|Hate and Greed - Chevron Sponsored Ballot Measure Hits the Streets
April 2, 2010
In a face slap beyond cynical, Chevron filed their utility user tax ballot measure yesterday, deceptively entitled “City of Richmond Utility Users Tax Reform Act,” that would hold Chevron’s tax payment at approximately the current minimum level while cutting everyone else’s in half and exempting low income persons and persons over 60. Click here for a copy.
Why is this cynical? Richmond receives about 25% of its general fund revenue from utility user taxes. Chevron’s measure would not only artificially cap the amount Chevron pays; it would reduce the total utility tax revenue by at least $10 million and maybe as much as $15 million. That wouldn’t just punish the City Council; it would punish every resident and business in Richmond by causing layoffs of police and firefighters, increasing potholes, abandoning park maintenance and generally forcing the condition of the City and the quality of life of its residents to decline. In fact, it could drive the City into bankruptcy or reduce services to the extent Richmond could no longer function effectively.
Chevron’s ploy, of course, is to convince voters to act selfishly to reduce their own taxes while taking care of Chevron.
This ballot measure is so vicious and so potentially devastating that it is a clear metaphor for the visceral hate that Chevron, the corporation, must have for the people of Richmond.
This is not just my perspective. See the editorial below entitled “There They go Again” from Councilmembers Rogers, Lopez and Ritterman.
In addition to mounting this greedy initiative, Chevron continues to assault City and County treasuries with property tax appeals and other litigation. See the story below about the already devastated Contra Costa County having to return $18 million to Chevron. Yes, this is the same financially strapped county we live in that is laying off sheriff deputies and prosecutors so that crime can increase with impunity in West County.
What drives this combination of corporate hate and greed that continually pits Chevron against the people?
I don’t think I’ve ever offered a book report on the E-FORUM before, but I want to recommend a book everyone, particularly Richmond residents, should read. “The Tyranny of Oil” is not a rant; it is a scholarly and scary history of the seven oil companies that to a significant extent continue to control U.S. energy policy largely to their benefit.
The author, Antonia Juhasz, is a leading oil industry, international trade, and finance policy expert and the author of The Bush Agenda . A fellow with Oil Change International and the Institute for Policy Studies, she has served as an aide to two members of Congress and holds a Master's Degree in public policy from Georgetown University.
In the tradition of the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Antonia Juhasz’s The Tyranny of Oil offers a chilling exposé of the modern American oil industry and its dire abuse of power. A leading international trade and finance policy expert and the author of The Bush Agenda, Juhasz presents eye-opening truths about a potentially catastrophic global energy crisis that only promises to get much worse in the coming years—and provides possible solutions for meaningful change. Terry Tamminen, former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, calls The Tyranny of Oil “a bold blueprint for ending the madness,” and the Christian Science Monitor tells us, “a good first step toward true energy independence is to read this insightful book.”
I saw “The Most Dangerous Man in America” a couple of days ago, and I note Daniel Elssberg’s review of this book:
“Juhasz bravely and expertly exposes the inner workings of an industry and a government riddled with secrets, lies, and deception.”
THERE THEY GO AGAIN
Decades ago Chevron got a tax loophole which now lets them save roughly $15-20 million per year by paying a lower percent on their Utility Tax than regular Richmond taxpayers.
When the City Council unanimously put the Stop Chevron's Perks on this November's ballot, Chevron trotted out the argument that this was "Chevron-bashing". After their polling revealed this argument wasn't getting any traction (because voters understand that letting Chevron save millions at the expense of Richmond residents who end up paying the bill would be "taxpayer-bashing"), Chevron is now going to place their own initiative on the ballot to try to preserve their tax loophole by confusing voters and sinking both measures.
There they go again.
As we write this, we don't know the details of where they're going with their counter-initiative, but you can bet it will try to distract voters from a simple question: should Chevron be allowed to pay a lower percent on their utility tax than you and I?
Chevron knows that voters wouldn't be happy about a tax loophole for Chevron in any year, but especially not in a year when Richmond is laying off employees and cutting back on pothole repairs, due to State tax grabs and the slow economy.
We have no shortage of ideas on how to reverse the tragic homicide rate, which is predictably high during the recession: police, keeping the schools open that are slated to be closed (Kennedy, Grant, and Olinda), paramedic services, neighborhood outreach workers, job-training, library services, parks and recreation, encouraging new employers by fixing our City's blight and potholes, etc.
But we have a shortage of money to make those ideas happen.
If you appreciate the jobs and tax base Chevron brings to Richmond (as we do), then buy from Chevron even when its a few pennies more per gallon (as we do.)
But don't sign any initiative that gives Chevron a loophole to keep their $15-20 million per year perk.
We can't afford that.
Councilmember Myrna Lopez
Contra Costa makes tentative deal with Chevron over $18 million property tax refund