City accused of not releasing public documents, sued for violating public records act

The City of San Diego long ago learned that if you obstruct and obfuscate long enough, you'll exhaust most causes. The Greater Golden Hill MAD tax revolt showed more tenacity than most, but even with two court judgments against the City, the City managed to avoid paying back most of what it took illegally from Golden Hill property owners. Funny how the City was so easily able to identify every Golden Hill property owner when it attached its illegal MAD tax to their property tax bills, yet was unable to identify them later when it came to paying back the illegal tax it had confiscated. The City never even notified property owners that they could file for a refund. For those who found out anyway, the City forced them to complete an onerous form, and apply formally for their refunds, then it limited the amount they could reclaim by dragging things out long enough to exceed the statute of limitations on the earliest years of the illegal tax. The City's reward for this dishonest chicanery was that only around 10% of Golden Hill property owners ever applied for their refunds, and even those didn't get all they were due. This shameful saga, which spanned years, leaves no one in any doubt that the City of San Diego was not merely acting unprofessionally, but downright corruptly. An ethical organization would never have skewed the voter weighting in the first place, to illegally pass a MAD that the subject property owners voted decidedly against. It would not then have disregarded the court's ruling, and continued to collect the illegal tax while it appealed the decision and dragged things out for further years, before being ruled against a second time. An ethical organization would have been forthcoming with a public apology to the Golden Hill property owners, and would have reimbursed their legal fees. It would have disbanded the MAD in a controlled, responsible manner, rather than simply deserting Golden Hill, leaving unemptied trashcans on the streets, and dead vegetation in public planters. It would have credited each Golden Hill property owner with the full amount of illegal tax that it collected - regardless of the statute of limitations. An ethical organization would have made things right just as efficiently and effectively as it made them wrong. Brock can pretend to be insulted at being called out by her peers on her unprofessionalism, but her obstruction in the Public Records Requests says far worse about her. We're all judged by the company we keep, and she appears to fit right in with San Diego's unprofessional - and unethical - City government.
— April 18, 2013 11:17 a.m.

Reneging on refunds

(continued) It all sounds great - just like the GGH MAD did initially - but it's designed to extract money a second time for things that we're already paying for in our property taxes. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association - originator and champion defender of Proposition 13 - has long been drawing attention to and fighting the "fire" tax that California has been trying to impose specifically on rural homeowners for providing fire service in their high-risk areas - again, a service that they already pay for in their property taxes HJTA Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Fire Tax. Hopefully, people will start to recognize the growing trend in California of introducing endless new taxation schemes for extorting "money for old rope" from sucker California property owners. They're coming up with new and creative ways to dress these taxes up in the finery of worthy causes, but they're all designed to take money from California taxpayers twice for the same services. Why not impose a new tax specifically for, say, policing, charged to homeowners in high crime areas; or a new tax specifically for freeway maintenance, charged to homeowners in densely populated areas with numerous freeways (like San Diego); or a new tax specifically for homeless sheltering, charged to homeowners living in downtown city centers where homeless people tend to congregate? They're all good causes, but we all pay for those services already in our property taxes. It's selective taxation - and dual taxation in its most brazen form! If you want a valuable, yet inexpensive, gift idea for your friends and family in California, you couldn't do better than giving them a $15 annual membership to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Their informative, pithy, e-mail notifications are a quick, easy read, and will keep you well aware of all the dirty tricks that the money-hungry state of California is subjecting us to without our knowledge. Fore-warned is fore-armed, and HJTA is the best defense that we Californians have against the state's insatiable appetite for our hard-earned money. I'm giving memberships to everyone I know this Christmas!
— December 5, 2012 1:46 p.m.

Reneging on refunds

GOLDEN HILL, SOUTH PARK, SAN DIEGO, AND CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS BEWARE! A NEW WAVE OF MAD-LIKE TAXES IS EMERGING ALL OVER THIS STATE!! As a Golden Hill property owner and Los Angeles resident, I'm now seeing a pattern of confiscation emerging in this money-grabbing, union-pandering, and downright crooked state. After fighting the GGH MAD for years, jumping through endless hoops to get the illegally taken money back, and only receiving a portion of it due to the City's manipulation of the legal system, I've just received, in Los Angeles, a notice from the County proposing a "Clean Water, Clean Beaches" measure, which looks, smells, and quacks like the dirty MAD duck that it is. It is starting in the very same way that the GGH MAD did, with a notice to property owners in the coastal areas, announcing a public hearing to consider "an annual clean water fee which would be collected with the property taxes." They even provide the specific amount of tax that each property - by address - would be liable for. The notice spells out "The Problem" as polluted storm water containing industrial pollutants, bacteria, viruses, pesticides, fertilizers, and trash (they throw in syringes, for added scare factor) making its way into "rivers, creeks, lakes, the bay, and coastal waters." "The solution," they claim, is an added tax on each coastal property owner for catch basin screens to reduce trash and other harmful substances caught in urban runoff, street sweeping to keep trash out of storm drains, diversion of storm water before it can pollute waterways, and programs to educate children and adults about keeping trash and other pollutants out of streets and storm drains. Just like the GGH MAD, all of these things are already supposed to be being provided by the property taxes that we pay. Note that the notice further says, while "the clean water fee would provide dedicated funding for local and regional projects to help keep pollution out of storm water and runoff," it adds that "the fee could also be combined with other funding such as state and federal grants for multibenefit projects that improve water quality and provide other public benefits as well." As an example, they list "increase local drinking water supplies; provide and irrigate recreational areas such as parks, ball fields, and schools; protect open space and natural areas; create, restore, and improve wetlands and habitat; and protect public health and safety." There's something there for everyone's pet cause, and the last one they threw in as a scare tactic for anyone who wasn't already convinced. (continued in next comment)
— December 5, 2012 1:45 p.m.

Watchdog group questions the legality of maintenance assessment districts in a new lawsuit against the City of San Diego

The City of San Diego acted in bad faith, from start to finish, with the Greater Golden Hill MAD, so it's highly likely that it is also doing the same with other MADs. Here is the sad saga of how the City handled the GGH MAD: - The City inflated their vote to illegally pass the MAD in the first place, inflicting the unwanted and unwarranted double-tax on residents who were already paying for services with their property taxes. - The City pocketed a portion of the MAD assessments for "administration" despite not providing any. - The City gave the remaining MAD money to a private company - the Community Development Corporation (CDC) - with the City's Economic Development Corporation nominally providing oversight (non-existent). - The CDC: • promptly ousted the Golden Hill property owners ELECTED by the community to serve on the MAD Oversight Committee, and replaced them with its own APPOINTED committee • hiked the amount of the MAD assessments, in direct violation of the approved budget on which the MAD was formed • used a significant amount of the MAD funds to market itself (no doubt to solicit further MAD contracts) • received "contributions" from the contractors that it selected to service the GGH MAD • purported to have spent significant funds on audits which were never documented nor filed (the City's overseeing Economic Development Department REFUSED to document audits, despite an explicit recommendation by the Ethics Committee) • had an IRS filing showing the CDC to be approximately $150,000 negative through the previous fiscal year • employed a company - Harvest Landscape - which operated on a suspended Contractors' License, and submitted one-line bills for approximately $17,000 per month (with no itemization of services provided) - The City fought the residents of Greater Golden Hill, who filed a lawsuit to dismantle the illegally formed MAD. - The city lost the case, but appealed, using "lawfare" against Golden Hill property owners to continue taking further MAD assessments while the case languished in the courts. - The City lost the appeal, but delayed shutting down the MAD and refunding the money, thereby avoiding having to repay homeowners for the first year's assessment by exceeding the statute of limitations for refunds. - Once the MAD was finally ceased, the City failed to "administer" an orderly shutdown of the MAD - instead, allowing the CDC to simply walk away, leaving public trash cans un-emptied, dog waste stations overflowing, and residents having to clean up the mess. The City of San Diego not only acted in bad faith throughout the five-year Greater Golden Hill MAD debacle, it acted incompetently and deviously too. Aside from flouting Proposition 26, MADs are a blatant end run around Proposition 13. The Greater Golden Hill MAD was dual taxation, cronyism, and gross government waste, fraud, and incompetence all rolled into one. Neither the community nor its residents are any better off for it!
— October 1, 2012 6:09 p.m.

City Issues Partial Refunds To Residents in Greater Golden Hill

In his message to Golden Hill residents on May 10, 2012, Todd Gloria opened: **"Friends, The reimbursement process for the illegal assessments collected by the Greater Golden Hill MAD has been finalized."** "Illegal assessments," he admitted! No apology or shame from the scheme's most committed champion - no beseeching promise to make things right, and to restore property owners' trust. Just a factual statement, as though Todd Gloria were no further involved in this "illegal assessment" than someone simply reporting the news of it. In fact, the City has the audacity to warn property owners - on the very form required for claiming recompense from this illegal assessment: **"WARNING: It is a criminal offense to file a false claim (Cal. Penal Code § 72)."** Isn't that rich?! If what's good for the goose is good for the gander, why is no one under indictment for cooking up - and perpetuating - this "illegal" scheme? If any property owner had defrauded even half as many people, he would be jailed for a very long time. City councilors should not be above the law. Indeed, there should be no leniency for abusing the power that's afforded those in public office, as their illegal acts affect many at a time. They should be at risk of losing far more that just re-election. Deliberately engineering this "statute of limitations" get-out, to avoid repaying illegally taken assessments is just the icing on the putrid, corrupt cake that the city has force-fed its property owners. After they crookedly conceived and illegally pushed through the GGH MAD, they handed over management of it to another crooked organization (no doubt in someone's pocket) that blatantly mismanaged the resources, and pilfered funds for its own benefit. The City then disregarded one court's ruling on the illegality of their scheme, and even after a second court upheld the original judgment, they delayed the restitution long enough to avoid paying everything back to the homeowners that they'd fleeced. Funny how the City knew exactly whom to bill for the "illegal assessments," but doesn't know whom to pay them back to! They're most certainly counting on a healthy attrition, in an attempt to keep as much of their ill-gotten gains as they can! Since when do thieves only have to return stolen goods if the rightful owner actively petitions for their return, and does so within a prescribed time limit that the thieves are able to manipulate by abusing the legal system? These elected City officials are using "lawfare" against the very homeowners who elected them to protect homeowners' interests. Again, why aren't these people in jail?!
— August 6, 2012 2:11 p.m.

Let’s Assess the Assessments

JustWondering writes: *"I question the notion government is collecting less because of Prop 13. Government is just spending well beyond it means because no one is really accountable."* Dan Walters, of The Sacramento Bee, wrote a piece on October 11, 2011, titled, "Financial facts don't back anti-Proposition 13 propaganda." His research is enlightening: **"In 1977-78, according to the State Board of Equalization, schools and local governments collected $10.3 billion in property taxes. The amount plummeted to $4.9 billion in 1978-79 as Proposition 13 cut the average property tax rate by more than half. By 2010-11, however, property tax collections had risen to precisely 10 times as much – $49 billion per year – due to new construction and re-evaluation of existing property, even though the property tax rate was fixed at slightly over 1 percent. During that same 33-year period, state general fund revenue, principally sales and income taxes, increased sevenfold – scarcely two-thirds the property tax revenue growth rate. Incidentally, inflation and population growth combined were about 400 percent during that same period, less than half the expansion in property taxes. Obviously, the assertion that Proposition 13 has been an unconscionable barrier to revenue growth doesn't hold up."** Yes, JustWondering, our Government is - at all levels - just spending well beyond its means, and it has hog-tied us (five years in court to undo the illegal Golden Hill MAD), to prevent us from holding them accountable. Mr. Walter's article provides a healthy and very interesting dose of reality regarding the taxation frenzy of our California politicians. Read the rest of it at [][1]. [1]:
— April 25, 2012 7:26 p.m.

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