Will Chico Chamber endorse the city’s sales tax increase measure? Ask Chamber CEO Mark Chrisman.

30 Dec

At last, a somewhat more objective piece on the Chico sales tax measure council is working to place on the ballot (Spring ’22?) Of course it’s from the Redding news station.

https://krcrtv.com/news/local/chico-moves-forward-with-1-sales-tax-ballot-measure-business-leader-responds

The reporter didn’t go to a Chico city Staffer, they didn’t just stop some half drunk dooffass on the street, they went to the Chico Chamber of Commerce. Why is that important? First of all, the Chamber represents businesses all over town who will be affected by this increase. And, under past director Katie Simmons, goaded on by members Tom Lando and Marc Francis, they not only endorsed a sales tax increase but made an analysis of exactly where the money should go. In their January 2018 “Special Report,” the chamber recommended “$3 million for Chico PD, $90 million for roads, and $130 million for pensions…”

Here’s the blog post I wrote about it, but the report is no longer available at that link.

What the chamber describes is a “special” tax requiring 2/3’s approval by the voters.

Yes, the Chamber was describing a “special” tax. Then Katie Simmons left to become the disaster relief coordinator in Paradise. Things have changed at the Chamber, under interim director and local businessman Mark Chrisman. While I get the idea Chrisman believes the city needs to put a sales tax increase on the ballot, he’d be more inclined to support a special tax.

“First of all, it’s a general sales tax, not a special sales tax. The general tax goes into the general fund which means it’s at the hands of the city council, how they want to spend the money,” says Chrisman during a phone interview with KRCR Wednesday. “There are two sides to this coin. There’s the consumer side paying the 1%, but then there’s the other side: how are those funds going to be used?”

Good questions, citizen Chrisman. A general tax can be spent on anything, and judging from the conversation at that May 2021 Finance Committee meeting, it’s going to the pensions.

The city of Chico knows they can’t get 2/3’s approval. At that May 2021 Finance Committee meeting, Sean Morgan made it clear he does not want to pursue a special tax. Since this meeting was closed to the public, available only on Zoom, I’ll have to quote the minutes:

“Mayor Coolidge stated we should include parks. Chair Morgan stated that if we say parks, police, and fire, that’s a special tax.”

Morgan also asked staff to look into a Transient Occupancy, or Bed Tax increase. He and Coolidge also want bond(s) attached to the tax, and Morgan wants a Pension Obligation Bond. That’s so funny, because in his preceeding report, Manager Orme denies any such desire.

We keep hearing this is going to pensions and that is a false argument to be had.” A false argument? Really? Keep reading. Remember, these are the minutes as transcribed by the clerk and approved by every member of the committee and the city manager before they were posted.

Chair Morgan asked if staff could bring a recommendation to Council that includes a potential sales tax, show the difference in revenue based upon a half or one cent tax, and he is not opposed to a TOT increase as long as it’s not crazy. The POB was before mass inflation and the rates have changed. He suggested using a pie chart that shows how this would all flow together.

Services Director Scott Dowell was glad to oblige. “Director Dowell stated we’ll need more than $50 million, the City would need more like $100 million to pull that off. If we move forward on the pension obligation bonds, how will one affect the other?

So there they were, plotting to convince us that the revenue increase would go toward infrastructure and public safety, all the while intending to use the revenues to secure a Pension Obligation Bond. The committee directed Staff to bring back another report answering those questions at either the July or August meeting. Both were closed to the public, available only on Zoom. When I tried to participate in a Zoom meeting, my computer cut out constantly, and despite messages and phone calls to the clerk asking for help, the meeting continued without me. That’s how much they care about “transparency”.

When the POB came before council, little Kami Denlay informed the group that it’s illegal to foist a tax, including a bond, without the consent of the voters. The rest of council ignored her. Fortunately I wasn’t the only member of the community that was watching, and I wasn’t the only person who reported council and Staff’s intentions to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. HJTA immediately responded with a Cease and Desist order, meaning, if the city moved forward, they would sue.

The city’s response was to pull all discussions regarding the POB from the public. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for the clerk to post the minutes for the subsequent Finance Committee meetings. Yeah, that’s right, closed meetings, minutes over 6 months behind. Want to know why? Because there’s really only one staffer who transcribes ALL the minutes, for every meeting. And then she has to have then approved by every member of whichever council, committee, commission or task force, and let then redact, or remove, any comment they made that they don’t want the public to see. In fact, you see nobody is quoted completely, you get the clerk’s summary of what was said. They list members of the public who address the group, but not what they say. In fact, Dave complained that the Zoom videos were not made available for the public, and the clerk simply responded that she is not legally required to do so! I heard that exchange, but it was not included in the minutes.

Knowing fully well there is a back log (there have been lawsuits over lack of minutes), you’d think Orme would hire more employees for the clerk’s office. Instead, he gave Clerk Debbie Presson a raise and then hired $100,000+ “Public Information Officer” Linda Gizzy. If you study up on the duties of the “clerk of the record,” you’ll find, she’s supposed to be our Public Information Officer. She’s supposed to insure that the people have all the information, instead, it looks like she’s doing just the opposite.

So I wrote to the clerk, asking her when the minutes would be available. I’ve been enjoying a somewhat friendly relationship with the clerk’s office, but I sure as hell haven’t had a response to that inquiry. So much for Sunshine! Oh yeah, Orme talked about that too, let me know if you agree:

City Manager Mark Orme stated because of due diligence of staff and the policy makers, we now have more transparency and trust of the public.

UPDATE: I never got any response from Chrisman or anybody from the Chamber, so I’m going to throw out a guess – they’ll endorse it. The chamber is partially funded by the city of Chico, they get 10’s of thousands of dollars toward their CEO salary, so I doubt they will rock the boat. Sheesh, I hope they surprise me!

2 Responses to “Will Chico Chamber endorse the city’s sales tax increase measure? Ask Chamber CEO Mark Chrisman.”

  1. bob December 30, 2021 at 8:10 am #

    The Chico ER has two recent stories on the sales tax increase. Neither mentions that if the tax increase passes the city council will use the revenue from the tax increase to take on massive debt through a bond or that the revenue from the tax increase will be used for the pensions.

    Don’t you think that is something the readers of the ER should know? Well, Mike Wolcott doesn’t. All he does is have his reporters regurgitate what the bureaucrats tell them.

    This is what passes for journalism in Chico. It’s a sick joke.

  2. Scott Rushing December 30, 2021 at 3:34 pm #

    “City Manager Mark Orme stated because of due diligence of staff and the policy makers, we now have more transparency and trust of the public.”

    What hutzpah!

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