Tag Archives: phone tax

Ann Schwab’s argument in favor of Measure J – “to protect against the risk of losing” illegally collected tax revenues

25 Aug

Here is the “Statement of Accuracy” signed by those arguing in favor of Measure J – Mayor Ann Schwab and councillors Holcombe, Gruendl, and Goloff. Jim Walker submitted a letter of consent.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail with these documents attached – arguments FOR and AGAINST Measure J, the cell phone tax, submitted to the city clerk earlier this month.  None of them cut and pastable into my blog, so I’ve been hem-hawing around trying to figure out how to load them up. I hate to break this kind of news – I am not exactly a computer whiz kid.  Word Press is a wonderful forum, but there’s buttons I still haven’t figured out yet. 

So, I finally just took a picture of the above “Statement of Accuracy” sheet with my camera – you can see how that turned out. The “Argument in Favor” below had to be typed in from a window on the little “notepad” my kids gave me for Christmas.

The city clerk has said she can’t give me the cut and pastable versions cause she’s afraid I’ll “edit” them.  Well, I’ll assure you, I have typed this argument in very carefully, word for word, and this is what Ann Schwab has to say for herself. I will admit, I received this argument before the county clerk had assigned a letter to the measure, so I added the letter ‘J’.  Let’s discuss this over the next few weeks :

Argument in Favor of Measure J – Utility Users Tax

We recommend approval of Measure J to protect existing revenue to continue vital services for the residents of the City of Chico.

The City of chico is at risk of losing $900,000 each year if voters do not approve Measure J to modernize the language of it’s current Users Utility Tax (UUT) ordinance. This would represent a significant reduction in General Fund revenue. The primary purpose of amending the telephone users’ tax is to protect existing revenue for the General Fund. A loss of $900,000 a year would result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds.

In recent years, there have been significant changes in both technology and billing practices. The use of wireless services and voice over internet protocol has become widespread, billing for local and long distance services  is frequently bundled, and long distance calls are not always billed based on time and distance, even for land lines.

To protect against the risk of losing tax revenues in the face of legal issues, approval of Measure J will modernize this existing tax to ensure that all users of communication services are treated the same, regardless of the type of technology they are using or billing practices employed by their providers.

This proposed amendment includes a slight rate reductionk, from 5% to 4.5%. This rate, if applied to the average cell phone bill of $50 per month, would equate to a monthly charge of $2.25 as opposed to the current charge of $2.50.

Vote yes for Measure J and protect existing police, fire, roads and parks in the City of Chico.

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!

Thankyou City Council Candidate Andrew Coolidge for taking on Ann Schwab’s Phone Tax Plan

7 Aug

You may have seen the following bit on the news:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeE2xJfFiUM&feature=youtube_gdata

Andrew Coolidge, candidate for Chico City Council, has got the issue onto the news, good for him.   This is the kind of candidate I can support in November – a regular citizen who’s actually out there DOING SOMETHING! 

Coolidge points out that Ann Schwab is out of touch with the reality most of her constituents live – she thinks the average phone bill is only about 50 bucks.  No, Pollyanna Schwab, that’s about the lowest cell phone bill you can get – is she talking about pre-paid cards?  Those will also be taxed. My family gets the cheapest package available, and for the four of us it’s just about exactly $98 a month. And that’s the strip-down package. I know plenty of people who pay more, and Coolidge estimated high bills of $200 plus. I believe it. 

So, under Ann’s phone tax, my family will pay almost $4.50 more, a tax that goes into the General Fund, which can be used for ANYTHING, including the “employee share” of benefit and pension premiums.

That’s the other problem I had with the story. When Alan Marsden ran this story, he quoted Ann as saying the money would go to “public safety”. In the ballot argument she wrote in favor of raising your taxes, she says the money will go to public safety. Well, that’s all nice and everything, but that’s not what the measure says. The measure doesn’t promise anything of the sort. The measure only promises to place a 4 and a half cent tax on your cell phone. 

There’s alot that’s wrong with this phone tax, and I’ll be posting more information as the days go by.

And tonight, don’t forget, Toby Schindelbeck will be making his request for more disclosure from Finance Mis-Director Jennifer Hennessy. He will need support at the dais. This request is scheduled for the end of the meeting, under “Reports and Communications.” 

 

The Party’s Over

5 Aug

As the headlines declare a new bankruptcy in another California town every few weeks, we must wonder just how close Chico is coming to the brink. But how would we know – we are held off by the forehead by the same $taff that profits from our not knowing. And we let ourselves be held off – for seven years now, City Finance Mis-Director Jennifer Hennessy has point-blank refused to perform aspects of her job, the most basic functions of her position, in fact – reporting to us, the taxpayers, on the financial state of our city. And we’ve let her get away with it, in fact, I think we’ve been hoping all along she wouldn’t bother us with the petty details of running our town.

I’ve known a lot of small business owners. I’ve seen some have great success, and others I’ve watched ride down the road to perdition – some of them wearing a “Perdition or Bust!” t-shirt, in fact. I had a friend who had long dreamed of owning her own restaurant. She’d waited tables for years, and then become an accountant, running the office for a large statewide business for many years before retiring to realize her dream. With a partner she’d only known a couple of years, she bought a long functioning restaurant-bar, with the intentions of taking up the strengths of the old business, and ferreting out the weaknesses.

Unfortunately she let herself be distracted with one aspect of the business – cleanliness. Yes, that’s important. But, instead of supervising, you would often find her climbing up into the grease trap or wading into the bathrooms with mop and bucket, declaring that nobody could get the place clean enough for her. In the meantime, her partner, who’d long dreamed of owning a bar, was happily handing out all the booze to his friends. And worse – he was  cashing their bad checks out of the restaurant cash register, and then letting it go when they told him they didn’t have the money.  Apparently his only dream for retirement had been to be the most popular man in town.

So, my friend’s business flopped after a year, no matter her business sense. She didn’t have very good sense in who she trusted with her money, and then she didn’t pay attention,  is what happened.

Here in Chico, we find ourselves in the same situation. We’re too busy to oversee our own public  finances, we say, too busy with the “real world.” Well, throw some coffee in your face and wake up – the world of city finance is about to  collide with your “real” world. Your local  taxes are about to go up, up, up. Starting this November with the Utility Tax increase and a school bond, and picking up speed in 2013 with a proposal to raise sales tax in Chico, as well as a proposed “booze” tax. This in addition to what’s going on at the state and federal levels, and you’re about to feel a kick in the pants.

The liberals on city council and their toadies on $taff want the phone tax increase to pay for their malfeasance. Right now they are accused of mis-spending some $11 million in RDA money, accused of misappropriating millions to pay their own salaries, benefits and pensions, and so far, they don’t have one shred of proof to the contrary. $taffer Shawn Tillman just keeps waving his hands madly and denying it, but he so far hasn’t come up with any paper trail as to where that money actually went. You know, like you’d have to pony up in a New York minute if the IRS was banging down your door.

That in addition to the roughly $43 million yearly budget – over 80 percent going to the same salaries and employee-related expenses like health benefits and pensions they are accused of using that $11 mil in RDA dough to pay. We pay not only the employer share on those costs but the employee share as well. Excuse me if I shake my head there  – I don’t believe they have the nerve to call it the “employee share”. The “employee share” is, they get to walk off with all the money and we get stuck holding the tab. Similar to my friend’s partner emptying out the cash register taking his friends’ bad checks.

I would say that people who put up with this kind of ridiculous, blatant malfeasance on the part of their elected and hired officials certainly deserve whatever they get, except that those of us who have been paying attention just get swept right along too. We’re already living with pothole studded streets, bad water, leaky sewers, Superfund clean-up sites on public land, mis-managed public safety agencies, almost 4,000 acres of mismanaged park, and a $taff that tells us if we want any of these issues addressed we have to form a non-profit and come up with the money ourselves.

My good Lord! How long are we going to take this shit?

Toby Schindelbeck, for one, has had enough. He’s arranged for a discussion of Jennifer Hennessy’s reporting requirements for this Tuesday night’s council meeting, at the end of the meeting, and it would be nice to have some speakers get up and support his request. It’s a simple matter of Hennessy disclosing our state of affairs – in other words, how much money we got, how much we’re planning to spend over the next 30 days, on what, and how much we have coming in. Every month. Just like you should balance your family checkbook every month (oh yeah, bust a snicker there!)

I will not assume everybody does this in their own house, because look at what’s going on all around us folks. Another house in my neighborhood was just foreclosed a month ago, and sold for less than half what was owed on it.  I know, a lot of people are in trouble of their own making. That means it’s time for some of us to hunker down and hold that line. We have to keep telling the City of Chico that  the party is over.

Yes there will be a mess to clean up.

Scranton, Pennsylvania cuts workers to minimum wage – only $130,000 in their cash reserves

12 Jul

I finally got a chance to watch the video of last Tuesday’s council meeting. It cut on me during the meeting, just after Walker and Goloff were mopping up their attack on Sorensen, and I didn’t get it back til yesterday. I have watched the video in bits and snatches.  I made it to the noise ordinance conversation last night, but had to turn it off after Jessica Allen and a couple of her friends got up to demand their rights to be bad neighbors. 

One thing I learned is that the city of Chico has less than $200,000 in the reserve fund. No, I did not forget a zero on that figure, that’s it – less than $200,000. Read it and weep – and then call them to ask what they did with that property tax check you just sent in. 

You can look at the budget report here:  http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/budget.asp

You see the millions the city takes in, in sales tax (over $17 million) property tax (over $11 million), even taxes on your PG&E, phone and water (almost $7 million), and your visitors’ motel rooms (over $2 million). To me that seems petty – “bed tax”?   Some people think it’s a good idea to shake down the visitors of your town, as if  it’s not enough that they spend money on your motels, restaurants and shopping centers.  It’s a common grab all over California, every city does it.  A lot of distasteful things become “common” when no decent person stands up to say “enough is enough.” 

In Chico, as has been oft repeated, over 80 percent of our budget is in salaries and benefits. That’s the elephant in the room, and everybody’s getting pretty hip deep in elephant shit around here.  It’s a simple concept, no matter how convoluted $taff and council try to make it: if they spend all the money on salaries, benefits, and the Great Pension Stock Market Disaster, there’s no money left to pay for supplies to say,  clean up leaks in the sewer and water lines that are causing the state to fine us by the day, widen the roads that we are required to widen because of the permitting of Meriam Park, etc. And you can just get used to those pot holes in the street out front of your house.  Got bad neighbors? Get a lawyer.

What’s really frustrating are the reactions of the cops and fire – they act like they don’t get paid at all. Those guys take most of the 80 percent. They get overtime written into their schedules. According to Hennessy, both fire and the cops are over budget on their workman’s comp claims for at least the third year in a row. The city just slammed another cop contract past us without public review, and signed the new chief’s contract three days before it was made available to the public, and then only by request and a direct visit to the clerk’s office Downtown. 

So, we will get another year of poor response times, bitching and moaning from cops and fire. Get ready for your homeowners and your car insurance to go up – the insurance companies know when your local police and fire departments are a pile of shit. 

And don’t think I’m not wondering about all those suspicious house fires. 

 You can just forget about any of the services a city is supposed to offer.  Try to get something out of the city clerk these days – if you can catch her in the office! 

Well, here’s the story of Scranton, Pennsylvania – home of Michael Scott! 

http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/10/12659748-scranton-pa-slashes-workers-pay-to-minimum-wage?lite

The mayor of Scranton, when faced with a situation similar to Chico’s mess, did what needed to be done. Unfortunately, he waited until it was too late to do something rational. I’m afraid it’s come to that with our city council – if you think that scene between Goloff and Sorensen was rational, well, you deserve to live here. 

Chico Taxpayer’s Meeting Sunday, 11:30, Chico library. And don’t forget – Friday’s the last day to get your Utility Tax rebate.

25 Jun

Fourth of July is coming up, next Wednesday! I hope to see some of you in the conga line over to Hamilton City to pick up your Independence Day paraphernalia – don’t forget to hit El Patio for some chips and salsa.

The Fourth is my favorite holiday, and I like to celebrate. This Sunday I will be over at the library at 11:30 am for a meeting of the Chico Taxpayers Association. I’d like to compare notes about the November ballot sales tax hike initiative.  Jerry Brown’s original proposal has been toned down and merged with the so-called “Millionaire’s Tax.”  This hybrid would raise California’s sales tax from 7.25% to 7.5%,  while also raising income tax rates on individuals earning over $250,000 –  creating three new high-income tax brackets for taxpayers with taxable incomes exceeding $250,000, $300,000, and $500,000. I think the rhetoric in this campaign will be interesting. 

We’ll also compare any notes we have on the telephone tax, but we probably won’t have much to chew on  until the proponents – led by Mayor Ann Schwab – hand over their ballot arguments. 

REMEMBER! This Friday will be your last opportunity to get your Utility Tax rebate for 2012, those of you who qualify might want to hustle on down there. I heard from Dave, who said he went in and got his exemption – GO DAVE! I think anybody who has qualified two or more years in a row should be eligible for an exemption, to be renewed with documentation every three to five years, like the low-income rate assistance programs offered by PG&E, Cal Water and the phone companies. But, if wishes were horses, we’d all be hip-deep in horse crap, wouldn’t we? 

I realize, if you work 8 – 5 you can’t get your rebate in person. But, I’d also say, if you have more than two people in your household, you will probably find it’s worth the trouble to copy your bills – especially PG&E – and mail them in. You’d only need the first page, and you can do two-sided copies. It shouldn’t take more than two stamps to mail the whole mess. Remember to blot out your SSN’s on the copy of the first page of your tax return. 

And remember, it’s not about the money, it’s about the message.

Beat the Heat! Chico Taxpayers Association will meet at 9am next Sunday, Chico library

27 May

Next week we’ve moved our June 3 Chico Taxpayers Assoc. meeting to 9am.  I’ve asked Mark Sorensen to come in and give us his take on the phone tax and some other items before council. He asked that we get together a little earlier, so I notified the library and we have the room from 9 – 10.  

We want to get our facts straight regarding the phone tax so we can start writing letters. I want to remind everybody, it’s good to write to the council and the newspapers, but you might also be telling everybody you know who lives within the city limits. 

How do your friends react when y0u try to talk politics? I know, some of you might only have politically minded friends who stay well-informed. That isn’t always the case. A lot of our friends are busy in their lives, with their jobs, their kids, etc.  “The Real World,” where, if you don’t mind your business, your life ends up in a ditch.  Whenever I bring these “political”  issues up in the groups I swing with, I get almost exactly the same angry response every time: “When am I supposed to go to these meetings? I have a ( job/business) all day, and then when I get the chance, I’m at (one of my kids’ various activities).” One weekend I watched a kids’ sports tournament with a couple whose elderly father lay on his deathbed in Chico – they were chatting with him on the cell phone, it was heartbreaking. How do you bring up these issues when people are trying to live their lives? 

But, just recently, the father of one of my kid’s playmates came over to tell me, he reads my blog, and he writes letters to council. This is a man who does a job we all depend on, who has recently been transferred in his job to Oroville when he lives in Chico, and who has two active teenagers. His wife works too. But still they find time to stay on top of the issues. I really appreciate that – it’s like having somebody say, “I got your back Juanita!” 

We must all watch each others’ backs on these tax issues.  I think you can write a letter to the council or the newspaper in less than 30 minutes, or give a friend a simple explanation,  if you know what you want to say. Know the facts, and it’s easy to be prepared in a conversation. Please come in on Sunday and we will be going over the facts on this phone tax – just the facts, Ma’am. We need to keep it sweet and simple, let people know exactly what this tax will do. We have until November to let people know the truth. I  think we can do it. 

Mark will also try to explain to us what’s going on with this missing $255,000 that will be discussed Downtown Tuesday night. I’m not sure, but I think that’s still alot of money to misplace, and I’d like to watch $taff squiggle and scramble to explain this. Mark will try to give us the background. 

That’s Sunday, June 3, 9 – 10 am, Chico library at First and Sherman Avenues. Come on down!