Steve Wolfe: City staff have “insinuated” that the Measure H funding will go towards infrastructure and services. This voter will believe that when pigs become aeronautically enabled.

8 Oct

The Butte County clerk has noticed us that she will be mailing ballots with the county voter’s pamphlets on Monday (10/10/22). You can see the pamphlet here, start doing your homework:

Measures H and L are for city of Chico, click on those measures for the city attorney’s analysis, and for H, the Arguments For and Against.

Measure L doesn’t even get a discussion. The proponents – Kasey Reynolds, Sean Morgan, Rob Berry – didn’t post any Argument For, and I didn’t have time to post an Argument Against. I’m voting No on L, for reasons explained here:

As for Measure H, you can read proponents’ arguments, and my responses – same arguments we’ve both made in our letters to the editor. I’ll say though, the proponents’ letters have sounded like form letters, weak, insincere, and sometimes using the same words – especially their mantra about the tax not applying to “food, rent or prescription medications…” Wow, as if those are life’s only necessities. None of the yes letters have been from frequent letter writers, so they seem unnatural, as if they’ve been put up to it.

By contrast, I’ve seen some very original and sincere letters coming from folks like Dave Howell, Joe Azzarito, and here’s a good one from longtime letter writer Steve Wolfe, recently posted in the Enterprise Record.

To reiterate an earlier article, this is a poor Measure.  Measure H requires only a simple majority for passage with the money going into the general fund, to be spent at the discretion of the City Council.  In addition, there is no “sunset” clause which would allow the voters an opportunity to audit the measure at a future date.

It is difficult for one to believe that the city is in desperate straits financially when one considers the funding available through sales tax, property tax, vehicle registration fees, utility users tax, etc., all of which must be on the increase considering the city’s burgeoning population.

In addition, consideration must be given to the $200 million in failing infrastructure (roads/sewer) due to years of admitted deferred maintenance while staff funneled amounts into an ever increasing pension deficit; last year $11.5 million, this year $12 million, $18 million by 2025 and on and on. Which doesn’t seem to faze city staff as I read where the PD just received another raise. City staff have “insinuated” that the Measure H funding will go towards infrastructure and services. This voter will believe that when pigs become aeronautically enabled.

I suggest a measure dedicated to city infrastructure. That of course would require a 2/3 majority vote, but at least the voters would know where the money was going. That measure this voter could support.

Steve Wolfe, Chico

I’m glad to see Wolfe has done his homework on the budget, and he’s making rational suggestions, while also entertaining us with his wit! I also believe there are plenty of people out there like Wolfe, who would be glad to contribute if they saw a light at the end of the tunnel – a 2/3’s measure dedicated to infrastructure, specific amounts toward specific projects, and even a sunset date.

My husband and I have also heard from folks around town, people we do business with all the time, longtime local business owners. Whenever we’ve mentioned the tax measure we’ve started a spirited discussion among owners and customers – they’re pissed at the city – they know the money has been coming in, and they want to know why it isn’t being spent on long-needed infrastructure maintenance and repair. They’re mad about the bum camps, and they blame incumbents Coolidge, Morgan and Reynolds, by name. They know about the salaries and the generous benefits. And more than a few of them still remember how badly Chico management treated the Camp Fire refugees, lied about surplus population numbers, and got money that probably should have gone to Paradise and other burn victims. Chico voters are a little better informed than H proponents might realize.

By contrast, 10 years ago when the city put a cell phone tax on the ballot, Measure J, fellow CTA members and I were surprised how few people had even heard about the measure. Folks we spoke to on the street were shocked to find out they’d been taxed for years via their cell phone bills, that it was illegal, and that a lawsuit had forced cities all over California, including Chico, to put it on the ballot for voters. When the Chico Tea Party group held a rally at City Plaza, with information regarding city salaries and benefits, we found out local taxpayers had no idea how generously compensated Chico Staffers were, and still are. And people were outraged, J was beaten pretty soundly. But it took a dedicated group of Chico Taxpayers, Chico Tea Party, and Chico Republican Women to get the word out.

So thanks Dave, Joe, and all the folks who have worked to expose the truth – our city is very well funded, we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

We really can do better – NO on H.

4 Responses to “Steve Wolfe: City staff have “insinuated” that the Measure H funding will go towards infrastructure and services. This voter will believe that when pigs become aeronautically enabled.

  1. BC October 10, 2022 at 11:10 am #

    An editorial was recently submitted to the Chico News and Review by a local politician in support of the Measure H tax increase. it is responded to here, point by point.

    Want better roads? Better parks? Better public safety? Better housing solutions? A vote for Measure H is a vote for a better Chico.

    Response: Of course, voters want better roads, a cleaner park, and a safer environment. But there is nothing in Measure H that mandates the funds be spent on any of those items. The additional funding will be spent where existing funding goes: salaries, benefits, unfunded pension liability and catch-up provisions, and unfunded post employee benefits.

    Rapid population growth, the Camp Fire, COVID-19 and increased community needs have stretched our finances. Maintaining roads, preserving Bidwell Park, keeping neighborhoods safe and creating durable housing solutions takes resources the city simply does not have.

    Response: There have been more than adequate resources from State and Federal programs to offset COVID-19 and the Camp Fire. The suffering at a personal level is significant and not to be discounted. Many burned out families are still waiting for restitution. But at the City level by some estimates, the Camp fire was a money maker for Chico. Population growth, along with deteriorating roads and parks are all issues that predate COVID and the fire. The reason there is no funding for these issues is city pension liability. There are the pensions, and everything else.

    Chico is only one of eight California cities over 50,000 residents without a local sales tax. Of those eight cities, Chico’s general fund budget is the lowest per capita.

    Response: This type of comparison is vapid. How are the other 8 cities without a sales tax doing? This line of poor reasoning also shows up in comments like: Chico has less employees than other cities our size, we need more. Our director of “XYZ” makes less that comparable directors, he needs a raise. Every other city of our size sends its employees to the national conference in Hawaii/Las Vegas/Washington, DC, our people should go as well. It all leads to an escalating size of government without any critical thought or analysis. (E.g. Why do employees need a raise when they are well paid, and there is a line out the door of qualified applicants who will take the position?)

    The sales tax will add $1 to every $100 spent (groceries, rent and prescription medications aren’t taxed) and will generate $24 million a year to invest in our community.

    Response: It would take $2.4 Billion in sales to generate $24 million in revenue @ 1%. Pulling $24 million out of the local economy so it can be redistributed to City employees, benefits and pensions is not an “investment”. If you want to know how any new tax revenue will be spent, look at how the EXISTING money is spent.

    Measure H spending decisions will be made locally. We’ll be able to will make improvements to Chico that not only will enhance our daily lives but also create jobs. Chico would be able to support local social service agencies and provide housing assistance.

    Response: How are those “locally made” serving you currently? The roads are bad, the park is a run-down and the local agencies are underfunded. Raising taxes does not create jobs, except for the tax collectors and the administration that you have to set up at the city level to monitor the tax.

    Measure H has support from across the political spectrum. Seven former Chico mayors endorse Measure H, as do seven of the eight council candidates.

    Response: The measure is supported by local politicians who view growth of government as a public good. They have a vested interest. This is the equivalent of going to a Friday-night high school football game, and asking the fans in the grandstands if they like football.

    • Juanita Sumner October 10, 2022 at 2:40 pm #

      thanks, great analysis, I’ll give it a separate post!

  2. bob October 11, 2022 at 7:31 am #

    “Measure H has support from across the political spectrum. Seven former Chico mayors endorse Measure H, as do seven of the eight council candidates.”

    These were the people on whose watch the pension and OPEB deficit blew up and who spent our money very unwisely in other areas. They created today’s problems. So now we are supposed to take their advice?

    All this tax will do is enable the current local politicians to continue the bad spending of the seven former mayors who caused our problems.

    When will people wake up and stop listening to those who got us into this mess? Listening to Schwab discuss a tax increase is like listening to an arsonist lecture you on fire prevention.

    • Juanita Sumner October 11, 2022 at 7:53 am #

      Thanks Bob. I’ll say further, I’ve watched the liberals and conservatives fight between themselves for years, I’ve watched one majority go out and the new majority walk in and purposely undo everything the previous council did. There’s no rational reasoning, just partisan bickering. We need more restricted funds – right now, the only restricted fund is the Pension Stabilization Fund – which comes out of every other fund. We can’t trust people who look at elections as a popularity contest – like my dear friend (and I’m being sincere) Colleen Jarvis. I’ll never forget the night the liberals took council back after a conservative majority – this is a direct quote from Jarvis, even my kids remember it – “well we’re in the majority now, so we’ll do what we want – NYA, NYA, NYA.” She leaned right out over the dais and said that to six other adults. So, these people can’t be trusted, they need to be on a tight leash. No more unrestricted money, NO ON H.

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