Is our city council too dependent on “staff” to make their decisions? Ask your rep if they read the Taxpayer Protection Act and if they understand it (you might want to read it yourself first… )

11 Mar

When I watched last week’s city council meeting on video, I realized, Mark Sorensen is trying to shove his resolution to oppose the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act right through, with as little transparency as possible. The Consent Agenda?

I am shocked. Years ago, when they discussed a sales tax increase with Sorensen as a council member, he and Sean Morgan both opined loudly that it should be a 2/3’s measure, with Morgan mumbling something about wanting the voters to make the decision so he wouldn’t be on the hook for it later. Sorensen stood firm for a 2/3’s measure, but it didn’t materialize on his watch.

And I was also shocked, after he lost his last bid for council, that Sorensen drank the Kool Aid, taking the job as City Manager for Biggs. He sold his interest in his cable satellite company and took that job from his next door neighbor Pete Carr, who was leaving that position for a manager position in Orland.

Then last year, when Council gave Mark Orme the door, Mark Sorensen was waiting right behind it, taking an unprecedented salary of $211,000/yr. He pays only 9% of the cost of his pension, adding to the bottomless pit of CalPERS debt. As a former council member he knows very well the situation with CalPERS, but he doesn’t seem to be too worried about our bottom line anymore, just his.

That’s why he’s freaking out over the TPGAA – he worked hard to shove Measure H past the voters on a 50+1 vote, now it’s “in jeopardy” alright – if the TPGAA passes, Measure H is null and void and has to go back to the ballot for 2/3’s of the vote.

Here’s a question that just popped into my mind – if they start collecting on that tax on April 1, and the TPGAA passes, will they have to give back all the money collected under that tax? Here’s the answer – NO. When we rejected Measure J, they’d been illegally collecting the cell phone tax for over 20 years. The offered a refund, but required hard copies of phone bills, and only for a year back.

It’s obvious to see why Sorensen opposes the TPGAA, and I expected council to roll right in with him, so I was surprised when Kasey Reynolds offered this: “it seems like there’s a lot of conflicting information… it sounds like it could affect our measure H…” She suggested tabling it for discussion at another meeting. She seemed nervous – yeah Kasey, everybody in town knows you voted on the Warren case and then said you didn’t understand it and you wanted a do-over. Good for you.

Sean Morgan commented that information presented by “staff” conflicts with information he received from Assemblyman James Gallagher’s office, but did not elaborate. Is he accusing who of lying? He sulked, “I don’t trust the League of California Cities at all…” The League is a major opponent of the TPGAA, and also supported the legislature in gutting the voter requirements set forth in Prop 13. The city of Chico is a dues paying member. ( The League of California Cities is a publicly funded nonprofit organization, funding provided by dues paying cities like Chico CA ) It was the League who in 2013 issued a report suggesting that cities should start deferring maintenance and make larger payments to CalPERS.

From that report: “City pension costs will dramatically increase to unsustainable levels, (2) Rising pension costs will require cities to nearly double the percentage of their general fund dollars they pay to CalPERS, and (3) Cities have few options to address growing pension liabilities.

“Change service delivery methods and levels of certain public services: Many cities have already consolidated and cut local services during the Great Recession and have not been able to restore those service levels. Often, revenue growth from the improved economy has been absorbed by pension costs. The next round of service cuts will be even harder.” 

As far as The League is concerned, the taxpayers need to pay down the pension deficit brought about by years of unrealistic employee contributions. As far as The League is concerned, Prop 13 is Enemy No 1. So, while I’m glad Mr. Morgan has a healthy distrust of that quasi-public agency, I’d suggest both he and Reynolds read the text of the actual ballot measure instead of depending on city of Chico or Gallagher’s staffers, all of whom are CalPERS members. Yes, it “threatens our Measure H…” it sure does. Read for yourself:

I find it really annoying that city council members depend on staff to tell them about stuff when they could just read about it themselves. Sometimes I wonder if Reynolds is qualified to hold office.

But at least they passed a motion to table it for “another meeting” – approved 7-0. Dummies – none of them read the measure, did they? I’m a landlady, and every time I get a new tenant I ask them if they read the documents I sent them and if they have questions. I use big print and a “lease for dummies”, you know, so I can understand it. I’ll never forget the two guys who ran a local non-profit – when I asked if they’d read it, they both got big eyes, held their hands out for a copy, and walked to opposite sides of the driveway. But they damned sure read it, and I asked them specific questions before we all signed. Maybe we should ask ourselves if our council members are able to read and understand at a high school level before we vote them into office. Can they use a dictionary? How about Google? Dummies – they think running for council is a popularity contest.

Hey, want to have some fun? Read the Taxpayers Protection and Government Accountability Act ballot measure posted above and we’ll have a quiz. You can send same questions to your council rep, see how much they know about the damned thing.

This morning I sent a note to the clerk’s office, asked, when and where will the conversation continue? I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I wrote a letter to the editor about this situation,

On the advice of city manager and former Councilman Mark Sorensen, Chico City Council is considering a resolution opposing The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, slated for the 2024 ballot. According to Sorensen, “The [TPGAA] would make it more difficult for voters to pass measures needed to fund local services and projects, and would put initiatives passed by voters after January 2022, such as Measure H passed by Chico voters in November 2022, in jeopardy. “

“make it more difficult for voters”? No, it will make it harder for public agencies to pass taxes without full voter approval. Since when is that a bad thing? And yes, it would jeopardize Measure H, a full cent sales tax that squeaked by with less than 53% of the vote last November.

If the TPGAA passes, it will reinstate the 2/3’s voter threshold to pass taxes, approved overwhelmingly by California voters under Prop 13, stripped later by the legislature without a ballot measure. If you think housing is unaffordable now, imagine a world without Prop 13 – home ownership becomes a privilege of the ultra rich. This measure would also reinstate rules for campaign “transparency”. Why would Sorensen want council to oppose transparency?

Sorensen’s resolution would mean the city would be added to the “No coalition” – does that involve taxpayer money? Staff time has already been used on this resolution.

I’m glad council tabled this discussion for another meeting. Contact your representative and ask them why they’d oppose a law that protects taxpayers.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

2 Responses to “Is our city council too dependent on “staff” to make their decisions? Ask your rep if they read the Taxpayer Protection Act and if they understand it (you might want to read it yourself first… )”

  1. BC March 13, 2023 at 6:05 pm #

    Did they really get 8,500+/- signatures to stop Valley’s Edge? That is more folks than voted in the last city election. Perhaps this is a glimmer of hope.

    • Juanita Sumner March 14, 2023 at 7:22 am #

      You know, I’ve been unable to keep track of that discussion, but I did see a sign that said something about “voting no” on Valley’s Edge. I hope the referendum is successful., I frankly can’t believe Chico planners are so stupid as to go on with the old and brain dead practice of new development surrounding a completely crapped out core. Like I told Rob Berry at his substack – while they pour money, including RDA money, into these new projects, they’re allowing our older neighborhoods to fall into “blight”. They’re just waiting for the old neighborhoods to become blighted, and therefore eligible for total redevelopment, meaning, emminent domain. It’s going to happen, just like it happened in Ohio. But until then, people living in older parts of town will continue to deal with collapsing streets and sidewalks, sub-par water quality, sewage coming up in their yard during a rain storm, and other issues most people would relate to cities like Detroit. I don’t know how to solve that, but one step would be stopping Valley’s Edge. I never thought it was possible but I wish those folks much success.

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