November 3, 2007

More bonds anyone?

Great Advice. Lets face it. No matter how many taxes we pay or bonds we taxpayers pay interest on (no bonds are not free) there will never be enough money for the voracious appetite of the "public safety" unions. Orange County passed some bond measures a few years ago just for firefighting readiness and the money was pissed away on foolish nonsense (in addition to out of control salaries and pensions). Pay more in taxes and it will get wasted. 90% that is true with so called "freebie" bonds advertised on the phony propositions. The reason is that the people we elect to guard the money are crooks and liars. The goal is to get govt. to use the money it already has more wisely before we turn into a socialist republic. Better yet just keep your fire and flood insurance up to date and quit pinning your hopes on the govermnet to help you out. Can't wait until the region is hit with a large earthquake. That will make Katrina look like like a holiday.

A weekly opinion column from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
Don't Get Burned Twice
By Jon Coupal

Those who have suffered loss in the fires that have ravaged Southern
California could, along with other California citizens across the
state, get burned again.

There is no minimizing the extent of the calamity. During the worst
of the crisis, nearly one million people were compelled to evacuate
their homes. All those who were not in immediate danger had to do to
grasp the magnitude of the disaster was to watch the continuous
television coverage, or just look out their windows at the smoke on
the horizon.

While the vast majority of citizens feel genuine compassion for the
victims and admiration for the firefighters who have stood between
us and the inferno, there are those who have mixed feelings. These
folks may also feel for those who have lost their homes, and in some
cases their lives, but they also experience a quiet feeling of
elation. These are the members of the political class who see
opportunity in misfortune.

The debate has already begun as to what should and could have been
done to head off or minimize fire damage. Some have even gone so far
as to blame, without evidence, U.S. involvement in Iraq or global
warming. But back in the real world, a serious evaluation of our
fire suppression techniques and resources is justifiable. And it is
certainly appropriate that we look for lessons that will help us
reduce future risk.

Unfortunately, it is as certain as night follows day, that prior to
thoroughly evaluating any actual need, there will be politicians,
bureaucrats and leaders of public safety employee unions who will be
advocating new taxes "to keep us safe." Indeed, an opinion piece in
the San Diego newspaper has already blamed Proposition 13 -- "which
slashed property taxes" -- for the inability to organize a more
regionalized response to fire dangers. (Never mind that per capita
property tax collections in San Diego, even adjusting for inflation,
are far higher than they were just prior to Prop. 13).

The appropriate level of service and taxation is always a legitimate
subject for public debate. But before we let our emotional reaction
to the fires cloud our judgment, we should take a collective deep

Those who want more and higher taxes, which is most of the political
establishment, have no shame when it comes to playing on emotions to
get taxpayers to open their wallets. Their favorite tools to
manipulate votes are children, public safety and natural disasters
-- an extension of the public safety issue.

Almost everyone can remember being asked to approve a new tax
because "it's for the children." In recent years, Rob Reiner has
backed several tax increase initiatives, one that succeeded and one
that failed, that used children in this way.

For tax raisers, anything related to public safety is also
considered a good bet to squeeze more from taxpayers. Not long ago,
Los Angeles County voters were asked to consider a bump in the sales
tax for police. Backers of the higher tax ran a television ad
showing a woman and her daughter cowering in their home as someone
tried to break in. It was not hard to get the intended message that
you or your loved ones would become victims if the new tax did not

Natural disasters have played a major role in the high level of
sales taxes all Californians pay today. During the special election
of 1993, the Legislature placed on the ballot Proposition 172, a
permanent half-cent sales tax increase that would go to local
government for public safety, including fire suppression. Ten days
before election day, tracking polls showed the measure lagging. Then
several major wildfires broke out and made fighting fires a topical
issue. The tax promoters seized the opportunity and ran a
last-minute television blitz featuring soaring flames and sweating
firefighters. The dramatic ad turned the political dynamic on its
head and the tax for public safety was approved with 58 percent of
the vote.

Ironically, we are all paying more and we still have fires.
Politicians who will propose new taxes in the aftermath of the
recent disaster are hoping voters will have forgotten that we are
already paying higher taxes for fire protection. Let's be careful
not to get burned again.

Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
-- California's largest taxpayer organization -- which is dedicated
to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers' rights.

This column can be found on the HJTA website at:

Friday, October 26, 2007
Pols, voters said no to fire funds
Firefighters' 2005 effort to fund new equipment was defeated 3-1

The Orange County Register

Two of the Orange County politicians now complaining about the lack of air support for the Santiago Fire opposed firefighters' effort to purchase new helicopters and trucks two years ago.

In fact, county officials today are sitting on more than $80 million in excess revenue from a statewide public safety sales tax adopted 13 years ago.

That surplus has been a longstanding sore spot for OC firefighters, who at times this week were so overwhelmed they had to seek refuge inside fire retardant tents.

The firefighter's 2005 ballot initiative would have redirected a small portion of the ½ cent sales tax, providing $8 million for new helicopters and $33 million for new fire trucks.

But the entire Board of Supervisors, the sheriff and district attorney opposed the measure, saying it was an attempt to pick the pocket of county law enforcement. County voters rejected the initiative, with 73 percent voting no.

This week, State Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange and Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell joined Orange County Fire Authority Chief Chip Prather in blaming state fire officials for not sending enough air support during the early hours of the fire.

Spitzer called the lack of resources being delivered by the state "unconscionable."

That rankled firefighters, who remember that both Campbell and Spitzer campaigned against their funding measure and signed the ballot arguments against it.

"Many of those who are now complaining about inadequate resources are the very people who opposed firefighters' efforts to secure those resources," said Dan Young, who represents the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association.

Orange County firefighters have argued with the supervisors for years about the proceeds of the public safety tax. Firefighters say politicians used the devastating 1993 Laguna fire to sell the tax to the public. Orange County has collected more than $2 billion since the tax went into effect in January of 1994.

County officials maintain that the tax proceeds belong to the sheriff and the district attorney. They say the Fire Authority only serves 43 percent of the county and has its own property tax funding base.

The same argument has raged up and down the state, pitting firefighters against numerous county boards. In some counties, supervisors have shared the proceeds of the tax with fire departments.

In 2005, Orange County firefighters gave up on the lobbying and spent more than $600,000 to put a special ballot initiative together that would have diverted up to 10 percent of the county's share of the public safety tax to the Orange County Fire Authority. That would have been about $20 million a year.

In a February 2004 resolution adopted by the Orange County Fire Authority, the board of directors noted that "due to lack of sufficient funding, the authority has been forced to keep equipment in use that should have been replaced long ago, including Vietnam-era helicopters and aging wildfire fighting trucks."

A document presented to supervisors in 2004 noted that the consequences of continued funding shortfalls at the fire authority would mean a "greater likelihood that initial resources will be unable to control fires in their early stages so as to prevent additional losses."

The county supervisors, Sheriff Mike Carona, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and the Orange County Employees Association all fought a bitter campaign against the ballot measure, titled Measure D.

Supervisors Campbell, Spitzer and Chris Norby argued that the union-sponsored initiative sought to cover bad spending practices by the fire authority and dip into critical law enforcement resources.

"They weren't asking the voters to raise revenue. They just wanted to stick their fingers in the sheriff's and DA's pie. I didn't feel fire should be competing with law enforcement," Spitzer said.

Campbell saw Measure D as a move by the firefighters' union to "add new union members."

He came up with a novel idea for thwarting the ballot initiative: The supervisors placed three other initiatives tinkering with proceeds of the public safety tax on the ballot. .

All four were defeated by a three-to-one margin in November of 2005.

Young and the firefighters now say the funds from that ballot vote would have made a big difference during this week's fires.

Fire officials and experts from outside the county agree.

John "J.P." Harris, a retired 38-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said Orange County has only itself to blame for the lack of air resources this week.

"If Orange County wants to have adequate air resources for an initial attack on a wildland fire, the only way they can guarantee that is to own it," Harris said. "I feel (Fire Chief Chip Prather's) frustration. I just think citizens of Orange County, if they want to have air resources, they need to pay for it themselves and not depend on the state."

The Los Angeles City Fire Department has four helicopters -- double that of Orange County. The Los Angeles County Fire Department, the biggest on the West Coast, has 10 aircraft, including three large Sikorsky Firehawks. The city also rents two "Super Scooper" planes from September through January.

"Why do we have a fleet and others don't? Because the taxpayers of Los Angeles County pay for it," said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Sam Padilla. "Where do you spend your budget?"

Orange County's Campbell said Friday that the fire authority does need to look at its resources. Perhaps, he said, the county should keep the two old helicopters and add two more.

"The fact we weren't able to get the resources we always assumed would be available, says we've got to relook at the assumption," he said.

Contact the writer: Contact the writer at

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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