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  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.”
—Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers


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.)
We can afford that.

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
Councilmember Jeff Ritterman
Councilmember Jim Rogers

Contra Costa makes tentative deal with Chevron over $18 million property tax refund
By Rick Radin
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 04/01/2010 03:40:12 PM PDT
Updated: 04/01/2010 05:11:45 PM PDT

Contra Costa has reached a tentative agreement to spread over two years payment of an $18 million property tax refund it owes Chevron Corp., easing the blow to the county general fund and the budgets of cities and local agencies.
The county and its agencies will make two payments. The first payment of $6 million will be due Aug. 1 and the second $12 million payment will be due a year later, said Supervisor John Gioia, who with county Administrator David Twa, negotiated the deal.
The county counsel is reviewing the deal to make sure no complications arise.
Cities will feel the bite in December 2011, when the share of the first $6 million they owe will be deducted from the property tax they receive from a county tax trust fund, said county Auditor Stephen Ybarra. The rest of the money will be deducted in December 2012.
Chevron also agreed to suspend interest on the debt, a key provision for the county, which wanted to cap its liability. Contra Costa was facing the expiration of an interest moratorium Thursday.
"(The agreement) will definitely soften the blow to all agencies," Gioia said. "Waiving the interest going forward was a key provision for us."
The refund is due because the county assessment appeals board decided that Contra Costa over-assessed Chevron's Richmond refinery for the 2003 through 2006 tax years.
Chevron also is appealing its refinery assessment for the 2007 through 2009 tax years. That case won't come before the appeals board for at least six months, according to Assessor Gus Kramer.
Chevron did not respond Thursday to requests for a comment.
The county general fund owes Chevron $1.85 million. Other amounts range from a high of $1.88 million for the Education Revenue Augmentation Fund, a pool of property tax money for primary and secondary schools, to less than $100 for several small agencies. The state will repay the refunds for school districts, because it guarantees them revenue based on average daily attendance, said Stel Cordano, fiscal consultant for the state Department of Education in Sacramento.
"If local income goes down, then the state will backfill the local revenues that the districts lost," Cordano said.
The news came as a relief for the San Ramon Valley School District, which owes Chevron $1.02 million, said district spokesman Terry Koehne.
"We did a little digging on this, also," Koehne said. "If we have to pay, we will figure out how to get reimbursement."
There was pleasure at the news at Antioch City Hall. Antioch owes Chevron a little over $94,000. The city is drawing down $2 million in reserves to cover operating expenses this year, said City Manager Jim Jakel.
"We will definitely benefit from not having to pay it until next year," he said.
Concord is spending $10 million more a year than it is taking in and a delay in its $123,190 refund to Chevron is welcome, said City Manager Dan Keen.
Contact Rick Radin at 925 952-5053.
What county, agencies will pay Chevron:
·  Contra Costa County general fund: $1,841,915
·  Contra Costa County Fire District: $912,721
·  San Ramon Valley Fire District: $457,927
·  East Bay Regional Park District: $397,727
·  Richmond Tax District 1: $276,118
·  Contra Costa County Library: $202,958