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Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association taking Yuba County to court over fraudulent tax revenue Measure K

27 Dec

In November the voters of Yuba County barely passed Measure K, a 1 cent/.01 sales tax increase. The measure read as follows:

To maintain and protect essential services such as 9-1-1 emergency medical/fire response; improving wildland fire containment; maintaining 24-hours sheriff’s patrol; attracting/ retaining jobs, businesses, and qualified sheriff deputies; and other essential services, shall the measure to establish a 1 cent sales tax for 10 years in unincorporated Yuba County, providing an estimated $4,300,000 annually requiring accountability, citizens’ oversight/ audits, and all revenue controlled locally, be adopted?”

California law currently requires a 2/3’s vote to pass a “special tax” for revenues that will be set aside for a specific purpose. But Yuba County ran Measure K as a general measure, only requiring 51% of the vote, even while telling the voters that the money would dedicated to public safety. You’ll note, they don’t mention services such as street maintenance or library funding, but specifically mention “emergency medical/fire response, wildland fire containment, and sheriff’s patrol…” 

There is a weird section about “retaining jobs, businesses…” – I’ll say, this measure was at the very least poorly written in a direct attempt to confuse the voters. But I think the specific mention of safety services should mean it requires 2/3’s voter passage. Of course I’m not a lawyer.

Luckily the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has plenty of lawyers on staff, and a couple of vigilant Yuba County businessmen were quick to ask for help. HJTA retained a Sacramento law firm to file an action against the County of Yuba to stop the implementation of the tax. 

From Lou Binninger, at the Territorial Dispatch in Yuba County:

https://www.eterritorial.com/47-guest-writers/lou-binninger/14419-measure-k-challenged

On Friday December 21, 2018, the Sacramento law firm of Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk filed an action in Yuba County Superior Court to invalidate Measure K – the Public Safety/Essential Services Protection Ordinance that appeared on the November 6 ballot. Measure K received 54.1% of the vote. The suit contends that the measure needed a two-thirds voter approval to become law.

The suit’s plaintiffs are Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), a nonprofit public benefit corporation comprised of over 200,000 taxpayers, Charlie Mathews, a local rice farmer and businessman, and John Mistler, former Yuba County Supervisor and owner of the Territorial Dispatch weekly newspaper. Defendants are the County of Yuba, its Supervisors, and the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

54.1% – no wonder the Yuba County Board of Supervisors  decided to cheat! They knew they could not get the required two/thirds. 

Binninger also raises the question of using public funds to run a tax measure campaign.

“The suit does not address the county’s biased media campaign or the use of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to sway voters. Measure K opponents argued that both were illegal. The California Fair Political Practices Commission has jurisdiction over where monies are derived and how they are used for a campaign.”

The city of Chico is currently using hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to mount a revenue measure campaign, not only in $taff time, but in consultants. The Chico Area Recreation District has already hired various consultants, spending over $100,000 that I know of, to put their own revenue measure on the ballot. The school district has run at least four bond campaigns using taxpayer money. 

We need to hold city of Chico and CARD staff up to the law. We need to be ready to make our own complaints to the FPPC and court. And we need to be ready to take it beyond Butte County, because the county of Butte is not likely to take such complaints seriously – they’re in the same boat with Chico!

 

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Text tax dropped – what will they try next?

17 Dec

Wow, it was good to see people get their panties in a  rumple over the “text tax” – upset the lobster pot a little.

Meanwhile, according to Rueters, “protesters angry over gas taxes and the high cost of living have been blocking roads across France, impeding access to fuel depots, shopping malls and some airports.” People have been killed, I don’t know how many. An organizer complained on Deutsch Welle News that the government is leaving Parisiens like her with less money to spend, small businesses are failing as a result of both high gas prices and low sales. The French economy, she concluded, is tanking because of over taxation.  

Welcome to California. The California Public Utilities Commission, saying they want to use the money to support “low-income” programs, tried to tack another tax onto our cell service, wiggle it in among the stack of “fees” already listed in the fine print on the back of our bill. Thank goodness for the Federal Communications Commission, although, I don’t understand the ruling, I’ll take it. I don’t think they should be able to tax us by way of our utility bills, but I’m not running the circus.

And what a circus it is! Our taxes already provide transients with free cell phones, give me another straw for my camel’s back why don’t you? 

How soon we forget – I almost have. In 2012, the city of Chico tried to get the voters to approve a tax they’d been collecting illegally, a cell phone tax. Even after the tax had been declared illegal by way of a lawsuit in the 1990’s, cities all over California were still collecting it, the same man had to sue each city individually, including Chico, to make them stop collecting it. Instead of stopping collection, and refunding the money to users as is the law, current city councilor and former mayor Ann Schwab wrote a measure for the 2012 ballot to trick voters into making it legal. 

When friends and I approached voters at venues like the Chico Farmer’s Market, we were shocked to see how shocked people were about this tax – they’d never looked very closely at their bills. And you had to look very closely. So they couldn’t believe the city was actually taxing their cell phone usage, on a percentage of the total bill. They got mad pretty fast. The measure failed. The city had to give refunds. 

That scam and this recent ploy by the CPUC to tack another tax onto our phone bills reminds me – they know what’s legal and illegal, and they don’t care. They will try anything to get more revenues. Right now the city of Chico and CARD are using taxpayer money to hire consultants who conduct “surveys” and write leading ballot measures to try and trick the voters into raising their own taxes. Don’t fall for it. And write your letters to the editor now, tell them you’re not falling for it. Maybe we can save them (ourselves) the cost of another ballot measure.

 

Get out of CalPERS, dump the pensions, clean house on management Downtown and hire people who will pay their own freight

16 Jun

Out running errands around Chico the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing the usual parade of transients is on the increase. They come from South Chico in the early morning with their bikes and trailers, shopping carts, backpacks, many of them toting a bunch of garbage bags, full of recyclables they’ve stolen out of residents’ recycling bins. There’s a real exodus on trash days in my neighborhood – we have our trash picked up on Thursday and then the trucks come on Friday to do the other side of the street. The bums follow the trash trucks along to rifle through the recycling bins. They know the recycling doesn’t get picked up until all the trash bins are emptied, because Waste Management doesn’t have enough trucks to do both at the same time.

We’ve seen them sprawled all over sidewalks, bus stop benches, commercial medians, you name it.  The little “parklet” at the intersection of Mulberry and Pine/Cypress, along Little Chico Creek, was becoming a de-facto transient camp, with more transients out of sight under the bridges and along the creek banks. And then yesterday we noticed, the cops were rousting them in force along the creek, with two cop cars and a ranger’s vehicle. Then we noticed – no more camps at the parklet.

I realized, this is what Mayor Sean Morgan was telling me about when I complained about the incident in front of my house.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2018/05/20/want-the-bums-out-of-your-recycling-cans-sheds-garages-cars-stop-putting-crv-in-your-bins-donate-it-to-the-work-training-center/

Morgan told me in a May 19 e-mail, “next week PD team normally assigned to South Campus area is heading into the parks.”

But wait, before you think the city is actually moving to solve a problem, read the agenda for this coming Tuesday’s meeting.

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=290

Councilmember Ory has submitted a request for the Council to consider agendizing the Chamber of Commerce recommendation for a revenue measure to increase police staffing and improve roads.

But Ory left something out –  read the chamber report –

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2018/05/24/chamber-special-report-3-million-for-more-cops-90-million-to-fix-roads-130-million-for-the-pension-deficit/

They want $130 million to pay down the pension deficit. Only $3 million for cops, $90 million for roads – but $130 million for pensions. Who does Ory think he’s kidding?

Although, sometimes I wonder about Ory. I stood in line behind him at my bank ATM machine when he was a candidate. He had 5 people waiting while he unsuccessfully tried to figure out how to use the machine, and rather than step aside, he just pretended we weren’t there. Every time I’ve been near him, he’s acted completely senile, including at a meeting he was chairing, when I told him a question posed to staff had not been answered. He tried to tell me that I could only make one “comment” per meeting? I had to repeat myself a couple of times over his protestations, before the speaker just interjected and answered the question.  So, I couldn’t tell you for sure, whether Ory is nuts, stupid, senile, or really expects all of us to buy into his crap.

But, I do know, Chico PD can suddenly enforce laws they haven’t enforced for the last year. Why? They’ll tell us they spend most of their time hanging around campus when school is in, that they don’t have time to do anything else. What a crock.

Don’t buy into their sales tax increase pitch. They act as though we have no other choice than to pay their blackmail.

The best choice would be, get out of CalPERS, dump the pensions, clean house on management employees and institute the new 401K system where employees pay most of it.  

 

 

 

Chamber Special Report: $3 million for more cops, $90 million to fix roads – $130 million for the pension deficit?

24 May

Chico Chamber started marketing their proposed sales tax increase measure five years ago. Below is the link to their “Special Report,” the product of five years of committees, task forces, clandestine surveys, and other ploys recommended by various consultants. 

Below is the link to their “Special Report”.

They list four “priorities for Chico – “police, roads, pensions and fire.” Don’t let the order in which they are listed fool you – that’s not indicative of priority. $3 million for the cops, $90 million for roads, and $130 million for pensions

The report summary says the Chamber would like to get the public involved in the discussion, but given the way Katie Simmons has scheduled the “community meetings,” there really hasn’t been much public participation – mostly Chamber and City officials. 

The Chamber wants a sales tax increase to pay for all this stuff. Do you really want to pay for the pensions? You’ve already paid more than the employees. 

Read that “special” report here:

http://chicochamber.com/public/uploads/CC_January_Special_Report_FINAL.pdf

Chico Chamber ramps up sales tax increase campaign – And when you ask them, “How much should we give?” Ooh, they only answer “More! More! More!”

24 May

This press release below was made yesterday by the California Chamber of Commerce and forwarded by Chico Chamber of Commerce. Time to watch the county and city clerk’s office for a ballot measure. 

What this release doesn’t tell us is that Tom Lando is one of Chico’s biggest pension hogs – especially when you consider he never paid anything toward his pension. Current City Mangler Mark Orme pays less than 10%, and he’s been given a pay raise every time he’s agreed to pay a percent or two more. That’s like throwing gas on a fire – every time you raise his salary you raise his pension.

Here’s an old link – make note, at the time I ran this post, Lando was getting about $135,000, just in pension, it doesn’t include his health, vision, life insurance, etc. Look at that – $11,000/month. There are families in this town living on $19,000/year. 

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2012/01/30/heres-why-lando-wants-to-raise-your-sales-tax/

That information is from 2012 – do you realize, pensions go up every year – “cost of living adjustment” – based on a percentage of the already gross amount. So, I’ll opine – he’s getting around $150,000 a year in cash and benefits. On top of that, Lando runs a consulting firm, the city has paid him consulting fees for various tasks. 

But now Piggy wants more! Read on!

From Michelle Woods at Chico Chamber:

SACRAMENTO, CA — The California Chamber of Commerce honored business executives from Chico and Torrance today with its 2018 Small Business Advocate of the Year Award, recognizing them for outstanding advocacy on behalf of small businesses.

The CalChamber announced the awards in Sacramento before more than 200 attendees at the CalChamber Capitol Summit.

The 2018 Small Business Advocate of the Year Award recipients are:

  • Mark Francis, president and CEO, Golden Valley Bank, Chico;
  • Tom Lando, principal, Tom Lando Consulting, Chico; and
  • Michael Shafer, owner, The Depot Restaurant, Torrance.

 

Mark Francis and Tom Lando

Lando was chairman of the board of directors for the Chico Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center in 2011 and currently chairs the chamber’s Legislative Action Committee. Francis was chairman in 2015 and spearheaded the chamber’s Community Vision, which not only guides local policy decisions, but has become a sought-after model for chamber advocacy throughout the nation.

At the direction of the Chico Chamber Board in early 2017, Mark and Tom spearheaded the effort to better understand how business priorities like a safer community and improved roads are indelibly linked to changing city finances.

Together, Lando and Francis co-chaired the groundbreaking Task Force on City Revenues and Expenditures, the first of its kind in the Chico Chamber’s 110-year history, which resulted in the publication of a special report and call to action. The task force investigated the solvency of Chico’s finances—past, present and projected—and delivered a bold and forceful recommendation that the City Council consider a revenue measure to fund business priorities outlined in the Community Vision.

The City of Chico is one of 11 cities its size in California to maintain a baseline sales tax rate of 7.25%. The region is largely tax averse.

The task force worked throughout 2017 to study four key areas affecting city finances—pension, fire, police and roads—and outlined needs, expectations and costs. Lando and Francis hosted several task force meetings with city officials to gain a deep understanding of the city’s financial status and met weekly to follow statewide news on pension reform, sales tax policy, the gas tax and other impacts, always weighing local opportunities and challenges.

Task force findings were communicated to the public via the chamber’s most recent state of the city address and through a publication entitled Special Report. A call to action was made directly to the Chico City Council to consider a revenue measure to preserve and enhance the quality of life in Chico, a risky yet pivotal move by a chamber of commerce in a tax-averse region.

In nominating Francis and Lando for the CalChamber award, Katie Simmons, president and CEO of the Chico Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, wrote: “Mark and Tom deserve to be recognized equally for their tremendous insight, influence and service to the Chico Chamber of Commerce. This pivotal community conversation would not happen without the knowledge, dedication and time Mark and Tom give to the chamber and our community. Their work is relevant across all communities in California struggling with the very same issues.”

City consultant: “more people, more payroll, more allocations” – this is how city of Chico management siphons money from the road fund into their own wallets

1 Mar

Thursday March 8,  City of Chico finance mangler Scott Dowell will give a dog-and-pony presentation about how the city spends money. That ought to be a gas, but instead, I attended yesterday’s (2/28/18) Finance Committee meeting to hear a consultant explain the process of “cost allocation”.

Dowell is disingenuous – who does he really expect to show up on a Thursday at 10 am? Oh yeah, I’ll just ask my boss if I can come in early and take two hours off at lunch, everybody does that! 

You know, I might have had bosses who would go for that, but only once. And you wouldn’t be allowed to discuss it at the work place, that’s a pretty standard rule of getting along with fellow employees  – leave your politics in the parking lot. So, in this way, Dowell is very pointedly leaving out the working class who would have to support the sales tax increase he is going to be selling at his “workshop”.

But, when you have limited time, you use it wisely. Who wants to hear a spin from the Fox in Charge of the Henhouse, when you can listen to a visiting watch dog? That’s how I see consultant Chad Wolford, eversince 2015 when he told council they were spending too much money on “overhead” – administrative salaries and benefits.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2017/12/21/no-kidding-our-city-is-headed-for-deep-doo-doo-2/

As the consultant describes it, cost allocation means, “central administration cost (also referred to as “overhead”) spread down to departments as operating costs.”  Just repeat that a few times, and remind yourself, “operating” means “actual work,” such as fixing the streets, or maintaining the sewer plant. 

Cost allocation is the process by which these ridiculous management salaries are cherry picked from all the departments. Makes it look legal and fair, but it’s really the same old system of moving peas under walnuts shells. Money is moved between restricted and non-restricted funds to pay for stuff that money was not originally earmarked for. 

What’s the use of restricting funds (to their original purpose, such as street maintenance) if you can just transfer them wherever you want to pay for whatever you want? This is the process by which administrators like Orme, Constantin and Dowell take grant money that was originally intended to fix streets and pad it into their wallets. 

The consultant is a nice man, he admitted to me, “this is a very complicated process.”  I replied, “No kidding!” That’s why  I had tagged him into the lobby of the building when he finished his presentation, I had to ask some additional questions. 

Well here’s something that he made pretty clear – the “changes”  (increases) in the allocations are based on staff and salary increases. “More people, more payroll, more allocations,” Wolford said. “Salaries and benefits have gone up, operating budgets are up…” 

So, I don’t think I’ll be bothered with Dowell’s dog and pony show Saturday – ‘scuse me, that’s Thursday March 8 – I already heard how the city of Chico spends it’s money. 

Chico Chamber says if we want usable roads and responsible cops we need to shake down with a revenue measure

28 Jan
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Biscuit snoops out another homeless camp in Bidwell Park.  If my husband were a member of Chico PD he’d get extra salary for Biscuit.

My husband and I noticed the bums vacated the park during the inclement weather, but predicted, correctly, they’d be back as soon as the rain stopped.

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There in the front of the trash pile you can see some scorched items – my husband said it was a partially burned pillow and what looked like clothing or bedding.

As soon as I saw this, I thought of the people who were fatally burned in their tent, just a block from my house, on a chilly winter morning a few years ago. They’d been drinking heavily, fell asleep, and the camp fire they had made inside their tent had caught their bedding and immolated them.

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This abandoned hobo camp is just off the main trail. in a well-worn path.

It’s also alarming because it’s within a mile of my house, in a heavily overgrown section of the park, easily prone to fire. This isn’t the first time my husband has come across the remains of a camp fire gone out of control – once we encountered a burned section of grass, at least 12 by 12 feet, right off the entrance to the park from our neighborhood.

The Ponderosa Fire this past Summer was started by a transient who was living illegally at a campground.

The City of Chico has essentially deputized park rangers, given them guns, in fact, required them to carry guns.  Critics predicted that the rangers would become part of the police force and be given other tasks around town. I don’t know if this is true, but I have yet to see or hear about the kind of sweeps they conduct regularly in Redding.

This section of park was cleaned not a month ago by a community group. That is not a solution, it’s enabling behavior. There is too much enabling behavior here. Just recently I saw a piece on the tv news about Salvation Army offering a liaison service for people who need social services. Wake UP! We already spend more than half our county budget on the social services departments, with a $63 million budget for Behavioral Health, and we still need to fund these private agencies (yes SA gets public funding) to act as liaison?

I don’t report the camps anymore – they just send the feel-good volunteer group – complete with $100,000/year staffer – to clean it up, and use it as another example of why the city needs more money. The Chamber of Commerce has launched their anticipated campaign for a sales tax increase – why would I want to give them more ammo?

What we need is a dedicated group to fight the propaganda blitz with facts.  Get your tennis rackets ready, and maybe get that old garbage bag suit you made for the Gallagher show.