Council still hiding behind COnVID – they have to work fast because they can’t spend taxpayer money on their sales tax measure after they hand it to the clerk (deadline July 7)

7 Jun

On April 8,  the Enterprise Record announced,  “car washes, tanning, landscape, pet care, and child care facilities” could start reopening, with simple guidelines like sanitizing heavily touched surfaces, social distancing and telling employees and customers who feel sick to stay home. Today, restaurants are open again for dining – did anybody really think handing somebody an alcoholic drink in a to-go cup through the window of their running car was a good idea?

So now that things are opening up again, why is Chico City Council still having closed meetings?

As local wag Rob Berry points out frequently on Chico Engaged, council announced back in March they would not have meetings for anything less than “essential business” and no more than one such “special” meeting per month. They’ve had a meeting a week since then, discussing everything  from weed abatement to weed retail shops, none of it particularly essential or timely.

They tell us there is no Brown Act violation because they’ve provided a website through which we are allowed to speak to council members. But let’s face it – if we were there in the room making our comments, they’d have to listen to us. With email they can read what they want and nobody’s the wiser – there’s no quiz after the reading period!

I’m not the only person who has opined they are running stuff under the wire while the public is shut out. For example, they have until July 7 to hand their sales tax increase measure to the county clerk, and they want to be able to work on it without the public underfoot. If you’ve looked at the remarks posted for this upcoming agenda on Chico Engaged, you’ll see, there has not been one comment or vote supporting the sales tax measure, just opposing remarks. While council members are not forced to read the comments, staff tallies and reports “oppose” vs “support” votes.

The main sentiment on Engaged is not “anti-tax” but a call for a 2/3’s measure instead of the simple 51% measure demanded by staff. City manager Mark Orme and ass city manager Chris Constantin have made it clear they do not want the money dedicated in any way. They want a general measure so they can use the proceeds to secure an unrestricted bond.

While nobody in the “Citizens for Safe Chico” camp seemed to be listening, Constantin made it clear in presentations made last year to the various boards and committees that the proceeds from a one-cent sales tax measure would not be nearly enough to fix the streets, manage the park, or hire more employees, certainly not pricey cops.  He predicts proceeds will only be enough to finance a bond. And then NO, the bond will NOT BE RESTRICTED to street maintenance or the park or any of that – it will go to the General Fund, where it will be available for hobo camps and pot shops, free syringes and self-cleaning bum toilets. If you are a methamphetamine-addicted transient who needs somewhere to shoot up and then a place to buy pot for the resulting hangover, this tax will be good for you.

Oh well, it’s fun to point the finger at the bum lovers, but most of all the proceeds of this tax would go to pay down the pension deficit.

You’ve heard of the California Rule – it says, before anything else, the pension deficit must be paid. And if you look at the city budget, you see, no matter what our situation, the Pension Stabilization payments get bigger by about a million dollars, every year, no matter what. That’s the California Rule.

People have posted very accusing and negative remarks about the attempt to shove a simple measure down our throats from closed meetings, even if they don’t understand how bad it really is.  Just imagine that kind of hubbub in the room. Staff doesn’t want council to be subjected to public pressure, so they continue to advise council to shut out the citizens.

Staff is  getting desperate.  See, they can’t spend any more city money on that turd after they hand it to the clerk, so what they plan to do at the Tuesday (6/9/20) meeting is “dedicate” another $22,800 to hire their consultant EMC to do another “survey”, while the spendin’ is good!

You must ask yourself – why do they need another survey? The survey we already paid for said that as many as 70% of the Chicoans polled (a group of 400 carefully chose individuals) said they would support the measure. So why run another survey?

As one woman noted on Chico Engaged, that survey was run before COVID. She doubted that people would support a tax increase in light of what the shut down has done to the economy.  She’s probably right, and that means, EMC needs to run another “survey” to convince us that we should tax ourselves.

Because that’s what surveys are really about – they’re very leading, sometimes not even so subtle. The first survey CARD ran told us our kids would become heroin addicts if we didn’t pay their tax. All they have to do is make a statement and put little bubbles with terms like “Agree” , “Strongly Agree”, “Disagree” , “Strongly Disagree” – you get it?

Survey or polls have been used since elections were invented to influence how people vote. The simple basis of this practice is “The Bandwagon Theory” – people want to belong to a group so they tend to behave as do others. “When in Rome, blah, blah, blah”. Here’s an interesting piece from 2012, The Huffington Post.

In October 2012, David Rothschild wrote, “There is a lot of concern in the media and political circles about the effects of poll results on voters.” Using polls run during the last months of the 2012 Romney/Obama campaigns as an example, he said, “To answer the burning question, researchers have long observed that people often conform to majority opinion (i.e. during every election, some people jump on the bandwagon and shift their preference to the leading candidate or the most popular policy).”

Speaking further about “The Bandwagon Effect,” Rothschild explains, “During elections, and major public policy events, much of the media coverage focuses on the “horse race,” or fluctuations in support for a candidate or policy. Reporting on public opinion not only affects support, but levels of engagement: donations, volunteering and turnout. These bandwagon effects can make polls self-fulfilling prophecies; the predictions of the polls come to pass because the polls not only measure public opinion but also influence public opinion and engagement.

In this 2016 article, John Papadakis, CEO and Cofounder at Pollfish

not only warns us that polls are often inaccurate (citing the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” flub), but agrees, accurate or not, “Polls have the power to influence votes; even to change public policy.”

Papadakis explains, “Polls help the public to gauge election results, and it’s great to have that prediction. However, polls also play a larger role by actually influencing votes.”

He  says voters have two reactions to polls.  “Polls cause voters to follow the crowd. Voter behavior is affected by how they perceive the public will vote, especially when the media analyzes poll results. This happens by the means of the ‘Boomerang effect’ – where voters see a candidate is so far ahead in the polls, they feel their vote doesn’t matter and don’t vote at all – or the ‘Bandwagon effect’ – where essentially the opposite happens, and people want to vote with the crowds to support a candidate.”

Rothschild also makes some behavioral observations, concluding, “Confirming past studies, we find strong evidence of an overall bandwagon effect; people become more supportive of policies that have more general support. We further find that both social acceptance and social learning drive the bandwagon effect. However, the effect of social learning is significantly and substantially stronger than that of social acceptance.”

So, what I’m hearing is this: people are more influenced by real information than by the desire to run with the pack. That’s our job – yell louder than the liars Downtown. Tell people what this tax is really all about. It’s a pissing match folks, and it’s ON! 

It starts with writing an email to each member of council and telling them you will not support this tax. Tell them you are outraged by Orme’s suggestion to spend another $22,800 OF YOUR MONEY on a survey that is nothing more than a marketing tool for a tax.


2 Responses to “Council still hiding behind COnVID – they have to work fast because they can’t spend taxpayer money on their sales tax measure after they hand it to the clerk (deadline July 7)”

  1. Dave June 7, 2020 at 6:17 pm #

    The purpose of the survey is not to find out what the public wants. The purpose of the survey is to help them word the ballot measure so it is most likely to pass. It helps them figure out what to say and how to say it.

    Notice also that they only survey registered voters who are likely to vote in the upcoming election. Why not survey the general public? Because they want to influence the voters. They don’t care what anyone else has to say.

    Also, in the measure Orme has written for the council to move forward, not only does it not mention how much new debt will be taken on and how much that debt will cost, there is no mention at all about debt.

    This is the deception CARD pulled. If you recall, in their measure there was no mention that CARD would take on 36 million in new debt or that 2 or every 3 dollars of the new tax would go to debt service. In fact, the measure didn’t mention debt at all.

    All of this shows what a fraud our local government is. This cr@p should be illegal. If the bread winners of a family of four is going to be voting to take on $800 a year in additional sales tax shouldn’t they be aware of what they are voting for and that hundreds of millions in new debt will come with the tax increase?

    What our local government is doing is fraudulent and amounts to legalized theft. The people running this little city are immoral. What else can you conclude?

    • Juanita Sumner June 9, 2020 at 4:06 pm #

      Yes, they want to get that contract now so they can use EMC to run their campaign – including writing the measure – without breaking the no spending rule. That really sucks, they shouldn’t be able to hire anybody. These tax measures should have to be initiated by a petition of the people, paid for by a citizen’s group that supports the tax. There is no such support, except among staff, and they want to spend our money to shove it down our throats.

      And yeah, they’re not talking about the bond anymore, after Constantin pitched it to council and the various commissions and boards last year. They know people didn’t like that about CARD’s ill-fated measure, so they want to keep it out of the conversation.

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