It’s not “modernization,” it’s extension

The rhetoric is flying fast and furious tonight about the upcoming Measure ‘U’ ordinance vote. This is the one that will authorize our city council to make changes in the current Utility Users Tax.

The received opinion is that this vote will only “modernize” the old tax and bring it up to date with current technology. We’ve just heard Dave Golonski make this point tonight– it’s evidently become their mantra.

But as we pointed out earlier, a “yes” vote can do much, much more than this. The ordinance– if approved– will dramatically expand the application of the city’s current utility tax.

The current utility tax can already be applied to cell phones, text messages, video chat, internet phone, satellite phone via the internet, i.e., the works. Even data transmissions back and forth.

What the current tax cannot be applied to is non-personal, non-back and forth communications. The revision makes a radical change in this old, restricted definition, to the point where the new UUT can be applied to any kind of point-to-point electronic communications technology. That’s how radically it’s been re-written.

This includes the internet, both cable and wireless, as well as landline and wireless cable TV, including satellite transmissions. There’s plenty of room in the new language.

They don’t want to talk about this huge change in the law, but it’s true. And they want you to approve it ASAP.

The only thing that would be in the way of new taxes for Burbank are certain state or federal laws that prevent cities from applying their UUTs to specific applications. But those laws can always change in the future– and probably will.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “It’s not “modernization,” it’s extension

  1. BobRumson

    You’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. You’re so sure (you must be a lawyer… care to prove it with your Bar #?) that they can, but then in other posts you point out that AT&T lost lawsuits in collecting these very taxes that you claim they can collect.

    So which is it? Can they, or can’t they?

    And, given the decrease in revenues in the past few years, don’t you think that if they could have, they would have been?

    You’re so smart, you should march down to the Council meeting and tell them the error of their ways. Oh, wait, yah thats right…. you know you’re wrong so you don’t even have the cojones to stand up and show yourself.

    Where do you buy your tin-foil in bulk, anyway?

    • semichorus

      AT&T lost the original class action lawsuit from customers. They have to pay them back.

      So, because AT&T already handed this tax money over to the cities for the last five years, now they want the cities to pay it back. Makes sense.

      All AT&T did is collect the utility tax money on internet usage. They didn’t keep it.

    • DixieFlyer

      BTW, tinfoil is sold in bulk by a former Burbank Police Chief.
      Mention BobRumson by name for a “discount”–and don’t forget to pay your “sales tax”!!!

  2. Chad

    Off topic. Family commitment tonight. I’m watching the Council meeting now at 9:45. I’ve no idea what happened with Gordon’s legal fees issue but I hope we did the right thing. The more I think about this the angrier I get.

  3. Tim

    Watching tonight some people brought up good questions about this uut tax but the council was unable to answer and the flad guy danced around the questions. The fladd guy did say it was accurate that it adds the tax on new things. This tax is sneaky and slimy and just a way to get more money from poor people. I think this really is a new tax and if it passes we will all see it suddenly increase our bills even though the barlow says it won’t raise the tax. Sorry if it raises my bills it raised the tax.

    • Anne V

      This is a good reason why the all mail in election is bad. Most people will find out about this when they get their ballot (just like I did – oh, surprise, there is a measure to vote on, I wonder what it is about?, oh that’s OK, just a few updates on wording.). There is not time to organize a campaign against it before voters realize what they are voting for. The city attorney’s blurb makes it sound like it is just a little adjustment on wording. Nothing about what these changes are going to cost people. Most people will not bother to read the whole thing. So sneaky!

      • DixieFlyer

        Many thanks Anne V, for your candid sentiments.
        On issue after issue, they DO try to be “sneaky”.
        Exchanges like we participate in will,hopefully, get them to slow down or think twice until we can get some “outside help” to “reign them in”.

  4. TLR

    Ok Bob Rasmussen I get it your talking about a comparison between Bell and Burbank where the indictments came before the people marched down with pitch forks. Many of us are waiting for the indictments to hit at city hall here too.

  5. Tim

    What the hell is Talamantes talking about on the Gordon attorney issue ? What a jerk he is. Does he think we believe for a minute he would not get an attorney if Golonski threatened him??

  6. Citizen

    Agreed Anne. I am becoming more and more convinced that the all mail ballot has way more bad side effects than the supposed positives. Sorry folks but cost savings pitted against citizen involvement is a no go in my book. Half of Burbank does not even know there is an election right now so this city has failed miserably in getting the word out. Who came up with the not so bright idea of the all mail ballot anyway ?

    • semichorus

      Barlow and Company, after the anti-airport ROAR initiative qualified. And against the objection of the ROAR people.

      Staff and council-majority (not Kramer) thought that an all-mail ballot would water down the ‘nutcases’ and “council crazies” and defeat the issue. They were wrong.

      That’s why they wouldn’t pay the postage any more after this debacle. They want to have it both ways– ease of office, the ability to ‘craft’ a suitable return (if necessary), a wide-spread electorate to keep the crazies tamped down, and no pre-paid postage to keep the flaky hinkies (and pesky low-income apartment tenants) away from the polls on troublesome issues and candidates. They don’t want to make it too easy to vote.

      It doesn’t take Einstein to figure any of this out. It’s pretty obvious and hamfisted.

      For years these people (the Barlow-Golonski-and later Rogers crowd) have thought they were the smartest guys in town. They’re not.

  7. http://iluvburbank.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/408/

    Vote NO on Measure U – Utility Users TAX

    Don’t be fooled by the City’s deceptive marketing of this ballot measure as a “modernization” of the UUT to fund City Services; It’s an attempt to expand what the City can TAX and protect themselves from having to refund telecommunication giants such as AT&T & Verizon for what maybe illegal Utility Tax charges on our Cell Phone bills (check your Bills folks…it’s there). They also want to TAX Satellite TV subscribers, so if you’re a Direct TV or DISH Network subscriber like us, you’ll be taxed an extra 7%. VOIP Subscribers (Vonage) will also be subject to this TAX, as will Cable & DSL Subscribers. You name it, they want to TAX it!

    Very Important Note: As stated by City Manager Mike Flad when questioned in a recent open Council meeting, these funds are “unrestricted” General Fund monies, which means they can be used for anything i.e. revenues generated from the UUT are not set-aside or earmarked specifically for Parks or Safety Services but can be used to pay public employee Bonuses, BPD litigation costs that the City refuses to provide an accounting for, BWP Snr Mgm’t pay raises, and whatever else they want. Given the City chose to raise Water Rates 13.5% last year (almost twice the actual MWD increase) and hand BWP GM Ron Davis a 21% pay raise over 3 years, voting NO on this measure is also a great way to protest that unconscionable decision. And don’t forget, BWP has proposed more Rate increases (+8.4% Water, +8% Garbage, +4% Sewer) this June. Please spread the word on this …you will be paying more by virtue of additional TAXES on top of further Utility Rate hikes!

    • semichorus

      That’s the most misleading thing about the Measure ‘U’ ballot statement: it clearly says that these monies are earmarked for our happy-happy Burbank services, when they’re not. There’s no guarantee of anything.

      The ballot statement makes it sound like this is a vote for library and park taxes. It’s completely false, and it also blatantly electioneers.

      It’s also the longest ballot statement I’ve ever seen printed on the ballot itself. The Secretary of State would never allow something like this on a state issue. It’s written like an ad.

      The current ordinance requires the bundling of taxable and non-taxable utility uses, which is now illegal– or challenged in court. The proposed revision un-bundles the utility bills and separates the amounts.

      Now you’d think that this was a necessary change, but it’s not. The utility companies are the ones who collect the tax– not the city– and they are ALREADY following the law by un-bundling these different tax/non-tax services from one another. That’s why they got sued– they weren’t doing it before.

      Even though Burbank’s current ordinance is illegal in this area, it doesn’t matter. It’s not being enforced. If Burbank tried to enforce bundling all these things together they’d get laughed out of court. So it’s not going to happen.

      Even though they deny it, this proposed UUT ordinance allows the city council to immediately impose the 7% tax on all electronic communications, not just inter-personal as now. That’s how broadly it was written. The only thing that would stop them is state or federal law– such as taxing internet access. But there’s nothing to stop them from taxing cable and wireless TV as a new utility.

  8. Burbank Resident

    If they want to add this tax to everything under the sun now and we let them do it they will be back soon to increase he tax as well. Remember the conserve water program which sounded reasonable being followed up by the, oh me oh my sales have declined so we need to increase the water rates and give the big poobah of the water and power department a great big raise.

  9. Good points Semi & Burbank Resident. Here’s another excellent Commentary on Burbank’s deceptive Measure U ballot measure by BurbankNBeyond.com’s Editor Graig Sherwood:

    http://bluffhype.com/blog/2011/03/31/this-is-a-measure-u-dont-want-to-vote-for/#more-692

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