Gaines rails against rural fire fees
Despite my efforts to stop it by referendum and legislation, the illegal fire tax is being assessed on more than 825,000 rural Californians starting this month, including 4,207 in Mono County.
This so-called fee was passed in 2011 to extract up to $150 per habitable structure from property owners. The tax will not provide any more fire protection and will actually make it harder for local fire agencies to raise the money they need to keep people safe. It’s a lose-lose proposition for the people in my district and for anyone concerned with public safety and the rule of law.
This tax should have been subject to a 2/3 vote in the legislature just like every other tax, but the Democrats called it a fee to get around that requirement. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is planning to file a lawsuit disputing the fee’s legality and I hope it gets overturned as soon as possible.
Until that happens, though, the State Board of Equalization (BOE) has already begun mailing the first bills for the new fire tax this month and hopes to have all bills sent by December. The BOE has also begun mailing an advance notice to the affected property owners to warn them that the bills are coming, and to provide them with a brochure explaining the “fee.”
No matter how many mailers or explanations or warnings any agency sends out, it doesn’t make this tax any more right or more legal. It was, is and always will be a shakedown of rural property owners that takes their money every single year but gives them zero in the way of additional fire protection.
Wildfires are currently raging out of control across the North State and they won’t be put out by the phantom protections promised in this bogus tax. We need more firefighters, bulldozers, trucks and the other equipment that does the hard work of fighting these wildfires and protecting us, our homes and our property. This tax leaves us no safer, only poorer and more skeptical than ever of a government that takes and spends taxpayer dollars with no regard to the law or to fairness.
I wanted to share with you several resources you can use to equip yourselves with information:
Visit www.calfirefee.com to see if you live in a “State Responsibility Area” and will be paying this tax. For questions regarding your bill, contact 888.310.6447. For more information regarding the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association efforts, visit www.firetaxprotest.org.
Note: Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento and Sierra counties.
State Sen. Ted Gaines
Cars over pedestrians
I write to remind CalTrans or TOML that the pedestrian yield light between the Post Office and Base Camp Cafe has been out for the better half of this summer.
This clearly shows that automobile traffic is more important than pedestrian safety. When a stoplight intended for cars malfunctions, it is fixed immediately.
While you are fixing this signal, why not replace the yellow LED’s with red ones so the LAliens get the picture when the flashers are on.
On a better note: Congratulations to Grace Church for taking first in Coed Softball this year. Watch your back; We’re coming for you.
Scott Calvert, E-Z Duzit Softball Club
The following is a two-parter.
The first letter was sent by the Town’s Community Development Department to Philip Hertzog, owner of Mammoth Outdoor Sports and Value Sports, regarding violations of the Town’s outdoor sales ordinances.
The second letter is Tom Cage’s response to the Town’s letter.
Dear Mr. Hertzog:
This letter is in reference to the outdoor sales (tents) that have been occurring at both Mammoth Outdoor Sports and Value Sports over the past several months. We have received several complaints regarding outdoor sales at both businesses. In response to the complaints we have reviewed the outdoor sales permits for both businesses and have determined that both businesses are operating outside of the permit limits. Outdoor sales at both businesses have been taking place almost continuously this summer, which does not comply with the Town’s requirements regarding outdoor sales. The Town’s Municipal Code limits outdoor sales to a total of nine days per year.
Additionally, signage related to outdoor sales (banners) is limited to 20 square feet as well as a limitation of only one banner per business. The Municipal Code also includes the following limitations regarding banners:
“17.40.100.N.1.b.iii. Special sales and promotional banners, including parking lot sales and going out of business sales, may be allowed for a period or periods of not longer than a total of thirty days per year. A permit may be issued for not less than two consecutive days, up to thirty days.”
Based on visual inspections of the tent sales, the banners that have accompanied the tent sales appear to exceed the size requirement and have likely been installed for more than the thirty day limitation and also exceed the limitation of one banner per business.
Any future banner installations will require a banner permit and must meet all Municipal Code requirements as applicable. Please ensure that any banners installed at either business meet the Town’s signage requirements and a permit is obtained.
We appreciate you obtaining the outdoor sales permit for both businesses; however, both have exceeded the above listed limit for 2012. Additionally, we are still waiting for the property owner signature on the outdoor sales application for Value Sports in order to finalize the permit. Because the excessive outdoor sales over the past several months exceed the permit limits of nine days total of outdoor sales, no further outdoor sales will be allowed for either business through the end of the year. Mammoth Outdoor Sports will require a new outdoor sales permit for 2013 and at that point you can schedule the sales days for the next three year period to best suit your business needs.
Please note that this letter constitutes the courtesy warning regarding outdoor sales. We appreciate your continued conformance with our Municipal Code requirements so we can avoid any future code compliance actions, such as citations with associated fines. Please obtain the property owner signature for the Value Sports permit as soon as possible so the permit is complete.
Thank you for your compliance, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding outdoor sales.
Cage responded with a letter to Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw
You are asking them to cease on the banners which were put up and have remained up at Mammoth Outdoor Sports continuously all summer. An additional banner and their latest yard sale was put up on Aug. 23, the date of the letter. This has occurred without a break and will most likely continue until who knows when. You are telling them that they are not allowed any more outdoor sales for the rest of the calendar year and should reapply in 2013 for next year’s permits. Of course, there are a lot of sales in town during the month of October.
You are confirming that they don’t even have a valid permit to conduct parking lot sales at Value Sports because they have not gotten the owner’s signature? He lives in town for godsakes. How hard is it to get a signature? Yet Value Sports has continued to have sales beyond the size, banner and time frame allowed and gone totally unchecked without a valid permit.
QUESTION: WHY SHOULD I BOTHER WITH ANY PERMIT OR FOLLOW ANY RULES WITH REGARD TO SIGNAGE, BANNERS, TIME IN THE PARKING LOT OR FEES TO THE TOWN?
You are not fining a perpetual abuser. You are not limiting them to anything in the future. You are not enforcing the code or ordinance now, which they are clearly in violation of and have been all summer. Obviously, no one seems to care about how it makes the town look.
THIS IS A JOKE, RIGHT? I AM BEING PUNKED, RIGHT???
I am always asked, ‘so what do you recommend’? Well, for starters, you could explain to them that they have been out an estimated number of days this summer which has used up their days for the next (x) number of years. Second, you could say they have violated the banner rules of size and here is the first fine, no warning. And finally, you could say that if there are any other violations, you will be cited at the rate of additional fines for each violation. And the fines will continue to escalate and if not paid they will be attached to the property owner. Which I believe the ordinance allows you to do.
May I remind you how much you, the town, has received (or about to receive) in bed tax penalties on R1 rentals? May I remind you, the town, why have ordinances in place that are ignored? Are you not selectively enforcing ordinances? Could this lead to an abuser of some other ordinance to cry foul?
As a matter of fact, I am not even sure if my permit is valid for this year or if I needed to renew it? Why bother? Why pay? And yes, let’s put up another sales banner that is 20 sq. feet. It pales in comparison. Last year, I had a banner up at P3 for discount ski rentals on the weekends; I received a letter within a month and complied.
Well, get that letter ready again, my banner will go up as soon as the season starts and will be there every day, why not, nothing is enforced.
Holy Mother of Pearl, please tell me I am being punked and that the rules do not apply to Mammoth Outdoor Sports and Value Sports because they are ???? well, heck, just because they contribute so much to the town. They sure seem to operate outside of any rules that the rest of us work under.