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The city of Chico already has their hand in your wallet/purse, and what have you got to show for that? And now they want more sales tax?

11 Jun

About a month ago I realized the city would have to move forward with their sales tax measure, that the deadline was approaching for them to turn it over to the county clerk for the November ballot. My husband reminded me that school would be out soon, with Memorial Day on the horizon, so we decided to take our last swipe at a vacation before the roads became clogged and gas prices went any higher, and before I got distracted with various election issues.

We went up to Portland to see relatives. Oregon is strange country. You drive over the border into the State of Jefferson, and the signs change immediately. Within a mile, “FUCK BIDEN” speaks prominently, in bold, capital letters, from barns, sheds, dead tree stumps – big, professionally made signs, you bet. The Oregonians are willing to spend money declaring their dissatisfaction with the federal government.

Then you get to Portland, where they seem to love the government. They use public transportation, they embrace high-density living, and they pay car registration fees based on the fuel efficiency of their car. To me, that’s like showing a stranger your panties.

I’ll tell you where the Oregonians have the right idea, they are one of only five US states that have NO SALES TAX. (the others being Alaska, Delaware, Montana, and New Hampshire).

I’ll be honest, I have never understood sales tax. To me, it’s a blatant, “in your face because I can... ” TAKING. It’s a shake-down, a racket. We already pay fuel and car taxes for the roads, which are embezzled away to pay for bike trails and trains to nowhere. We already pay developer fees on our homes, and then property taxes, which are directed not only into the pensions but into the pallet shelters, the cooling tents turned shooting galleries, and the constant state of emergency that is created in a town where certain people are not held responsible for their behavior. Pay a sales tax to a government that does nothing to secure your safety or even the safety of the supply chain? That’s a racket, wake the hell up. Why don’t you just go Downtown and give your purse/wallet to the first creep that holds his hand out?

Of course BC opined recently that “If you want perfect streets, perfect parks, top notch City services with free candy for the kids and a well functioning municipal government, you have to have lots of money. That is a tax increase.”

Well, I saw all those things in Portland. I might have to post a blog about the parks I’ve seen there, city parks, gorgeous. Incredibly maintained natural areas, restored forests and marshes. The streets, even in my son’s older, high density neighborhood, are in perfectly good condition – no potholes that void the warranty on your tires. You can walk the length and breadth of the city on safe sidewalks. Portland also has a state-of-the-art sewer system, integrating their old sewer system with new technology.

Free candy for the kids? Well, I don’t know why I’d want that, but what they do there is “food truck courts”. They have solved that problem with restaurants and food trucks, by designating a city-owned parking lot, located away from “brick and mortar” restaurants, for food trucks several nights a week. They’ve furnished tables and a little plaza, family-friendly setting where you can get a cheap meal, hang out with friends, from a different truck every night.

Did you know, Chico City Plaza was set up for food trucks, with electrical outlets and specially-built curbs to pull in the trucks. But it has never been used for that. In fact, the last time I looked, the fee schedule for Downtown Plaza was really onerous. That’s why Chico Farmer’s Market would not locate there, insisting instead on making a pretty behind-closed-doors deal with Chico City staffers to use the city parking lot instead.

BC is arguing an old line – give us the money or it will get worse. The city of Chico has admittedly deferred services and infrastructure maintenance for years, while paying increasing payments to CalPERS. In 2018, the California League of Cities, of which Chico is a long time member, released a report saying, in part, “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.

The report first suggested creation of a pension stabilization trust – a fund dedicated to pensions. The next suggestion was a revenue measure. Followed by this dark advice: “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.” In other words, starve the taxpayers for services and they’ll pass your revenue measure.

Since 2018, we’ve seen the institution of two dedicated pension funds, meaning, they can only be used to pay the pension deficit. Those funds are siphoned from every department, ahead of any infrastructural or service needs, just TAKEN. They are used to make the annual “catch-up” payments to CalPERS, which are growing every year, millions of dollars taken from infrastructure, public safety, and every day services like development support

Ever wonder, why is housing getting so expensive when they’re building like crazy? Well, that’s because every few years they raise developer fees, which are essentially a tax, and which drive up the cost of housing, no matter how much you build.

The city of Chico has a lot of taxes you might not know about. The garbage “franchise fee” (trash tax), the cable “franchise fee” (tv tax), PG&E franchise fee (PG&E tax, which does nothing to secure our safety from wild fires). There’s some you might have forgot – look at your utility bills, how much are they shagging you in “local” or “Utility User Tax”? The city raises no protest when Cal Water or PG&E raise rates, because it means MORE UTILITY TAX. There are some I’ve probably forgot here, suffice to say, the city of Chico already has their hand in your wallet/purse, and there you are, being asked for an increase in Sales Tax?

There it was, in last Tuesday’s agenda. Here’s the report:

There’s your homework. Let’s talk about it next time.

Chico Council plays Sophie’s Choice with city services in mailed survey; meanwhile, “CalPERS Unfunded Liability Reserve Fund” takes 10% of the UAL from every city fund

22 Apr

I’m thrilled to see some pushback against the city of Chico’s sales tax measure. For example, yesterday and today there were letters from names I haven’t seen in the letters section before, both calling the mailed “survey” into question. I’ve seen similar remarks, some of them very angry, on various social media sites, including Newsbreak.com

There has also been a city employee named Jeremy Lazarus, who has been trolling my posts and trying to deny that the city of Chico’s biggest debt is the pensions. He’s told me I don’t understand, and I should “get a clue”. Ironically, Transparent California reports that when Lazarus was hired by the city of Chico in 2019, he already had a personal pension debt of $24,305.22, created by his abysmally low employee contributions in Glenn County. The little trough skipper.

https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/2019/chico/jeremy-lazarus/

Hey, you think Lazarus and other city employees have been told to troll the social media sites to spread the hype? While I have no evidence of that locally, I can relate that my son, when employed by a West Coast city for a short internship, was told to engage people regarding any negative information he heard about his employer, and set them straight. So I know it happens, and I won’t be surprised when I find out City of Chico employees are told same about the tax measure.

One letter writer brought up a point that also troubled me – the survey lists services that are all important, that every city needs to supply, or why be in the business of being a city? They tell us to rank these services – that’s bullshit folks, they are trying to Sophie’s Choice our asses. In the 1979 novel, later made into a very popular movie with Meryl Streep, Sophie is told she must choose between her two small children, one or the other, and that the one she doesn’t choose will be summarily executed.

The city’s survey says we must choose between essential services – “Public Safety, Addressing Homelessness*, Road Maintenance, Parks, Conservation*, and Economic Vibrancy*”. This isn’t really a choice, it’s a threat to cut one or all of these services if we don’t pony up a sales tax increase. (* These ridiculously specious terms deserve their own blog post)

Here’s what they left out – I just opened the city’s 2021-22 budget, here:

https://chico.ca.us/city-budget

I did a routine F-search with words like “pension stabilization trust”, or just “pension”, and here’s something new I found – “CALPERS UNFUNDED LIABILITY RSV FUND” – that’s Fund 903, page 115. That is separate from the “PENSION STABILIZATION TRUST FUND”, Fund 904, page 116. I knew about the PST, and so should you, cause I’ve mentioned it here about 365 times. But wow, another fund I haven’t heard of, with a 2021-22 balance of over $11.6 million. These bastards are finding new nutshells to hide their peas under every time I turn around!

Revenue sources for this fund include transfers from the General Fund. The description for this fund – “Fund to account for annual payments of CalPERS Unfunded Liability.” Apparently, they use this fund to provide revenues for the “Pension Stabilization Fund,” out of which they make the payments to CalPERS. See what I mean about nutshells?

And how is it funded? “Each department will set aside a set percentage of payroll costs to fund the annual payment of the CalPERS unfunded liability. A target reserve of 10 percent of the annual unfunded liability expenditure will be retained in the fund.

There it is – they’ve been TAKING 10 percent of the liability – now over $150 million – siphoned from existing funds – the road fund, the park fund, the sewer fund, etc. That’s why the street in front of your house looks like something from Downtown Kyiv right now, and the city is talking about taxing you based on the volume of water you get from Cal Water.

I guess I should thank Jeremy Lazarus for challenging me to prove this. He’s been calling me out, telling me to “get a clue.” Well, thanks, you Idiot, I got it, I got it good.

I knew cars and even bikes were a hot commodity in Chico, but socks and underwear?

9 Mar

I think most Chicoans would agree with me – our town is suffering an unbelievable crime wave. Today it really hit me – I went to buy socks at Walmart, and I had to ring a bell for assistance, because socks and underwear are now in glass, locked cases. I had to point to the pack of socks I wanted and then wait for the employee to take out a key and hand me the socks. Maybe I’m the last one to know – I found a lot of articles about it online, dating back about a year.

There’s a good reason that specific Walmart has added security to stockings and underpants: theft.”

But not all Walmart stores are doing it, just those stores that are seeing significant losses due to theft. 

‘Some products are subject to additional security. Those determinations are made on a store-by-store basis,’ Walmart headquarters said in a statement to Bring Me The News. “

So, hmm, Chico a hotbed of sock and underwear thieves, very interesting… uh, I mean, embarrassing. I knew cars and bikes are hot items, but socks and underwear? That’s troubling on a number of levels. First of all, whether it’s a loss, or loss prevention, the additional cost will be added to every pair of socks and skivvies we buy. Second, these people walk out of Walmart and into our neighborhoods, stealing packages off of our porches, parts from our cars, tools, etc. Posts I’ve seen on social media express frustration with Chico PD’s handling of the problem. Store owners as well as residents are left to take matters into their own hands.

So Walmart responds by hiring additional security and locking up everyday items. I’ll guess other stores are doing it too. I’d also guess that the discount stores have a bigger problem with shoplifting because of the reclassification of thefts of less than $950 as misdemeanors. The added employee costs, as well as the specialized equipment, along with the inevitable losses, are tacked onto our purchases.

That’s just another aspect of the inflation we’ve been seeing, in everything. A sales tax increase is just adding insult to injury. Let your district representative know what’s going on in your neck of the Chico woods, and how you feel about paying more for less.

COVID inflation hits the poor hardest – meanwhile, Chico gets ready to increase sewer rates, again…

28 Jan

There’s no question that the massive shutdown in much of the state’s economy, ordered by Gov. Gavin Newsom to battle the pandemic, made things worse for the millions of Californians already feeling economic distress.

Yes, the shutdown, not COVID, has been the main source of our miseries in California. In Newsom’s California, the rich got richer, and the poor got poorer.

While most workers in upper-income brackets could adjust by continuing to work from home, Californians in low-wage service sectors such as hotels and restaurants saw their jobs disappear.

California has the highest gas tax in the nation – although, sometimes Pennsylvania edges us by a percentage of a cent. Ironically, both Pennsylvania and California are listed in the bottom 10 as far as roads go. Of course the price of gas affects everything.

Overall, living costs in California and the four other Pacific Rim states are up 8.2% in the last two years, driven by especially sharp jumps in the costs of food, energy and automobile fuel, PPIC calculated.

And not necessarily in that order – the price of gas drives up the cost of food and all other commodities. And they’ve admitted, as we buy more, they raise the prices, so it’s obviously manipulated with the blessing of the government. Think ENRON SCANDAL.

https://www.investopedia.com/updates/enron-scandal-summary/

What is the city of Chico doing to help the poor? Well, at present they sit in closed meetings discussing tax increases. The Finance Committee meeting at which they discussed their plans to raise sewer fees via such schemes as a “volume tax” or lease/sales of the sewer plant was closed to the public, as admitted by the clerk. The rest of the meeting was continued to a special meeting scheduled for this coming Monday (1/31/22). They held their discussion of the Community Grant Block Funding awards, but went right ahead and discussed the sewer taxes in a closed meeting. I can’t believe people don’t see that as a blatant move to keep us from knowing what is actually going on with city finances.

Here’s a blast from the past – an article from the Humboldt Times Standard, about a 2011 sewer increase – 22%. Read the article – it sounds like the city didn’t really inform the public, and people were not aware that they could protest the rate hike formally.

Sorensen and Schwab are no longer on council, but nothing much has changed in how council operates. And that would be Staff.