Tag Archives: Ad Hoc

City announces they’ve instructed cell phone companies to stop taking tax – check your bills to make sure!

29 Jan

I see the Measure J refunds story is in the “most read” section of the Enterprise Record  today, but I posted it here just in case you missed it – read below.

I see a couple of problems in the story – for one thing, Ashley Gebb is a sloppy reporter. There she says, “Nearly 54 percent of residents voted in November to not update the city’s phone user tax”.  No no Dear, it was 54 % of the city’s VOTERS, not residents, duh. Does she understand how voting works?  Sorry to be a nit-picker, but this is the same gal that lectured me on the proper mis-use of the word “average“.  I notice she dropped that word from the part about billing amounts. In her pre-election story she said the “average”  bill in Chico was $50. When I questioned her about that, she came back like, “Oh silly, I didn’t mean mathematical average, I just meant, you know, AVERAGE!”

Another bit that bothers me is where Hennessy says folks will have to provide not only proof they were billed for the tax, but proof they PAID the tax? Of course, that should come up on the next bill, but what about your last bill? You need to wait until you get the following bill, that says you paid your previous bill? For Chrissake Jennifer, LET IT GO!  This whole thing reminds me of “Repo Man” – the old movie with Emilio Estevez. 

But, the good news is, ” the city has notified wireless phone companies to no longer collect the tax.”

Now, there’s some news! But I’d like to hear from those of you, who, like Jim in Chico, have seen the tax on their billing, who can check to make sure it’s gone. Let me know. 

Here’s Gebbs’ story:

Measure J-related phone tax refunds now available in Chico

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer
Posted:   01/29/2013 12:00:00 AM PST
 

CHICO — Chico residents can now apply for refunds for phone taxes paid to the city during the previous 12 months. 

Due to the failure of Measure J, the city is offering residents refunds for any utility user taxes paid for cellphones or Voice over Internet Protocol services within a year of application. 

Nearly 54 percent of residents voted in November to not update the city’s phone user tax to include modern technology such as cellphones, and the city has notified wireless phone companies to no longer collect the tax.

“If an individual showed documentation they were billed a tax and it was paid, we will issue them a refund,” said Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy on Wednesday.

The 5 percent phone tax would equate to about $2.50 of a monthly $50 bill or $5 of a monthly $100 bill.

Since November, any phone tax revenue that has come in has been placed in an account earmarked for refunds. If any remains after one year, the revenue may be placed in the general fund.

As for how many people may apply, “I have no idea,” Hennessy said. The potential fiscal impact is about $900,000 if all phone tax collected were to be reimbursed.

The City Council has not yet addressed what it will do to compensate for the loss in revenue, which supported the general fund.

Residents will need to provide documentation, including their cellphone bill and proof the bill was paid. Refunds will be issued beginning Feb. 21 and be mailed to the name and address on the bill.

Residents may not claim refunds for amounts previously refunded through the city’s utility tax refund program for income-qualified individuals. Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS customers are also not eligible because the providers did not collect the tax in the last 12 months.The refund application is the only way for the city to issue reimbursements, Hennessy said. The tax payments it received from phone companies are a lump sum, with no indication of who paid, for what and how much.Applications are available online and at City Hall’s Finance Department counter.

“We will be processing them as they come in and issuing refund checks,” City Attorney Lori Barker told the City Council this month. “Checks will be issued on the city’s regular cycle of processing and accounts payable.”

The City Council unanimously made final approval of the refund ordinance at its Jan. 15 meeting.

 

Connect with Ashley Gebb at 896-7768, agebb@chicoer.com, or on Twitter @AshleyGebb.

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The squeaky wheel gets the grease

26 Jan

I been rattling chains over at the Finance Department to find out how they plan to legally notify the public about cell phone tax refunds. I feel  it’s more their job to protect the citizens than to protect the city itself, but they agree to disagree with me on that. It’s all about civility people – don’t ask too many questions, you will be treated like you’re from Glenn County or something. 

I feel the city should be more responsible for returning this ill-gotten booty, so I’ve been e-mailing the Finance office about once a week for more details. I have to give Frank Fields some credit – at least he answers my e-mails.   He told me they’d finally decided how to notice the cell phone tax  refund:

Ms. Sumner:     The City will be placing a “Notice” (much like the notice for the annual UUT Refund program) in both the Chico ER and Chico N&R beginning late next week (i.e., sometime over the weekend).   – Frank

We’re so damned civil around here! Don’t fart, you gauche bastard! 

So, next Thursday there should be something in the N&R, and then we’ll maybe see it in the ER later that weekend.  

Of course, as far as I know, they’re still taking it out off people’s bills, which really isn’t very civil, but you know how they are. Down at the city, civility means, you get a kiss with your screwing.

 I have not heard one more word on their quest to inform the cell phone companies. That’s a question for Jennifer Hennessy, and I forgot to ask her at the last Finance Committee meeting. I’ll have to drop her an e-mail soon. 

What I do know is, people are hitting that link I posted to the refund application – here it is again:

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/CellPhoneRefundApplication_0117

I hope people will get their refunds – that’s the real “victory” I’m looking for here, that the city is called on it’s bad behavior, and made to set things right. 

Write those letters! Sustainability Task Force needs to GO!

23 Jan

I have finally given up trying to attend city council meetings. It finally hit me that all the real business goes on in the daytime meetings, by the time it gets to council, it’s pretty done.  As if I’m going to sit through another plastic bag discussion when I know the votes are already there.  Or, if it’s an especially contentious issue, or too complicated for their tiny minds, they kick it down the road. Right now, service fees, for stuff like, monopolizing a city parking lot for five hours every Saturday morning, have not been reviewed since “2005 or 2006, not sure…”  According to Scott Gruendl, the city is losing money hand over fist as long as we don’t update, or raise, those fees.  But our Finance Director won’t have any reports on that until March or April – she waiting for her paid consultant to get back to her.

This is how they milk us for money, they just take FOR-EV-ER to do anything. 

All the real important stuff is done behind closed doors anyway. The employee contracts are being discussed tomorrow night behind closed doors. We are not allowed in there. They are supposed to bring us some contracts to look over, but according to one council member I asked, they have NOTHING right now, they’re still hashing it out. I’ll never forget Steve Bertagna’s answer when I asked why the public is not allowed in those discussions – it would put the city at a disadvantage he said, to have the discussion public. He explained how they play the various groups against each other, and secrecy is a big part of that. 

Yeah, just like the mafia, eh? Don’t worry about it! Just like Bronco Bama’s Chicago gang-style politics. Just like Richard Daley and the Chicago cops at the 1968 Democratic Convention. 

As long as the public is held out of the conversations we will continue to have problems with our public safety salaries and benefits. It was the public safety departments that forced Vallejo and Stockton into bankruptcy. 

The contracts are the only important discussion on the agenda. The “work plan” discussion is just more crap, they keep mouthing the same things over and over and doing absolutely nothing. Right now, the only important issue we’re facing is what these salaries and the refusal of the management and public safety staff to pay more of their own benefits is doing to our local economy.  

I’m not putting aside my family dinner for one more of these meetings. I might watch on the box once in a while, but the daytime meetings are where it’s at.  If you want to have any effect, you need to watch the morning meetings and write letters ahead of the council discussion. 

In February the council will discuss the future of the Sustainability Task Force. City manager Brian Nakamura has been meeting  behind closed doors with members of the STF, who are desperate to keep their little trolley on the tracks. He and Linda Herman assure me nothing illegal or inappropriate has gone on at these closed meetings, but that’s what they say.  How are we supposed to know when we aren’t allowed in? 

We need to write letters to Nakamura and council now, telling them the STF is a giant waste of staff time.  Read the old reports available on the city website, and look at the waste of staff time – how many meetings were cancelled because members didn’t care enough to show up.   I have the e-mail conversations – Linda Herman, at $85,000 plus benefits, e-mailing for days, trying to get up a quorum. Some of the original members have quit – either frustrated with the lack of real action, or because they just got bored, I don’t know. One original member told me it didn’t take him long to figure that Ann Schwab wasn’t going to do anything “real,” like squash the college parking structure, or force people into new urban housing. He agreed with me – this is just about Ann Schwab’s resume, feel-good gestures with regulations that end up affecting private citizens without really fixing anything. 

Look along the highway next time you’re out – she’s banned certain plastic bags, what about all the other garbage you see piling up out there? 

The STF needs to go. We finally have a city manager who is trying to clean house – let’s help him! Write to Brian Nakamura and council and tell them the STF needs to go. 

That’s bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us, and you can reach the council at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us

Get those letters in to the ER – but remember, you only get one “election related” letter before November 6.

19 Sep

I think David Little makes a big mistake every year when he tries to limit people to one “election related letter” after Labor Day.  Instead of creating a discourse over a period of months, he gets a last minute bullshit storm. 

Right now, nobody is writing, because they want to get that last word in. That’s what happens. In the last few weeks, after about October 5, it will be standing room only. 

In future I wish Little would start encouraging discussion as soon as the candidates and the measures start popping up in the spring. The state ballot measures were posted way back in March or April. And the local ballot measures, like the cell phone tax, have been in the works since last spring too. But you don’t read anything in the ER or the News & Review until the last few weeks. That last minute scramble is never the best atmosphere for considering a ballot measure. 

But, if you have a mind to write a letter to the ER, it’s wide open. 

Schindelbeck is the only council candidate who’s been willing to take on $taff and Measure J

19 Sep

I got together the other day with some friends and talked about Measure J. We came up with a short analysis of this measure. These are FACTS that everybody should know about Measure J:

  • Measure J will add a 4.5 percent tax to cellular phone services and every form of electronic communication service existing now, as well as those yet to be invented.
  • Measure J allows the city Finance Director to add new forms of electronic communication to the list of those services taxed, without voter approval.  
  • Measure J revenues will be directed to the General Fund, which means there is no guarantee they will be used to fund public safety as proponents claim, but could be used for any purpose determined by council.
  • Measure J revenues can and will be used to pay the outstanding pension obligations of our city employees, more than 100 of whom make over $100,000/year and pay none of their own pension premiums. Only the fire employees pay any pension premium, and only 2 %. 

These can be typed or written onto a card or half sheet of paper and handed out or sent to anyone you know who receives a phone bill within the city of Chico. Or you can memorize them for enlightening conversations!

Here’s another list of facts –  these are the top 21 pension earners at  the city of Chico – those who get over a $100,000 a year, in pension. “Warrant Amount”, in case you didn’t guess, is how much they get a month.  John Brown, by the way, is our recently retired fire chief. Want to make a guess at what the new fire chief makes, the guy who shut down Station 5? 

Name Employer Warrant Amount Annual
ALEXANDER, THOMAS E CHICO $8,947.23 $107,366.76
BAPTISTE, ANTOINE G CHICO $10,409.65 $124,915.80
BEARDSLEY, DENNIS D CHICO $8,510.23 $102,122.76
BROWN, JOHN S CHICO $17,210.38 $206,524.56
CARRILLO, JOHN A CHICO $10,398.98 $124,787.76
DAVIS, FRED CHICO $12,467.78 $149,613.36
DUNLAP, PATRICIA CHICO $10,632.10 $127,585.20
FELL, JOHN G CHICO $9,209.35 $110,512.20
FRANK, DAVID R CHICO $14,830.05 $177,960.60
GARRISON, FRANK W CHICO $8,933.56 $107,202.72
JACK, JAMES F CHICO $9,095.09 $109,141.08
KOCH, ROBERT E CHICO $9,983.23 $119,798.76
LANDO, THOMAS J CHICO $11,236.48 $134,837.76
MCENESPY, BARBARA  CHICO $12,573.40 $150,880.80
PIERCE, CYNTHIA CHICO $9,390.30 $112,683.60
ROSS, EARNEST C CHICO $9,496.60 $113,959.20
SCHOLAR, GARY P CHICO $8,755.69 $105,068.28
SELLERS, CLIFFORD R CHICO $9,511.11 $114,133.32
VONDERHAAR, JOHN F CHICO $8,488.07 $101,856.84
VORIS, TIMOTHY M CHICO $8,433.90 $101,206.80
WEBER, MICHAEL C CHICO $11,321.93 $135,863.16

You not only pay these pensions, you pay the interest on the money we have to borrow to pay them. See, the California Public Employee Retirement System gambled it’s money on the stock market, and lost our ass. CalPERS officers still take huge salaries, and of course, get 70 percent of their salary as pension.

The salaries these Chico pensions were based on  were negotiated by people sitting on council now, including Ann Schwab. When Tom Lando  left the city of Chico he was making over $190,000 a year, largely because of a memo Ann signed that linked city worker pay to revenue increases but not decreases. 

That memo was really the last nail in our coffin. Like a little time-release bomb. The public salaries went up, up, up, and they took the cost of living in Chico with them, never to return. Unfortunately, at the same time, council, led by Ann Schwab and the liberals, went on a building permits spree to fund their salary increase, ruining the housing market and the construction industry in our town.  The contractors they brought in from towns like Fresno brought not only their own workers, but undocumented aliens, who took their paychecks out of town. Meanwhile long-time local contractors and workers were left unemployed. This had a long-term effect that is coming to fruition now – those folks are losing their homes, which are selling for much less than they were assessed at five years ago, and now the big stinking pigeon has come home to roost – the city is broke.

And that’s where the memo comes in again – revenue increases but not decreases – revenues went down, down, down, but salaries DOWNTOWN are still going up, up, up. I’ll never forget the time Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy was allowed to hire her own performance auditor, and when he gave her the expected favorable review, she gave herself a $14,000 a year raise. Wow – talk about your perks and benies – a job where you get to be in charge of your own pay! 

This hayride has to end, but when?  The only candidate I’ve seen in this election taking any of these people to task is Toby Schindelbeck, and that’s why he’s the only candidate who has the endorsement of the Chico Taxpayer’s Association.  I like Coolidge, but he hasn’t done much, and some of the stuff he’s said has left me wondering. And Morgan doesn’t know what he’s talking about –  he’s just a rubber stamp for the “public safety” unions. Meanwhile, Evans won’t admit he knows anything about Lando’s sales tax increase proposal, even though he’s been sitting in on the discussions. 

I‘m sick of the same old same old Downtown, I’m not voting for Fist Puppets. I want somebody different in there. Right now, most of them are public workers or ex public workers, including career military pensioner Bob Evans and Biggs city mangler Mark Sorensen.  I don’t think these people can stand up to $taff because they are blinded by self-interests – they know, pension reform could affect them! We need a small business owner, an employer, a person who does business with the general public – somebody who still has his feet planted firmly on the same dirt the rest of us are standing on. 

That’s why I’m supporting Schindelbeck. His future is more tied to Chico, and the rest of us. 

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss! $217,000 a year, plus benefits. And he’s a liar, to boot.

19 Aug

I got a comment a couple of weeks ago from a person who identified themself as a resident of the town of Hemet, Ca, and said that our city was about to hire their city’s manager. And what do you know – our council went right ahead and did that the other night. And it was unanimous, so Sorensen and Evans went right along with it. 

This Nakamura dude only made it in Hemet for three years. And when their financial ship appeared to be on the rocks, he kept it a secret that he was looking for another job, here in Chico. 

http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/hemet/hemet-headlines-index/20120815-hemet-city-manager-accepts-chico-job.ece

In fact, according this story, he lied to his bosses about his intentions when they found out he had visited Chico – he told them it was just to “share with the council my experience on how we made our city a wonderful place, and that’s it.” For one thing, Hemet isn’t such a wonderful place, it’s a shithole with piles of problems. 

According to the story, “Two weeks ago, (Nakamura)  said he was no longer involved in talks with Chico, but on Wednesday said Chico officials contact [sic]  him last week and negotiations moved swiftly.”

Hemet lies in the middle of SoCal, out in the wasteland east of San Diego. It’s one of those towns that has grown by leaps and bounds over the boom years. In the 90’s, they actually allocated $800,000 in RDA money to begin building a LAKE, to draw tourism.  And now there Hemet sits, LAKESIDE! revenues dropping, and up to it’s ass in debt. In fact, if you scan over their agendas and records, you find Hemet is in the same kind of mess Chico is in  – they’ve  been using their RDA like a credit card too.

So, why are we hiring a guy to replace Dave Burkland that is just going to continue us down the same road to Perdition that Dave Burkland had us on? A guy who is jumping the ship he helped sail into the reef? Just like Burkland.

And, at 47, you know he’s just coming here to retire. Mark my words, in three years, this POS will retire at over $150,000 a year. 

Ask your mayor, Ann Schwab. You can e-mail her at aschwab@ci.chico.ca.us, or drop her some snail mail at 555 Vallombrosa Ave, #74, Chico CA 95926. Decisions this woman is making are killing our town. Write to the other council members too – they also voted to hire this man. You can get them through Debbie Presson at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us.