Archive | December, 2019

City of Chico double ends us on our utilities, collecting Utility Tax on our total bill while adding franchise fees to our rates

31 Dec

If you watch the government steadily over time like I have the last 50 or so years, you see the contradictions and the outright lies. My favorite of late was Obama’s promise that we would not lose our health care providers under Obamacare.

So when Chico City management started repeating their Big Lie about the Camp Fire evacuees all landing on Chico  like a plague of locusts, I knew it was really all about pushing for the sales tax increase. In fact, at a Finance Committee presentation of the proposed measure, Ass City Mangler Chris Constantin actually said we should put it on the March ballot so we could “take advantage of the population influx.” He not only acknowledged then that the evacuees would be temporary, he also predicted that the economy would tank soon. That’s another blog.

But CARD got their parcel tax (Measure A) on the March ballot before the city could decide what to do with theirs, and knowing they would be stupid to have two tax measures on one ballot, the city decided to wait until November. That gives them more time to campaign anyway, since they can’t campaign for the measure once it has  been submitted and accepted for the ballot by the county clerk.

Brian Nakamura made the mistake of using taxpayer money to produce and distribute flyers promoting the city of Rancho Cordova’s tax measure, and that got him the can, so his former cronies will not make the same mistake.

http://www.kcra.com/news/rancho-cordova-faces-formal-campaign-mailer-complaint/28980752

So staff has to be creative, they need to create financial problems and then convince the taxpayers that they need to pay more money to solve them. They don’t want us to find out the real truth about city finances – whole funds are in arrears because they’ve been siphoning off money to pay down the pension liability. Look at the budget here,

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2019-20CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

and push “Control F” on your keyboard. Then type in the words, “pension” or “pension liability”, look at it for yourself if you don’t want to take my word for it. Then type in “gas tax” and be further outraged. 

I think you will see stuff that inspires you to write your own letter to the editor, here’s mine.

NOTE: Here’s a further irony I was not able to address in 250 words – they add a franchise fee that increases your rates, and then they use that total to figure the 5% Utility Tax. Sock it to me BABEE!

After a year of Chico staffers complaining that the Camp Fire evacuees were “straining” our services, we find a $20,000,000 “boost” in city coffers. Where did that come from?

Staff reports sales and bed tax were up, way up, during those months after the fire. Staff didn’t mention Utility Tax or the franchise fees that are tacked onto our utility bills. The city adds a 5% Utility Tax to your PG&E, Cal Water/sewer, and landline bills, taking $7,051,581 last year. With rate increases and new development, that goes up about $50,000/year. Think what a temporary population influx meant.

 A letter writer mentioned the trash tax or “franchise fee”.  The city also collects franchise fees from PG&E and Comcast. Last year the city added $1,102,674 to our trash bills and expects to collect about $1,600,000 in 2019-20. They tacked another $757,192 onto our PG&E bills and $899,942 to our cable tv bills. 

Shouldn’t these funds be used for street maintenance?  Last year staff used almost $400,000 in Comcast fees to remodel council chambers. These hidden taxes go into the General Fund, where they are available for any whim of council.

Council created the ordinances by which these taxes are added to our utility rates, and council can lower or eliminate them.  Ironically, they also created a “no price gouging” ordinance, but proceeded to make profit from the tragedy.  Let them know how you feel about that by claiming your annual Utility Tax Rebate, available from May 1 to June 30. Email the clerk at debbie.presson@chicoca.gov for details.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

In light of budget surplus, city needs to lower or eliminate Utility Tax

27 Dec

Time for New Year’s Resolutions! I recommend this because last year I realized all my pants were too tight, including a pair I’d only bought a couple of months earlier. I resolved to lose 10 lbs instead of buying new pants. I quit eating a big breakfast, opting instead for a fruit/yogurt smoothie, and I started an exercise routine. It’s been pretty up and down since then, but I’ve lost 8 of the 10, and I haven’t gained it back. I’ll say WOW! I’ve gone back to the factory made holes on my belt!

So this year I’m telling all my friends to resolve to stop being ripped off by the city of Chico and turn in a Utility Tax Rebate form.

Never heard of Utility Tax? Take a look at your PG&E, Cal Water and “telecom” (landline) bills. HINT: you won’t find “utility tax”, it will say something like “local user’s tax”. Your PG&E bill splits it up – look at all the pages, it will be listed at least twice on your electric bill and again on your gas bill. 

Fortunately, the city is required by law to rebate the tax to those households that fall under a certain income level – I think it’s about $43,000/year. But, neither the city nor the utility companies are required to tell anybody about this rebate, so I try to tell people. The rebate is available from May 1 through June 30. By May 1, there will be a rebate form available on the city website, or you can ask the clerk for it – that’s debbie.presson@chicoca.gov  I like to jangle her chain about the last week of May, cause you know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. 

You will have to fill in each month’s total take for each utility bill and then add them twice. Then attach all your bills – I recommend making copies – and send or deliver them to the city. If you send them, it’s going to cost you more than a stamp, and you can only deliver them during business hours, M – F. But it’s probably worth it.  Since I’ve been doing this my return has gone from around $35 to almost $100 a year. About a year ago they started adding it to my water bill, and of course all the rates have gone up drastically over the last few years. So, judging from your usage, it might be well worth the trouble. 

Listen, even if it’s less than $50, let me tell you why I do it anyway – I resent that they take it, at all.  Here’s a couple of reasons why you should resent it too.

  1. they also tax the utility companies by way of a “franchise fee”, which, added to your bill, means they double tax you
  2. the city just announced a budget surplus

I try to read the city budget at least a couple of times a year.

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2019-20CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

It’s funny – when I’m looking for one thing I see other, interesting things. Here’s a note from the most recently adopted 2019-20 budget that should really piss all of us off: “(5) Assumes 100% of waste hauler franchise fees will be retained by the General Fund beginning in 2022-23.”  I know, dammit, they said they were going to use that franchise fee – excuse me, TRASH TAX – to fix the streets. Ha ha – joke’s on us! They transfer it to the General Fund – they can transfer monies as they please – and then they can use it for whatever they want. 

Oh yeah, franchise fees – 

  1. they also tax the utility companies by way of a “franchise fee”, which, added to your bill, means they double tax you

The city collects franchise fees from Waste Management, Recology, PG&E, and Comcast. Here’s the spread from the 2019-20 budget. The first 5 digit number is the Fund Number, the other figures are dollar amounts. The first two dollar amounts are actual,  from 2016 – 2018. The other numbers are projected, based on trends, because they don’t have the actual figures yet. For those years they have two figures – the first is the figure the council has approved and the second slot will show “modifications” made as the year progresses. This budget is from last June so they hadn’t done the modifications – you have to attend the monthly Finance Committee meetings to get that “dynamic” information. So, I added the years and some dollar signs, and I’ve bold-faced the “actuals”. 

40403 Franchise Fees-Cable TV (2016-17) $877,594 (2017-18) $899,942 (2018-29) $916,000 916,000  (2019-20) $875,000 875,000
40404 Franchise Fees-Gas/Electric (2016-17) $690,768 (2017-18) $757,192 (2018-29) 700,000 700,000 (2019-20) 750,000 750,000
40405 Franchise Fees-Waste Hauler (2016-17) $236,112 (2017-18) $1,102,674 (2018-19) 1,000,000 1,400,000 (2019-20) 1,650,000 1,650,000

Ha ha – I always read this stuff a million times, but just now while I was bold-facing those first two years, I saw the Waste Hauler Franchise Fee went from $236,112 in 2016-17 to $1,102,674 in 2018-19. WHAAAAATTTT! That’s our money folks! Feeling a little hollow in your right butt cheek? I mean, that’s where the average American keeps their wallet, so I’m just wondering. I keep my wallet on a strap over my shoulder, cause I might want to use that thing to smack somebody upside the head! I mean, don’t even be sticking your fingers in my purse honey, you gonna come up with a stump. 

Yeah, I get mad. What the hell is wrong with you people? We paid those franchise fees, on top of the Utility Tax the city of Chico has added to our monthly bills. Don’t be a Meathead.

 

 

Moving right along to No. 2: the city just announced a budget surplus  —  see https://chicotaxpayers.com/2019/12/26/camp-fire-a-year-later-quite-a-turnaround-from-gloom-and-doom-to-prosperity-for-city-of-chico/  

Yes, the city of Chico made profit off the Camp Fire – I can just see Mark Orme, Chris Constantin and Scott Dowell standing together, twisting their mustaches over the small army of evacuees that landed on our town. While they complained about the “strain” these people were putting on our infrastructure, they probably laughed out loud behind closed doors (remember the Enron scandal) over the money that would be pouring into Chico. Including millions in “reimbursements” from the state. 

They announced this budget surplus as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. Oh gee, says Scott Dowell, I found this money in the cushions of my office sofa...  No, they got it from increased sales tax receipts, bed tax receipts, and utility tax receipts, those dirty, rotten scoundrels. They took advantage of a tragedy. Instead of saying, shouldn’t we drop or at least lower these taxes – I mean, we just passed a ‘no gouging’ ordinance,  Chris Constantin told a gathering at a Finance Committee meeting in late 2018  that we needed to raise sales tax immediately to take advantage of the influx in population.

He didn’t twist his mustache, but he said that.

On page FS-1 of the 2019-20 budget, you’ll see both the franchise fee figures I listed above and the Utility Tax takings. I don’t have time to edit the UT figures to make it easier to read, but you can figure it out. Like the franchise fee table, it starts with 2016-17, and those first two figures are actual numbers, so I boldfaced them. 

 For fiscal years 2016 – 2020

40460 UUT Refunds 16-17(5,035) 17-18(6,160) 0 0 0 0
40490 Utility User Tax – Gas 2016-17 $1,155,438; 2017-18 $1,108,081     1,200,000 1,200,000 1,200,000 1,200,000
40491 Utility User Tax – Electric 2016-17 $4,490,948;  2017-18 $4,569,241    4,600,000 4,600,000 4,600,000 4,600,000
40492 Utility User Tax – Telecom 2016-17 $355,319;  2017-18 $367,465    300,000 300,000 290,000 290,000
40493 Utility User Tax – Water 2016-17 $898,519;   2017-18 $1,012,954    1,000,000 1,000,000 1,050,000 1,050,000
Total Utility Users Tax    2016-17 $6,895,189;    2017-18 $7,051,581    7,100,000 7,100,000 7,140,000 7,140,000

I know why the water figure went up ALOT – they only added the UT to my water bill a little over a year ago. They realized that Cal Water had drastically raised rates during the dry spell of 2016 and instead of filing a formal protest to the CPUC, they rubbed their sweaty little mitts together in glee and stuck it to us good! But you see they are projecting lower amounts as people simply turn off their sprinklers and kill every living thing in their yards to save money. You can see gas and electric takings were down, but of course they predict higher totals for 2019-20 because of the evacuees. We’ll see what the actual numbers look like in a year or so. 

But, looking at the totals you see – they go up by about $50,000 a year, year after year. 

I sent a note to Scott Dowell asking if UT figures went up along with sales tax and bed tax totals, but he informed me that he is on vacation until January 2. Well, la-tee-dah Scott, how nice for you! 

Meanwhile, we should all be wondering, why are we paying a tax on our utilities? The city council instituted the tax with an ordinance, years ago. They put a 5% maximum on that, but when rolled it out at 3%. A drug and alcohol addict named Scott Gruendl proposed an increase to the full five percent when he was on council here. But when he skipped town, in a hail of turds, nobody proposed lowering the tax. Well, I’d like to propose we revisit the Utility Tax. And maybe we should just get rid of it. 

Camp Fire a year later – quite a turnaround from gloom and doom to prosperity for City of Chico

26 Dec

Remember claims made by City of Chico staff that Camp Fire evacuees were causing financial problems? Here’s a story from as late as May –  6 months after the fire – claiming that the evacuees were still overwhelming city services. 

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2019/05/10/state-population-estimates-based-on-new-housing-contruction-not-occupation-but-mark-orme-still-claims-he-has-hard-numbers-on-camp-fire-evacuation/

“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.”

As you should know by now, city of Chico is planning to put a sales tax increase on the November 2020 ballot. Like CARD, which has put a parcel tax titled “Measure A” on the March ballot, the city of Chico cannot openly campaign for their sales tax after it has been assigned a ballot title. So, like CARD, the city of Chico must do their campaigning now, with the help of the local fishwrap known as the Enterprise Record.

The ER went willingly along with city management, printing article after article about this imagined population boom. I said it then and I’ll say it now – where the hell are they? We just went through Christmas – why weren’t the roads around the mall shut down with all these displaced people? I drive in rush hour traffic almost every day – where are the commuters? Where the heck are all these new people? 

Of course, the evacuees left their mark alright – “The city saw $2.5 million more in sales tax revenue than they had budgeted for, Dowell said, and approximately $700,000 more in transient occupancy tax fees.”

Not to mention, “ approximately $500,000 in fire and police department costs have been reimbursed — as well as $3 million from the state government in recovery funds”

 But if seeing isn’t believing, here’s the data that tells us the lion’s share of the evacuees have gone.   “‘Those two [ sales and occupancy tax]  relate to what we can tell is a boost,’ [city finance director Scott]  Dowell said, ‘but we’ve actually seen those — particularly the occupancy tax — dip.’”

Furthermore, read Steve Schoonover’s article posted below –  Butte County Population Dips More Than 10,000 – quoting the same agency (Dept. of Finance) that “estimated” the population BOOM after the fire, Schoonover reports, “The latest report, from 2018 to 2019, Showed Butte’s population dipping from 227,353 to 216,965. That’s a loss of 10,388 people, or 4.57 percent of the population.”

Now think folks – you’ve heard about the upcoming US Census 2020. Remember US Census 2010?  The federal government does it’s best to actually COUNT people. What a concept. I remember the census worker who hounded us about our neighbors. I read stories in various news sources about census workers hounding people literally to death. Now THINK – have you seen or heard from any Census Workers since 2010?  No, they’re still looking for workers, the census doesn’t begin until 2020.   So where does the Dept. of Finance get these numbers? Read this, from the actual Dept. of Finance news release:

“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.”

I didn’t have to count. I saw what happened to Chico in the weeks directly after the fire and I watched as people fled the area over the following months. I personally know people who never even went  back to look at their burnt out lot, and I can’t say I blame them. They spent a month or two in Chico gathering their wits, and then they were scattered to the wind. As is reported in Schoonover’s article below.

Now the city of Chico admits they actually made profit off the fire. But you know they are still planning to put a sales tax increase on the November ballot. In fact, Scott Dowell mentions another one of his dog-and-pony budget presentations coming up in March.  “Dowell said his staff will start to work on budget items for the 2020-2021 budget when they get back from the holidays in January. Additionally, the city will host a public meeting to learn the ins and outs of the new budget on March 12.”

Uh-huh. That ought to be interesting. 

I cut and paste the articles into the blog because I know a lot of you don’t have a subscription to the Enterprise Record and may not be able to see this stuff. Which ought to be illegal, because the ER is very obviously running a propaganda blitz for the city, not to mention CARD. 

PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

CHICO — Financially, the Camp Fire hit the city of Chico hard in 2019, despite never physically crossing into the city’s territory. Despite that, the budget is actually doing OK, said Scott Dowell, Chico’s administrative services director.

The city of Chico did not make any substantial changes to the budget following the Camp Fire, and approximately $500,000 in fire and police department costs have been reimbursed — as well as $3 million from the state government in recovery funds, Dowell said.

Of course, “we’re still processing, we’re still living it,” Dowell said, of the aftereffects of the Camp Fire.

Because the city’s fiscal year runs from July to June, the most recent numbers available are from June 30, Dowell said. But those numbers show Chico with a significant surplus: More than $20 million.

That’s a big turnaround from 2013’s budget, when the city was facing bankruptcy.

Two of the biggest factors for that surplus are directly related to the Camp Fire: Sales tax and hotel tax, also known as the transient occupancy tax.

The city saw $2.5 million more in sales tax revenue than they had budgeted for, Dowell said, and approximately $700,000 more in transient occupancy tax fees.

“Those two relate to what we can tell is a boost,” Dowell said, “but we’ve actually seen those — particularly the occupancy tax — dip.”

A lot of that surplus hasn’t been designated to a use by council yet, but of the $3 million given by the state, half went toward new communications technology that will help the Chico police and fire departments better deal with emergencies in the long-term. The city has also considered putting in a new intelligent traffic system, which would replace the current technology that has been in use, in some cases, since the 1960s.

Dowell said his staff will start to work on budget items for the 2020-2021 budget when they get back from the holidays in January. Additionally, the city will host a public meeting to learn the ins and outs of the new budget on March 12.

“We’re doing far better than we were 6 years ago, but we have a ways to go,” he said.

 
 Butte County Population Dips More Than 10,000

Butte County lost more than 10,000 residents due to the Camp Fire, according to estimates released last week by the state.

That was according to an annual report by the Department of Finance that calculates county populations from July 1 of one year to July 1 of the next.

The latest report, from 2018 to 2019, Showed Butte’s population dipping from 227,353 to 216,965. That’s a loss of 10,388 people, or 4.57 percent of the population.

Part of the loss — 142 — came because that many more people died than were born in the county.

But the state estimates 10,411 residents left Butte County for elsewhere in the United States. It attributes the change to the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018, that killed 85 people, and also destroyed 6.5 percent of the housing supply in the county.

The outward flow was partially offset by 165 people immigrating here from other countries.

The population loss by numbers and percentage was the highest of the 58 counties in the state.

Conversely, the counties surrounding Butte had inflated growth rates, all far above the state average of 0.35 percent.

Sutter was the fastest growing county in the state by percentage, adding 2,243 people, or 2.21 percent. Most of that — 1,364 people — consisted of people moving in from elsewhere in the United States, most of them likely from Butte County.

Glenn County was No. 3 by percentage, adding 442 people, or 1.54 percent. The state estimated 365 of those people were “domestic migrants,” a category that would include those displaced by the fire.

By comparison, between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, Glenn grew 0.48 percent.

Tehama County grew by 1.12 percent, adding 725 people. Yuba County also grew 1.12 percent, adding 866 people. Colusa grew 1.00 percent, with 223 new residents.

Even Plumas County, which has been losing population since 2016, was in the plus column this past year. It added 156 people, a 0.83 percent growth rate.

As a state, California added 141,300 between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2019, for a total of 39,959,095, one of the lowest growth rates since 1900, according to a Department of Finance press release.

More people left the state for elsewhere in the United States than migrated here, with 197,594 moving out. However births outpaced deaths by 180,786, and 158,118 people immigrated to the state from other nations.

Butte County population dips by more than 10,000

A Christmas Story, as told by author Jean Shepherd

24 Dec

One of my favorite movies is “A Christmas Story,” a 1983 comedy about a boy who just wants a bb gun for Christmas. It touches memories of childhood that are dear to me, and it’s funny.  I wish they’d play it every Christmas instead of some of the crap they show now, but I guess I should  get cable if I want to sit around watching the boob tube all the time.

But you can listen to the original story that  became the movie, as told by the author, radio announcer Jean Shepherd. Remember radio? Remember when disc jokey’s had to have a personality? This guy was great. And, it’s his story, so he reads it as if he’s re-living the events.

So, sit back and listen, enjoy – I love the ads.

 

Enterprise Record practices newspeak

22 Dec

Here’s a story I found in the Enterprise Record. I noticed it because I am a Chico State alumnus and I wondered if it was one of my old professors. I think this story was downplayed for some reason at the time it happened, and now the ER just prints what amounts to a news release from the court. No investigation. No follow-up. 

PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

A Butte County jury today found a Chico man guilty of a brutal assault on a Chico State professor in his home in October of 2017, according to a Butte County District Attorney’s Office press release.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said Ryan Edgar Wayne Muscat, 35, was convicted by a nine-man, three-woman jury Friday for the assault that occurred in October of 2017 at the professor’s home in Chico, where Muscat was a boarder.

The jury convicted Muscat of felony assault causing serious bodily harm. The jury also found Muscat had previously suffered a previous felony “strike” conviction for robbery in Orange County in 2006.

Muscat

Ramsey said in the release that the assault victim was a 59-year-old CSUC science professor who had rented a room in his home to Muscat as a favor to a friend who was an employer of Muscat. The professor had begun to evict Muscat for his alcohol and drug use when Muscat attacked him during the early morning hours of Oct. 29, 2017. The professor suffered severe and permanently disabling injuries to his face, shoulder and brain.

Muscat faces up to 24 years 8 months in state prison when he is sentenced. However sentencing has been postponed awaiting the setting of trials next month on two other criminal cases alleged to have been committed by Muscat. Ramsey said Muscat faces felony charges for carrying a concealed knife in September of 2018 and for throwing urine on Butte County Jail correctional officers while in the jail in October of 2018.

According to the Butte County Court Case Index, Muscat has been in and out of court in Butte County since 2015. At the time of the attack, he was living in the professor’s house, but by the time the professor realized he had made a mistake taking in a drug and alcohol addict, it was too late.

At a meeting a few years ago, documented in this blog, I listened to Butte County Behavioral Health Director Dorian Kittrell explain that they were bringing people in from other cities/counties/agencies in California, and they needed “more beds”. He suggested finding people in the community to take strangers with documented mental and behavioral problems into their homes as boarders, even helping them “remember to take their meds.” I  was outraged – these people need professional help, not just good will. Anybody who has had to deal with addiction among their family/friends would know that, and I’d guess most of us have had that experience at one time or another. Telling people to take in transients off the street is irresponsible. I’ll say it – I  told you so Dorian. 

We thought we were helping our friend who was struggling with heroin addiction by employing him on a remodel, he is a excellent carpenter and really loves wood working.  But his wife called one day and told us he was just using the money for heroin, blowing off his morphine sessions. She asked us not to “help” him anymore. Helping a drug addict when you don’t really know what you’re doing is called “enabling,” and that’s the problem with groups like CHAT, Safe Space, and the Northern Valley Harm Reduction Coalition. 

What I also see here is a sinister attempt on the part of the local media to play down stories like this. Mike, if you have a story about this incident from 2017, you can show it to me and I’ll be glad to eat my hat on this one. But after the conversation you had with my husband over his recent letter to the editor, I believe you are more of a censor than a journalist. You say you just want everybody to “get along.” Well, Romeo, a pox on your yellow newspaper. 

 

 

I don’t hate Christmas, I just hate what it’s become

21 Dec

Gather ’round Children, I want to tell you about a film that might just change your life, or at least, make you think about your consumer habits.

Over 10 years ago, I met a man named Bill Talen, who, with his wife Savitri, runs the “Church of Stop Shopping.” Talen’s stage name is “Reverend Billy.” He’s very theatrical, wears a white (nowadays pink) suit and clerical collar, and performs with his “Stop Shopping” choir, both on tours around the  country and at a regular gig at Joe’s Pub in NYC.

I met them on the 2008 tour they did to publicize the film, “What Would Jesus Buy?”  They had come all the way to Sacramento, and, since my family had been listening to me yak about them, they drove me up to see the show. 

At the time, Bill wasn’t really sure what to do, there was really no set-up. He’d been invited by the owners of a small coffee shop, and they hadn’t done any preliminary advertising, just expected him to show up and gather a crowd, on a seedy street corner miles from the shopping centers. Instead of the usual choir, it was just him and Savitri, who looked very nervous.  He greeted my family very warmly, autographed my copy of the movie, and went about his street preaching. 

Instead of shoppers, we were immediately surrounded by a kind of hostile group of transients.  I used to work in a store down the street when I was in college, the neighborhood had been bad then, it was worse in 2008, and it’s really bad now. But I had to admire Bill’s resolve as he went into his pitch. I stood nearby shouting “AMEN!” at the appropriate moments while my wide-eyed family moved closer to the store fronts, under the lights. At one point a drunk came speeding up on a bike and nearly hit Bill. He didn’t miss a beat. 

We shook hands and made our goodbyes as the night moved in, Bill thanked us for driving all the way from Chico, and we left him with Savitri standing in front of the darkened store fronts. 

But I still have my DVD copy of the movie, and I watch it once a year. It’s funny, but it has a pretty sinister dark message to it. 

The film opens with warm scenes of America at Christmas. But it goes quickly from small town fall colors and simple visions of children decorating a Christmas tree, to glitzy ads, roads shut down with traffic, and crowded shopping malls – “the halls of worship”.

The narrator speaks of a new God . “He tells us to buy now and pay later, he tempts us with promises of endless credit, as he leads us down the path to eternal debt.”

“We used to be a nation of producers and are now a nation of consumers. “

“For the first time since the Great Depression, our household personal savings rate is below zero, and 60 percent of us are in long  term debt on our credit cards. We now spend under one hour a week in religious or spiritual time, and over 5 hours a  week shopping.”

The narrator compares shopping to addiction. A news woman remarks that most people would run over a pregnant woman to get what they want at Christmas.

Christmas, says the narrator, creates 5 million tons of extra waste every year.

And here we meet Reverend Billy, who had just launched his first nationwide “Stop Shopping Tour”. 

I don’t really go in for theatrics usually. I like Bill’s street preaching, but the big productions with the choir are not really my thing. They sing pretty silly songs, and the old time revival setting is a little much. But my favorite part is when Bill asks people in the audience to bring forward their credit cards for “exorcising.” 

It’s also fun to watch him walk into a store, hold a huge Mickey Mouse toy over his head, and proclaim, “Mickey Mouse is the Anti-Christ!” 

I know, if Bill was your brother in law, you’d probably skip family  dinners. He can be a bit much, like all your theater friends.  But he’s right – America is out of control on spending. Even 11 years after this movie was made, it’s pertinent, probably more pertinent than ever.

Just today my grocery checker says she’s already getting aftershock from the spending. “I can’t believe I put so much on my credit card,” she tells me. “It will take me til Easter to pay for it!” 

I’ll guess, she’ll be paying it off for years, because most Americans never pay off their credit cards, they just keep using them and paying that interest. So, that gift you bought on Black Friday because you thought you were saving all this money will end up costing you more than the regular price.

A Walmart employee recounts being spit on by “about a 60 year old woman” because she did not have the X-Box the woman wanted for her 6 year old grandchild. Yes, I’ve seen that kind of behavior. While you don’t see violence every day, you get used to JUST PLAIN RUDE. The one time my family went Black Friday shopping, while we were at an out-of-town kids’ sport tournament, I was at one of those outlet stores, looking at a pair of pants for my husband and a woman LITERALLY grabbed them out of my hands, put them in her cart and rolled away.

I’m not going to go Glenn County over a pair of pants. I see some people are more aggressive than me, so I stay away from the stores after November 21. I mean, if I don’t have a present for you by the end of October you can forget it. Today I went grocery shopping and it was already getting crazy.

I used to say, “I hate Christmas,” but I realize, I just hate the way people act at Christmas. So after you get home from the mall tonight you might take a look at this film. Here’s the trailer on youtube, where you can also watch the full movie.

 

Now get out there and spread some peace and joy, DAMMIT!

Parks not pensions

18 Dec

Busy little bees. 

Chico Area Recreation District has submitted Measure A, a parcel tax. Measure A will add an initial CORRECTION: $110 a year to your property taxes, increasing each year with inflation. I had to look up the rate of inflation – right now it’s 1.8%, up from 1.7% last year, and expected to go to 1.9% in 2020. 

This is what my dad called “rabbit math.” Not only does the “base” ($85) go up every year, but the percentage by which the base goes up goes up every year. Next thing you know you got a basket of rabbits on your prop tax bill,  eating your money like lettuce.

I was in 4-H as a kid, I had rabbits, so I get it. This is actually worse than rabbit math – momma rabbit can only have so many babies at a time. It’s the number of momma rabbits that makes for the increase – that would be the initial value, going up incrementally. But this tax will not only add momma rabbits every year, it will increase the number of babies momma rabbit is able to have – the percentage of increase goes up every year.

I hear a voice in the back of my head – “evil never sleeps...”

I don’t hate taxes – taxes are how we all share the cost of stuff we need as a community. We need roads. God in Heaven we need sewer. We need cops and fire. And, given the amount of money we pay into the pot, we sure as hell deserve  better parks. 

We don’t need over-priced bureaucrats who give themselves raises and raid road, sewer and park funds to feather their retirement nest. 

Repeat after me – No Shirt, No Shoes, No Dice... meaning, “pay your own pensions or forfeit.” There it is. Learn it. Know it. Live it.