As the city of Chico moves forward with a sales tax increase and a sewer tax, the state Supreme Court throws a shadow on trash franchise deals

14 Jan

I don’t join many clubs, but I’m happy to be a member of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association because they take their job more seriously than our elected leaders take theirs.

For a donation of as little as $15 you can help HJTA spread the word about taxpayer rights and use their legal muscle to hold public agencies accountable. When concerned Chicoans contacted them about Council and Staff’s illegal attempt at a Pension Obligation Bond, HJTA quickly filed a Cease and Desist order, threatening to sue the city of Chico if they moved forward without putting a bond measure on the ballot.

I just received their free newsletter, a story about trash franchise fees caught my eye. It looks like the franchise fee the city added to our trash bills is illegal. The California Supreme Court upheld that decision in “Zolly vs the City of Oakland. The franchise fees were found to be a tax, and needed to be put into a ballot measure.

When the city made that deal, Brian Nakamura said it was about “getting all these trucks off our streets” by eliminating consumer choice. Then he told us the franchise fees would go toward repairing the damage done by the trucks. Neither of those promises were kept – every year the franchise fees are dumped into the General Fund and used for whatever whim of council.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see a total resurfacing of my street – a major “feeder” to many neighborhoods, overdue foe 30 years – than a stupid ass skating rink for the use of the priveleged few.

But you know, it’s the privileged few who run our town and make the rules to their advantage.

According to HJTA legal council Laura Dougherty, we can challenge our city’s franchise fee. In fact, during that first conversation back in 2012, our new city manager Mark Sorensen, then a council member, said this: “Let’s call it what it is, a trash tax.” Looks like Sorensen knows it’s illegal, but now that he’s yanking a $211,000/yr salary out of the city coffers, he’s keeping his trap shut.

So I’ll do some research as to how we would submit a protest to the trash franchise. Laura Dougherty says, “Hopefully all a ratepayer needs to do now is send a copy of the Zolly decision to their city…” I’ll get back to you with whatever I find out.

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