Tag Archives: city of Chico Measure J

cell phone tax update – almost $300,000 accumulated, only about $10,000 refunded

1 Nov

Back in August, the ER did an update on cell phone tax rebates, saying applications were starting to slow down. At that time they reported a rebate total of $9,550, to 191 customers. Frank Fields told me at one point, most of the applicants were residential, but a few businesses had come in.

Since the beginning, Chico taxpayer Jim Matthews has been suggesting an electronic application, so that victims of the illegal tax could claim their stolen money without having to carry a pile of dead trees down to City Hall during their work day. I personally forwarded that suggestion to Brian Nakamura and staff, who oftentimes answered the e-mail but wouldn’t discuss our suggestion.

For weeks now, I’ve been getting searches here – the cell phone thing is the top search right now, even with all the cops in a titter over other stuff I’ve said about them. It’s even a top search on worldofjuanita.  So, I e-mailed the finance department to ask for an update. I got this reply from Chris Constantin.

“I’ve cc’d Frank to provide the latest numbers.  From the last report I received, unfortunately, not many took advantage of it.  The totals are pretty low.”

I like Constantin, he’s an honest guy – but you know me, I’m an honest gal, Compulsively honest. I found his e-mail offensive, and I had to tell him so. See, the city kept collecting cell phone taxes beyond the November 2012 election wherein we told them to STOP IT! They amassed a tidy $286,450, according to the ER. They will keep this money when a full year passes after the last taxes were collected, which was Spring 2013 (NOTE: meaning, it took them about six months to stop taking it!)   So, you have a few months to make your application, or tell your friends, co-workers, anybody you see standing there holding a cell phone – go Downtown and get your stolen money back!

Constantin purported surprise that more people had not come to claim their stolen money, but I had to call him on that. They made the process so onerous – come down to City Hall, during your work day, don’t forget every cell phone bill you ever got…   I won’t directly blame Constantin but I won’t stand for his pretending to be sorry. He could still change the process to make it electronic, make the phone companies send people their bills electronically, or just send them an annual total for their cell phone tax. That’s all in the records, but Constantin stands by while we are forced to bring a stack of paper Downtown on our lunch break if we want our stolen money back.

Let me repeat that – our stolen money.  $286,450, ill-gotten gain.

I’ll get back to you with that update, and watch for it in the ER, they’ll probably send it there too. 

Get ready for your cell phone tax refund!

14 Dec

Well, just when I was getting the posse together to write a letter to the city attorney, giving her a little prod to write letters to the cell phone carriers and tell them to stop collecting that cell phone tax, she’s already on the ball! Here’s an item from next Tuesday’s council agenda:

ITEM 4.2   ORDINANCE OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CHICO AMENDING SECTION

3.56.150 OF THE CHICO MUNICIPAL CODE REGARDING REFUNDS FOR OVERPAYMENTS
AND ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS OF UTILITY USERS’ TAXES – Introduction

From the staff report:  “Because the measure (J) did not pass, City staff will be taking action to notify companies currently providing non-land line telephone services that the city will no longer collect the tax for those services. Additionally, amounts received will be placed in a holding account to be available for refund requests that may be received. The statute of limitations to request a refund is one year. Any amounts remaining after one year will be deposited in the  city’s general fund. “

Well, isn’t  that interesting – there’s a time limit on collecting something that was stolen from you – how charming! 

And, the staff report goes on to say that there’s a stipulation that you prove you tried to get the money back from your cell phone provider first – but they’re going to talk about dropping that requirement, apparently. Well, that’s mighty big of them!

So, it is now up to those of you who have been RIPPED OFF to get down there and get your money. When they took it out of my bill, I went down every year and got my Utility Tax rebate, so they don’t owe me anything. Well, aside from the hours taken from my life, but that’s another blog, for another day.

The other item on the agenda that gets my attention is committee and board appointments. Notice  Ann Schwab’s request to start ANOTHER AD HOC COMMITTEE, this time, “focusing on the homelessness issue.” Oh, come on! Nakamura has already said that we need to get rid of  these ad hoc committees, because “they take on a life of their own,” meaning staffers who get salaries and benefits to do nothing but forward e-mails. Look at the Sustainability Task Force page on the city website – they haven’t even posted the cancellation for the meeting they had announced for December. Please!  Schwab doesn’t want people at these meetings.  These ad hoc committees are just a way to keep the public out of the discussion. They don’t even have to post the schedules for the meetings, and they don’t. 

Meanwhile, they can’t seem to get anybody on the airport commission, which I would say is probably the most important committee they have. To think, this is how  they run the airport – the city manager puts on a different “hat”, and sits down at an empty table with a couple of people handpicked by council because they gave good campaign donations.  The airport needs a professional manager and a board of “stakeholders” – meaning, the people who run their businesses out of the airport. There are a lot of disgruntled business owners and plane owners out there, pissed off over the sloppy management and downright nepotism going on at Chico airport. Chris and Maria Rock are being allowed to monopolize fueling at the airport and they’re not even doing a good job of it. According to the budget, the city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on maintenance, but still the airport is unusable because the runways are inadequate for modern aircraft and the fueling station is being run like the gas station in Mayberry RFD. 

I think I will attend next Tuesday’s meeting, just to give a rebel yell when they read Item 4.2. 

 

We’ll have to hit the ground running

26 Oct

I’ve reserved the meeting room at the Chico library for our First Sunday meeting, November 4,  9am. I hope that’s good for everybody, let me know, I can change the time.

That of course, is only days before the election, a little too late for any strategizing on Measure J.  What I’d really like to talk about is what we’ll do after the election. I got a couple of ideas I been kicking back and forth with the fence post.

Of course, I believe our first true concern is a sales tax increase. I would bet my last five dollars that whether or not Prop 30 or Measure J pass, Tom Lando will bring forward his sales tax increase measure. He will either say, Prop 30 lost and we need the money, or Prop 30 won but we can’t trust Brown to share the proceeds from 30.  He’ll say, whether it wins or loses, that Measure J was already being spent, which is true. The city has been collecting the phone tax illegally, mainly through stooges AT&T, for years, and stands to lose millions in ill-gotten gain. Sheesh – they may even be afraid we’ll sue them for those illegal takings, like the folks of the  city of Chula Vista!

http://www.caseygerry.com/news/class-certified-chula-vista-tax-lawsuit

I honestly believe Tom Lando fully intends to ask for a special election in Spring 2013 to put a sales tax increase measure before the voters, and we need to start thinking about a serious “organized” campaign against it.

Secondly, I heard a good idea from the city of Hemet, which recently unloaded their ex-city manager on us – Brian Nakamura. Sure, they made it look like they were being ripped off, but I say, they hoodwinked us into taking the guy. Ever read “Ransom of Red Chief”?

Yeah, those Hemetians are pretty damned smart.  Two years ago, they passed some very interesting legislation in their little town, read here –

http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/hemet/hemet-headlines-index/20101026-hemet-campaign-spending-increases.ece

Here are the ballotpedia pages for Measures W and X – both passed with OVER 80 PERCENT OF THE VOTE. Measure W limits terms for city elected officials, and Measure X cuts them off from city-paid  health benefits.

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Hemet_Term_Limits,_Measure_W_(November_2010)

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Hemet_Prohibition_on_Contributing_to_Cost_of_Healthcare,_Measure_X_(November_2010)

You will note, the Hemet Taxpayers’ Association put some money into these issues. We must decide, do we want to start raising and spending money?

I hope to see the usual suspects on November 4, at the library, 9am, along with some fresh newbies, willing to put their shoulder to the wheel to turn our city around.

NO on Measure J – No Cell Phone Tax!

17 Sep

It’s always good to listen to people who disagree with you.  If you know what they are thinking, you can oftentimes get them to listen to your point of view, and maybe change their minds.

Sometimes it’s a simple matter of correcting misinformation. For example, the promoters of the new cell phone tax, City of Chico Measure J, are telling people the measure will  lower their taxes. Of course this is not true, but if we don’t step out there and make that clear, people may believe it. We need to make sure people know – the tax is being expanded to forms of electronic communication, like cell phones and pagers, that were not legally taxed before.

Something our opponents are telling us here is  they know people feel overtaxed. They are trying to trick people into voting for this tax increase, they’re telling them it will lower their taxes.  We need to tell people the truth – their cell phone bill will go up!

We also need to remind them, the tax can be further expanded – this measure allows the Finance Director to add any new forms of electronic communication that may be introduced to the consumer, at any time in the future, without voter approval. And, by the way, the tax rate can be raised by vote of council, again, without voter approval.

Finally, we need to ” de-bunk the bunk”, to borrow from an old blog-mate (who, by the way, currently receives over $149,000 per year  in pension). Measure J proponents are using the same old tactic – they are holding “public safety” up like a baby and threatening to throw the baby out the window if they don’t get this tax increase. According to Ann Schwab’s argument in favor,  failure to pass this tax increase “will result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds. “ She’s  threatening to throw all my babies out the window, I just can’t believe that woman, Good Gravy,  she’s a  mean one.

Of course we need a competent and adequate staff, public safety and otherwise. But there is nothing in the text of this measure that guarantees we’ll get that. The revenues from Measure J will go into the General Fund, from which they can be spent at the discretion of council, on anything from Spirit Flags to the unmet pension obligations left to us by the CalPERS disaster.

It is a simple thing to tear down this measure, because it’s a bad idea. It is a matter of speaking up and telling people what’s happening. Write those letters – I hope you will find the above points helpful, but I’m sure you have plenty to say for yourselves.

Ballot measures – today featuring state Proposition 30 and local Measure E

15 Sep

I thought I’d share this interesting link:

http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures.htm

Look them over, some of them are tax increase measures.  There at the top you see Proposition 30 – that’s Jerry Browns’ pit bull disguised as a tea cup poodle. “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Gee, they make it sound so harmless – “Temporary” – oooo! “Fund Education” – ahhhh!  That’s like saying,  “well he’s just a little ol’ alligatah, Honey!”

They write these titles knowing how many people actually read the text of a measure. Sure, some of those people don’t bother to read it because they ritually vote NO! on anything smelling like a tax increase – that’s not a bad strategy as far as I’m concerned.

But, it’s not my strategy. I know we need taxes to fund public needs. It’s not like I’m just Anti-Tax – my family is full of teachers, I went to public school. I’ve driven my car, rode my bike and hoofed it on public roads for over 50 years.  I like public utilities, which are largely subsidized with taxes, and I like having some sort of police and fire protection, even if I have to take the ticks with the hound. 

On the other hand, I also know, it’s stupid to throw money at budget problems. We certainly do have a budget problem in the state of California, but it’s not a revenue problem, it’s  a spending problem.  Year after year the governor and the legislature have screamed that we are in deficit, need to “cut back,” but they just keep approving more spending. For the craziest stuff, I don’t even want to go there. Mostly for the lifestyle they’ve managed to make out of it for themselves – why do we allow these public servants to live like demi-gods? Alot of us could live on their wardrobe and dry-cleaning allowances, their cell phone allowances, their car and gas allowances. We have “allowanced” these people until they are so far removed from our everyday reality –  I guess, we’ve made our own monster, and we deserve to be destroyed by this creature.

Well, not me. I’m going to fight. This “temporary” tax is another hike – add that onto the hike in the cost of housing, the cost of medical care, the cost of groceries and gas and everything else you need to live. Add that to the city’s utility tax hike and the state’s wood products tax and the proposed Chico art tax and a grocery bag tax – pending state legislation would allow retailers to charge the public for plastic grocery bags, currently illegal.  I’ll tell you what, it sure seems to me, the people of  California are being told to TAKE A HIKE!

First of all, “temporary” means, after the allotted time, the legislature can vote to extend it.  I don’t know if they need public approval for that. Like local Measure H, which would extend a “temporary fee” that was placed on our vehicle registration a few years back. Once you vote something like this in it’s like giving the vacuum salesman a foot in your door. 

And then there’s the WHY? of it. WHY? would we give the schools more money? Here in Chico, they just pad their behinds with the stuff. What does a school district the size of Chico need with all these $100,000 plus administrators, including Stuporintendent of Snooze, Kelly Staley, who makes well over $180,000 a year, plus benefits and pension paid by the taxpayers.

Furthermore, Chico Unified has foisted their own bond on the local ballot – how much money do they need down there? Are they making clothes out of it? Here’s the info on that:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_local_measures.html#a

Staley wants to issue $78 million in bonds, placing a $45 tax on your home for every $100,000 worth of value. Read Staley’s request here:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/measure_e_resolution.pdf

Staley only wants $78 mil. Jerry Brown is hoping to raise $6 billion annually. I can imagine Santa Claus, and maybe even the tooth fairy, but I can’t begin to imagine $6 billion.

He says his measure “bars use of funds for administrative costs, but provides local school governing boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how funds are spent.” That is a loophole – everything after “but” .  Everybody who’s dealt with government types knows what the words “discretion” and “open meetings” mean – in other words, we listened to what the public said but we did what we wanted anyway. 

And there’s this line: “Guarantees funding for public safety services realigned from state to local governments.”   Let’s have a collective, “oh, sure!” on that one – which turnip truck does Governor Moonbeam think we fell off of? How many times have they just TAKEN money from local jurisdictions, saying, “make us give it back” ? And we’re supposed to fall for it? Fool me once, Shame on You! Fool me twice, well, I’ll probably buy it a third time too. But the fourth time, I’m not only not going to fall for it, I’m going to kick your ass for trying to pull it.

Oh, you know, I’m not advocating violence, oh geeshy sakes no! I’m asking everybody I know, everybody within blog-shot,  to bring in a LANDSLIDE against Prop 30 AND local Measure E, the school bond. We have to clean our financial house, and it’s going to be a lot of work. Lately, adding more money to the state of California engine is just like putting cheap gas in your Pinto.  Clunk-clunka-clunk-clunk-clunk!  Clunka-clunk!

 I read an article today, in which the author professed being in favor of Prop 30, and challenged opponents to come up with good alternatives to the “problem”. Of course, he thinks the “problem” is, teachers don’t get paid enough, and we don’t have enough money to hire adequate teachers. I feel the “problem” is, the school system is top-heavy with administrative salaries and drowning in benefits and pensions obligations that should be paid by the employees.  His answer is either raise taxes or watch the California schools fall further into the abyss. I say,  cut administration positions down to bare bones, and make Superintendent a publicly elected position. Then,  fire people, and rehire other qualified applicants at reasonable salaries. Finally, throw out the notion of “benefits packages” altogether – benefits packages are something you use to lure highly skilled candidates in an employee’s market. That is not how I’d describe the average employee of Chico Unified, and Chico is certainly not an “employee’s market,” with Chico State squeezing out Liberal Studies candidates like a sausage press.

 What the government isn’t admitting, is that these contracts come up for review every so many years – every year down at the school district –  and they have the alternative of NOT RENEWING. Instead, they hold the public out of the negotiations with BS about “collective bargaining rights” and renew even worse contracts than those expired. Why do we pay our public workers three, four, five times the median income, while also paying even the “employee share” of their benefits?

That has got to stop. If we really want to live within our means, we need candidates for public office who are willing to tackle the issues of salaries and benefits, not in some future “tiered” system, but NOW. When existing contracts come up for renegotiation, we need candidates who are not afraid to look unreasonable employees in the eye and tell them not to let the screen door hit them on the ass. We need council members who are not afraid to tell employees they need to pay MOST, if not ALL, of their own benefits. I’m sick of these cowards, people who are more interested in keeping their ass in the chair than working for the taxpayers. People who are afraid of $taff because they are too lazy or intimidated to do their own homework and depend on $taff to feed them like infants. 

Do your homework this election, tell your friends, get the word out – “change” is actually a wonderful word, we’re all allowed to use it. 

 

Write those letters!

10 Sep

I’ve been asking readers to spread the word about Measure J, the cell phone tax. The proponents of this grab, including Mayor Ann Schwab and councilors Goloff, Gruendl, Holcombe and Walker, are using some pretty misleading arguments, and if we don’t do whatever we can to get the truth out there, we might just end up with a 4.5 tax on our cell phones, not to mention services like paging and voice over internet protocol – anything included in your phone bill. 

Remember, this is an extension of the current Utility Tax already collected on land lines, at 5 percent. Schwab is making the argument that she’s giving us a tax decrease because this measure lowers the current rate from 5 percent to 4.5 percent. But, once they extend the tax to your currently UN-TAXED cell phones, that half percent will dry up faster than spit on a griddle. The question being, how many people will understand what’s really happening? There’s nothing about that in any of the campaign literature – read it for yourself, here:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_local_measures.html#d

We have to get the truth out there. Don’t be shy, this is really important. I just wrote a letter today to a local business I’ve patronized for years – Payless Lumber. I was inspired to do so because I received a letter from them in my recent billing, regarding AB 1492, which “imposes an assessment on lumber products and engineered wood products at a rate of one percent of gross receipts from the sale of those products…”  You mean, A SALES TAX? 

I read up on AB 1492 here:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/asm/ab_1451-1500/ab_1492_cfa_20120822_142638_sen_floor.html

I see the money will go to salaries – “Funds are required to be available upon appropriation for administrative costs… regulatory activities…management…grants…” 

The letter goes on to list contact information for the governor’s office – available here:

http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php

I appreciated the time, effort and concern behind this letter, so I sent him a quick note about Measure J, with links where he could find more information. I think that’s a pretty “American” thing to do, and I enjoyed myself. I think you will too! 

Go for it! 

 

 

 

Mark Sorensen’s Argument Against Measure J: “bloated Chico Bureaucracy” taxing basic life necessities instead of cutting back on nonessential programs

10 Sep

The city code says that council members are offered first shake at writing the Arguments For and Against ballot measures, and Mark Sorensen agreed to write the Argument Against Measure J. He makes some good points. Thanks Mark!

Argument against Measure J

Vote NO for more taxation, vote NO on Measure J.

The bloated Chico bureaucracy already extracts over $6.5 million per year from its struggling businesses and citizens by taxing basic life necessities such as water, electricity, natural gas and traditional telephone services, and now the Chico bureaucracy wants to expand that tax to apply to cellular phone services and every form of electronic communication service existing now, and those yet to be invented.

The sales pitch of a supposed reduction in tax rate (only on telephone services) diverts your attention from the goal of expanding the tax to new communications services, and the resultant tax revenue increases.

Taxing life’s basic necessities must stop. These regressive taxes disproportionately harm lower income families at a time when they already struggle to pay for ever increasing service costs.

Chico City Taxes on water, electricity, natural gas and phone services are bleeding Chico’s citizens and businesses dry. It is time to say no more. Chico is at a competitive business disadvantage to other communities. City government must tighten its belt by cutting back on nonessential programs and services.

Do not be fooled , Measure J would expand the Utility Tax to cell phone services and all other forms of electronic communications.

We just cannot afford it.

Vote no on Measure J.

Please write your letters, not only to the newspapers, but to your friends and business associates who live and do business in the city of Chico. This tax not only applies to cell phones, but to pagers, voice over internet protocol, and any other means of “electronic communication” deemed taxable  by whoever sits in the Finance Director’s chair. The mover of nutshells. 

Here’s the link for the Butte County Elections page that directs you to the various candidates and issues. 

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_eln_main.html

Here’s the link to “local measures”, including Chico ballot Measure J:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_local_measures.html

And here’s the text, “impartial analysis, and arguments For and Against Measure J:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_local_measures.html#d

Ann Schwab offers to give us a half-cent decrease in exchange for a four-and-a-half cent INCREASE!

2 Sep

City council races are supposed to be “non-partisan” – tell that to Ann Schwab. But watch it, Bob Mulhullond might move in to impale you with those over-sized scissors he used at the Grand Opening of Democratic Headquarters on Mangrove Avenue.

You’ll recognize the building, I’m sure, by the “Yes on TAXES!” signs posted out front. The Democrats have got a wish list of tax increases, starting with Jerry Brown’s statewide sales tax increase, and the Chico Democrats are on the bandwagon.

I haven’t noticed any “Yes on Measure J” signs out front of the building yet. Measure J – that’s Ann Schwab’s cell phone tax. I call it that because she promoted it and wrote the “For” argument on the ballot pamphlet, so I assume it’s her little bastard. And what an ugly baby it is!   A  4.5 percent tax to your cell phones, as well as your pager, and forms of “electronic communication” that haven’t even been introduced to the public yet. As a matter of fact, as soon as the phone companies start charging you for your Skype fix, Schwab will tax that  too.

Here’s the text of measure J, as it will appear on the November ballot:

Shall an ordinance be adopted to amend the City’s Telephone User’s Tax in order to: 1) reduce the tax rate from 5% to 4.5%   2) modernize the definition of telephone communication services subject to the tax to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services  3)apply the tax to all telephone communications services regardless of the type of technology used; and 4) reflect changes to federal and state law?

I have to take this thing apart and look at it – where is that smell coming from?

Well, here, isn’t this funny – it says, first of all, “reduce the tax rate from 5% to 4.5%” – that doesn’t make sense. See, currently, there is no  tax on your cell phone, so how could Schwab be reducing it? The city charter only allows for the taxing of electricity, natural gas, water, and land lines, at 5%. The rate will stay the same on your PG&E bill and Cal Water bill – 5 percent – but she’s offering to lower it to 4.5% on old school telephones  in order to get us to agree to allow her to tax our cell phones too.  

She’s crafty, that gal, and what balls of brass she has! She’s offering a half-cent decrease on the dollar for your landline in order to get a four-and-a-half-cent INCREASE on the dollar on your cell phone. Read that again, and then page me.

I just googled this “fact” – about 30 percent of U.S. households have dumped their land lines, as of February 2012. You can take that or leave it, or google it for yourself. I would say, that’s understated – only one of my friends has a landline, that I know of. I’m guessing a few more that I have never discussed it with. But alot of my friends, and all of my tenants, are going wireless, and loving it. Little did they know, silly rabbits, that the bunny bopper was heading for town.

I’d guess a lot of the existing landlines are for businesses, and that probably won’t change any time soon. I wonder how much a half-cent decrease would amount to for the average business? How would it stand up to the extra 4.5 cents on the dollar they would pay for their cell phones, pagers, and “voice over internet protocol”?

So much for “reduce the tax rate…”

Next we see how the city attorney uses the word “modernize” to mean, “tax something that has never been taxed before.”  Here’s where this measure enables $taff to extend this tax, at their discretion, to “ to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services “.  As Mark Sorensen puts it, “to include all and any new forms of electronic communication, now or in the future…” 

I don’t know if you’ve been following this:

https://chicotaxpayers.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/hennessy-is-using-city-funds-like-walnut-shells-to-hide-and-move-money/

but I’ve got a problem with allowing a person who won’t give us a straight accounting of what she’s doing with our money any further discretion to take MORE of our money.

So much for “modernization.”

The next part of the measure seems harmless enough until you read Schwab’s “Argument For,”  which I posted here:

https://chicotaxpayers.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/ann-schwabs-argument-in-favor-of-measure-j-to-protect-against-the-risk-of-losing-illegally-collected-tax-revenues/

The measure says, “apply the tax to all telephone communications services regardless of the type of technology used”.    But Schwab injects something more into it – “ ensure that all users of communication services are treated the same,” insinuating that some of us are getting away with something.  She’s trying to pit the land line users against the cell phone users. Hopefully, that tack will turn around to bite her on the ass – I’m guessing, the majority of landline users are also cell phone users, and I think I covered that pretty thoroughly already. Why would you allow yourself to be hookwinked that way by a woman who runs her fiscal house like a betting parlor? 

And that knocks “let’s be fair – let’s screw everybody!” out of the ballpark.

Finally, she reminds us that this measure is the result of a court decision stating that many California cities, including Chico, have been taking a tax off your cell phone illegally. Our city charter, like those of cities up and down the state,  had adopted the standard language of the “telecommunications tax” over 20  years ago, before cell phones were widely available to the general public. The original ordinance, which still sits on the books Downtown, only allows for the taxation of land lines. But the city has been collecting the cell phone tax off of willing providers, like AT&T,  all these years. At the maximum rate allowed by city charter – five percent. 

In the Southern California town of Chula Vista, city $taff undertook a similar scam, described by one attorney as “a failed attempt to retroactively authorize UUTs” . The voters not only overturned their Measure H, but are currently undertaking a class action suit to demand return of the money, taken illegally by their city staff. Unbelievably, as of this time last year, the city of Chula Vista was still collecting the illegal tax, even after the voters overturned their “modernization” measure and mounted a lawsuit. The lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in January of 2013. 

Please tell your friends and neighbors about this taking. How many of us can afford to shell out more money for city staff and their outrageous salaries? Why are we paying the “employee share” of their benefits? Why are we paying one staffer over $85,000 a year plus benefits to foist a bag ban on our local grocery stores? Can we really afford to have Lori Barker, at over $200,000 a year, writing an unenforceable smoking ban? 

Where are the jobs? 

Please join me and the Chico Taxpayer’s Association in rejecting Measure J. 

Measure J – That’s Ann Schwab sliding her hand into your purse.

23 Aug

The other night the Chico City Council signed a new city manager at $217,000 a year, plus benefits. That’s an increase of about 14 percent over retiring city manager Dave Burkland’s salary. Meanwhile, the median American income, according to the census bureau, has fallen by 7 percent. In Chico, the 2010 figure for median income was about $38,000. Seven percent would be a hit of over $2500. OUCH!

I wonder if the researchers took into account those families whose incomes have remained fairly steady, while expenses like utilities and taxes have grown unrepentantly. You’ve probably received the same notices I have got from PG&E and Cal Water – they seem to raise rates at will these days. You probably read Cal Water’s notice that we weren’t using enough water so they had to raise rates to recoup money they spent when they thought we were going to use a lot of water. But,  talking out both sides of their mouth, they raise the rate per ccf tremendously when we use over a certain amount of water – to encourage us to conserve water! What kind of circular bullshit is that?

The same circular bullshit you get from the city of Chico, that’s what.  For several years now we have heard one report after another about our dismal financial situation. We had to close a fire station for a month.  We can’t keep enough cops on the street to serve a citation for a second noise complaint. We don’t have enough money to fix our streets. We don’t have enough money to properly maintain Bidwell Park.  But without missing a beat, they tell us they are increasing their own salaries.  They are signing a contract with Chico PD that gives them a raise, along with structured overtime and pays the “employees’ share” of their benefits and pension premiums. And now they hire a guy at $217,000  a year, plus the benefits and pension payments, whose successor in Hemet is only making $162,000 a year.

http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/hemet/hemet-headlines-index/20120821-hemet-council-selects-orme-as-interim-city-manager.ece

And they propose to cover these asinine appropriations by raising our taxes. That is the intention behind the phone tax –  measure J – already placed on this November’s ballot, as well as the motivation behind Tom Lando’s coming sales tax increase proposal – watch for that in a special election in 2013.

Measure J is our immediate problem. It is billed by it’s sponsors, including Mayor Ann Schwab, as a tax reduction.  Sure, they will lower the existing land line tax from 5 percent to 4.5. But this measure will allow them to extend the tax to cell phones, pagers, and forms of electronic communication that have not even been introduced to the consumer yet.   This measure will allow the city Finance Director to add any future form of electronic communication that is included in your phone bill to the tax base without consulting the voters. You will simply see the increase on your phone bill.

Remember when the only people who had cell phones, or “mobile phones,” were guys like Elvis Presley? Yeah, a cell phone used to be for rich people only, a status symbol even. Well, try living without one today.  Land lines are pretty unreliable – unless you live within a few blocks of the router over in college town, you get hit and miss service, at best. When we had AT&T, we’d be without either phone or internet service for days at a time.  We felt forced to switch to cell phones. When my son was looking for a job, they expected him to have his own cell phone, mom or dad’s number was a real turn-off to employers.  So, yes, in this day and age, not having a cell phone has become akin to not having a car – what’s wrong with you?

This cell phone tax is a matter of TAKING, by people who just expect to TAKE. The city does nothing to guarantee or improve or even cheapen the cost of your cell phone service. They’ve actually refused to permit cell phone towers on occasion, citing “aesthetics.” But they expect to add a 4.5 percent TAX to a service you contract with a commercial provider?

We need to get the word out on this TAKING. Ann Schwab and her friends are billing it as a TAX DECREASE! You know better, and you need to tell your friends, your co-workers, and people with whom you do business – you need to start telling everybody you know who lives in the city of Chico, that they are about to be had.

I’m starting with my close friends, and then I’m going to mail letters to people like my dentist, my auto shops, my vet, etc. You would be surprised how many people don’t know what this phone tax is all about. People who don’t have time to educate themselves often depend on their friends to give them the heads-up. Be a good friend, tell everybody you know about this tax.

That’s Measure J, Ann Schwab’s plan to stick her little pig nose into your phone bill.  Bad Pig! Time to give her a sharp rap across the snout – No on J!