community’s understanding of the need for revenue, particularly funds to maintain park programs and safety.”

You may have read that the majority of survey respondents indicated “public safety/safe parks and playgrounds” as their main concern. I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media from disgruntled parents – a very common complaint is the play fields their kids’ sports  teams use are becoming illegal campsites, littered with trash, poop, and used needles. CARD has also complained about criminal activity and vandalism at various playgrounds, such as broken glass littering the skate park – bottles and trash thrown over the security fence after closing. 

In order of importance, survey respondents ranked “Reducing crime and homelessness in parks, providing clean, safe parks and recreational programs, and upgrading park safety features would be important components of a parcel tax measure.”  A graph on page 6 makes it very clear – of topics “Homelessness, Public safety, Housing, Street and roads, Public education, Jobs and the economy, Parks and recreation,” 63% of respondents ranked “Homelessness” (whatever that means…) as a “very high priority“, while only 22% ranked “Parks and recreation” as same.

Looking at that list, I only see one category that has anything to do with CARD, “Parks and recreation,” so, if you believe in the results of a survey of less than 5% of the population, carefully chosen to reflect the desired results, you would think very few people in this town give a rat’s patoot about CARD. Doing the math, I find that figure to be 89 people, which is a little more than 1% of the total population of Chico.

There’s doublespeak in this report. They start off saying there’s enough support to pass this tax, but here they reveal it will really take some convincing. They also remind the board, such a campaign needs to be “privately funded“. I love the words, “make sure the voters understand…” 

A parcel tax measure would be vulnerable to opposition. Therefore, a successful measure would likely require a well-coordinated, privately funded outreach effort to ensure that voters understand how additional funding would reduce crime and homelessness in parks, provide clean, safe parks and recreation for local residents, and help maintain the Chico area as a desirable place to live, work and raise a family.”

And there you see them listing the priorities respondents chose from their carefully worded survey options, using what the people want to hear, just like Joseph Goebbels. That’s exactly the intention of these surveys – they aren’t out to get your true opinion, they’re out to get you to say what they want, and believe it’s your own idea.

What’s the anecdote to brain washing? 

These are good …

but the truth will set us free! On page 12 of the power point presentation, there’s a graph showing that initial support dropped off as respondents were given “information.” Parcel tax support went from 67% to 59% over the course of the interview, opposition went from 36% to 44%. It shows similar results for a bond. 

The survey questions are provided in the report, give it a read, see how they twist the “information” their way. On page 9, for example, they lead us to believe there would be ” NO money for salaries.”

That is true for a bond, which is restricted to use for facilities, not “operating costs (salaries and benefits)” But a parcel tax is different – they can spend the proceeds of a parcel tax any way they want. 

And here’s the thing – since 2013, CARD’s pension liability has almost doubled. Next post I’ll talk about WHY, and how much money has been diverted from “provid[ing] clean, safe parks and recreation for local residents, and help[ing] maintain the Chico area as a desirable place to live, work and raise a family”  toward staving off the pension tsunami.

 

Update, ACA 1 – lowers the voter threshold for tax measures from 2/3’s to 55%

28 May

Remember Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1? A bill introduced by a group of California legislators who want to lower the voter threshold  for tax measures from 2/3’s to 55 percent? 

It went to a vote on the assembly last week, and a friend sent me a notice:

You are receiving this email because you subscribed on the HJTA website, or you provided your address in response to direct mail.  Please see the bottom of this message to unsubscribe.

Immediate Action Needed! Call the Capitol to protect Proposition 13!

ACTION ALERT: We need every HJTA member to oppose Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1, which attacks Proposition 13 by making it easier to raise taxes. ACA 1 cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week, and is now awaiting a Floor vote. Unlike previous committee votes, and per Proposition 13, passage on the Assembly floor requires a two-thirds vote.Communicating with your legislators now is crucial.  

WHEN TO TAKE ACTION: NOW! A vote on ACA 1 could occur at any time. We’ve been told by reliable sources that a vote will likely occur tomorrow 5/23 or Friday 5/24. 

WHY:

  • ACA 1 would lower the vote needed to approve new local taxes from two-thirds to just 55 percent if the tax hike was for “infrastructure” (which is almost anything).
  • The most imperative message is that a vote for ACA 1 is a vote for a tax increase because it makes it easier for local governments to propose and authorize higher taxes.
  • Lowering the two-thirds vote for bonds and parcel taxes makes it easier to approve debt that is included “below the line” on property tax bills and is not included in Prop 13’s one percent cap. This can add hundreds of dollars a year to residential and commercial property tax bills, and last for decades.
  • Parcel taxes are very regressive in that all property owners typically pay the same amount, regardless of the size of the home or business.

For ACA 1 to be defeated, eight Assembly Democrats must oppose or abstain. While the odds seem daunting, we do believe there is a path to victory. Please call the following Members of the Legislature who have yet to clarify their position on the bill, especially if you live in the areas they represent. Also, for calls to Mr. Ramos, please thank him for abstaining on ACA 1 in the Assembly Local Government Committee and ask him to do the same on the Assembly Floor. 

Assembly Member James Ramos (Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino) – 916-319-2040
Assembly Member Rudy Salas (Bakersfield, Hanford) – 916-319-2032
Assembly Member Christy Smith (Santa Clarita) – 916-319-2038
Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin (Camarillo, Thousand Oaks) – 916-319-2044
Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi (Torrance) – 916-319-2066

You can also call your own representatives and urge them to oppose ACA 1. To find their names and contact information, go to findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.

Thank you for helping to strengthen the voice of taxpayers in California. We greatly appreciate you.

 

I’m sorry, I was out of town with no internet all weekend, and I missed it.  So I went to this “bill status” site:

https://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=E211US105G0&p=ca+assembly+constitutional+amendment+1+current+status

It looks like it  passed the committee last week with a bare margin of 11 – 7, but was ordered for a third reading  before the assembly. 

I’ll admit, I don’t know that much about the process, I don’t know where it goes next – to the senate, I assume. I will sign up for HJTA updates, and I think I’ll also give some of those legislators a call to ask about the process. 

If this bill passes you might as well sign your house over to the city of Chico and the “Homeless Industrial Complex”. Look at your property tax bill, and see how many bonds and assessments you already pay – those were passed with 2/3’s of the vote, think how easy it would be to pass a slough more with the threshold lowered to 55%. 

Here’s an article from the HJTA website that fills in the details:

Major Threats to Prop. 13 and Homeowners

Here’s the text of the bill, with amendments, read for yourself:

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200ACA1

City sewer plant accepting wastewater from Camp Fire work camps despite claims that the system is overloaded by evacuees

27 May

I was looking over the city website and found this notice:

City of Chico Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP)

CAMP FIRE CLEANUP AND LICENSED WASTE HAULER SERVICES

We are accepting gray/domestic wastewater from the responder camps in an effort assist cleanup efforts. Download the permit application and pay the application fee.

Trip tickets, bill of lading or manifest containing the Waste Origin, Volume, Company Name and Truck ID# is required per load discharged at the Plant. Plant property discharge point open Monday-Friday, 7:00 AM-3:30 PM.

Really? Because just this past month Chico Public Works Director Eric Gustafson complained that our sewer system has been overloaded due to Camp Fire evacuees. In February he mentioned a sewer rate increase.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2019/02/01/city-staff-using-camp-fire-to-justify-sewer-rate-increase/

“‘If those increased flows continue, there will be increased costs, and we will have to go to council for increased funds,’ Gustafson says.

But they have plenty of room for gray water? 

Gray water means the water that comes from your shower, washing machine, kitchen sink. In many counties in California, gray water can be set up on a different drainage system from your toilet, and used to irrigate your lawn. When you go to a campground, your dish and shower water go directly on the ground. But city of Chico residents are expected to pay a sewer increase for responder camps?

Please note, there’s an application fee for this discharge. The city is double-ending on this deal!

Write to council at debbie.presson@chicoca.gov and tell them you’re not paying a sewer or a tax increase for this kind of gross mismanagement. 

 

CA Senate rejects Newsom’s “water tax” proposal, but it’s far from “dead”

19 May

I don’t know how many people are aware of Gavin Newsom’s proposal to add a 95 cent tax to our monthly water bill. He says the state would use the money to “help communities clean contaminated water systems.” 

Communities? In most towns here, Cal Water owns the water systems. In fact, they’ve just recently raised our rates citing various projects they need to do, most of them necessitated by new subdivisions. Developers have already or should have paid fees. Why is the general ratepayer expected to pick up the tab for the for-profit, publicly traded utility provider? Shouldn’t infrastructure be what you are already paying for? 

I was happy to hear that the California Senate rejected the idea.

https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article230438084.html

“A Senate budget subcommittee rejected Gov. Gavin Newsom’s water tax plan on Wednesday, instead recommending finding $150 million elsewhere to finance a safe and affordable drinking water fund….”

The Senate instead proposed that the money “be found” somewhere in the state’s projected $22 Billion surplus. That’s $22,000,000,000. 

But, it’s not just a one-time $150 million fix, they want to establish a permanent fund, meaning, they will have to find a permanent funding source. They have ways of getting around the voters.  “’It’s been a big stumbling block when it’s called a tax,’ said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic strategist who worked with water tax backers. ‘That’s the beauty of this. It’ll be in every budget.‘”

Again, why aren’t the water districts, particularly the for-profits, being made to maintain their infrastructure within the boundaries of their ever-increasing rates? They want to raise our rates AND put an additional tax on us. 

The proposal still has to be heard in the Assembly. Contact Assemblyman James Gallagher at james@gallagherforassembly.com or by phone at (530) 420-5066 and tell him to reject this scheme.  Legislatures feel this kind of heat, it really affects their behavior if it’s focused on the seat of their pants.  “A water fee proposal died in budget compromise talks last year as Democrats worried about asking constituents to pay more.”

You may as well contact Senator Jim Nielsen at his Chico office (2635 Forest Avenue), by phone 879 – 7424, or at his Facebook 

https://www.facebook.com/senatorjimnielsen

Tell his staff you’re not happy with the proposal the Senate came up with. Ask them why the district agencies aren’t paying for it. 

And, you might join Reform California’s campaign to pressure legislators to reject this bill. I signed up for their mailing list and received news of this tax proposal in February, and I believe their actions were successful in getting the Senate to reject the original tax proposal.

12 Democrat Legislators Named Targets of Campaign to Defeat the Water Tax

Reform California is working on a number issues to “make California more affordable”.  Check out their website at 

News

 

 

Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin lays out his scheme to “shoot (taxpayer) money into the economy at the time the economy is tanking…”

14 May

Just last month Chico City council listened to a consultant’s pitch about placing a revenue measure on the 2020 ballot. They voted to hire the woman, from the same firm that has passed two school bonds, EMC, of Oakland. They also approved a $60,000 budget to run a voter survey and then make a strategy for Staff to use the information gathered to twist sentiment in favor of higher taxes. 

I attended an earlier presentation before the Finance Committee and taped it. I was shocked at the statements made – they talk pretty frank at these morning meetings because they know nobody will show up. I was particularly interested in the presentation made by Chico assistant city manager Chris Constantin. Constantin has hatched the same plot described by Sacramento City mayor Darrell Steinberg – a shells and peas scheme called “securitization.” People need to know about this scam scheme, so I wrote a letter to the Enterprise Record. 

In 2018 57% of Sacramento voters passed Measure U, a half-cent sales tax increase.  Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg had promised voters new revenues would not go to employee pensions, instead toward economic development. However, immediately after the election, Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to place the revenues into the general fund, which pays for  salaries and pensions.

Lesson learned – with a simple majority measure, the voters lose control over how the money is spent.

Promising again to keep the money from going to the pension deficit, Steinberg proposes to “securitize” $25,000,000 of annual Measure U revenue to create a capital equity fund. That fund would finance the sale of bonds, to be repaid by Measure U receipts over a 25-year period. So, half the sales tax revenue would go toward creating more debt.  And the bond money could be spent at council’s indiscretion.

City of Chico staffers have proposed the same “securitization” plan to our council, who plan to put a revenue measure on the 2020 ballot.  Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin has proposed using a sales tax measure to fund bonds. Constantin told the Finance Committee the fund could be used to “shoot money into the economy at the time the economy is tanking…” He would not further explain this scheme to a skeptical committee, but assured Sean Morgan “we’ll contract the type of folks who can do it.”

Subsequently, Council approved up to $60,000 from the general fund to pay a consultant to talk us into this scam. Don’t fall for it.

 

State population “estimates” based on new housing contruction, not occupation – but Mark Orme still claims he has “hard numbers” on Camp Fire evacuation

10 May

I’m sorry to sound like a broken record, but again Chico staff is blaming our financial problems on the Camp Fire evacuees, and the Enterprise Record/Mercury Register are providing the spin.

State: Chico’s population grows by more than 19,000

State: Chico’s population grows by more than 19,000″

“Most growth from Camp Fire survivors”

“Last week, the state Department of Finance released the figures, with Chico having grown by 20.7 percent as of Jan. 1, 2019. The population as of the new year was 112,111, according to the state, up by an estimated 19,250 people from a year earlier.”

Ah, again, there’s that key word, “ estimated”. But, city manager Mark Orme continues to use the words “hard numbers”…

“City Manager Mark Orme told the City Council Tuesday that it was “a huge relief” to actually have hard numbers rather than suppositions or assumptions.

I don’t know what to call that, is it a lie, or just a fib, or just misleading? I mean, anybody who reads the story will see the word “estimate” repeatedly. Furthermore, below they admit that their “estimate” includes “people moving into Chico for other reasons.

“The state figure is an estimate, but also includes people moving into Chico for other reasons.”

Reporter Laura Urseny says, “The state came to those figures by gathering data from other government agencies, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as local and county government agencies.”

But if this is true, why do they need to make estimates? I had to ask Mark Orme for the actual report – he sent me a press release.

https://htv-prod-media.s3.amazonaws.com/files/e-1-2019-press-release-1556737607.pdf

These population estimates are produced annually by the Department of Finance for use by local
areas to calculate their annual appropriations limit. The State Controller’s Office uses Finance’s
estimates to update their population figures for distribution of state subventions to cities and
counties, and to comply with various state codes. Additionally, estimates are used for research
and planning purposes by federal, state, and local agencies, the academic community, and the
private sector.”

Furthermore, these “estimates” are not based on any poll of human beings, but on the number of houses built. You know the popular adage – if you build it they will come. They actually “estimate” the occupancy of houses built and even the number of people living in each house. 

“Changes to the housing stock are used in the preparation of the annual city population estimates.
Estimated occupancy of housing units and the number of persons per household further
determine population levels. Changes in city housing stock result from new construction,
demolitions, housing unit conversions, and annexations. The sub-county population estimates
are then adjusted to be consistent with independently produced county estimates.”

And did you read that – they then “adjust” their estimates to “be consistent” with each other. 

So, the whole report is BS, and then  Urseny adds her spin, for (BS)(BS)! (BS squared)

So, before you read the ER again, take one of these – still available on Amazon.com

My mom gave me these little pills.

Quiz Number 1: Sacramento Measure U

3 May

Our first quiz, based on this article:

https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article229871849.html

Read the questions below carefully, refer back to the article, and go ahead and use google if you want, I always do. You can also comment below, and yeah, you can be anonymous. You can even use a fake e-mail, I wouldn’t know the difference. 

If we get enough people to participate, I may award prizes. Next time I’ll do it in a poll, so there’s no cheating. This is just a fun run. 

Sacramento City Measure U passed with what percentage?

  1. 2/3’s voter approval
  2. 100 percent
  3. 57 percent
  4. it failed

What did Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg promise Sacramento voters if they passed Measure U?

  1. the new revenue would not go to employee pensions
  2. that he would “invest new city resources in economic development, disadvantaged neighborhoods, the creative economy and real pathways for young people.”
  3. told voters the majority of the revenue generated by U would go toward a series of projects to uplift the city’s disadvantaged neighborhoods and to increase the city tax base
  4. all of the above

What did Sacramento City Council vote unanimously to do after the measure was passed?

  1.  directed budget officials to place new Measure U revenue into the general fund, which pays for most basic city services, salaries and pensions
  2.  asked the city treasurer to come back in the coming weeks with a plan to securitize $25 million of new Measure U revenue per year to create a capital equity fund. That fund could raise about $400 million upfront through the sale of bonds that would be repaid by Measure U receipts 
  3. proposed the second pot of roughly $25 million in new Measure U revenue per year be set aside for achieving economic equity.
  4. all of the above

What issue splits the council?

  1. getting out of CalPERS
  2. securitization of Measure U funds
  3. firing their city manager
  4. paying the pension deficit

What does “securitization” mean?

  1. making sure to lock the doors at city hall every night
  2. describes the process by which groups of such illiquid assets (usually debts) are packaged, bought, securitized and sold to investors.
  3. placing revenues in secured funds and limiting them to specified uses determined by the voters
  4. all of the above

What does “illiquid mean”?

  1. solid
  2. nothing it’s a typo
  3. Illiquid refers to the state of a stock, bond, or other assets that cannot easily be sold or exchanged for cash without a substantial loss in value {a company may be illiquid if it is unable to obtain the cash necessary to meet debt obligations)
  4. incontinent

 

 

 

ANSWERS: (backwards) 3, 2, 2, 1, 4, 3

Scoring:

6 of 6 – write a letter to Chico City Council

5 of 6 – write a letter to Chico City Council

4 of 6 – write a letter to Chico City Council

3 of 6 – hang in there, and keep reading

2 of 6 – hang in there, and keep reading

1 of 6 – really? You’re not trying. I made this thing easy enough for a high school kid to figure out, read the articles again!