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Taxpayers group withdraws opposition to Santa Rosa city charter change

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County Taxpayers Association officials say they will withdraw their opposition ballot argument to a proposed change in Santa Rosa bylaws heading to voters this fall, saying they misunderstood the measure.

The group on Aug. 20 filed a ballot argument against Measure T, which contains several tweaks to the city charter so non-controversial they were lumped together into a “clean-up” ballot measure.

The group nevertheless took issue with one portion of the measure dealing with pensions. The language removes a section of the charter restricting pension plans for city workers to federal Social Security or the state pension system.

City workers receive pension benefits through the California Public Employees Retirement System, and therefore do not pay into Social Security.

The change was proposed as a way to give future city councils flexibility in dealing with pension issues, such as converting to hybrid pension programs.

But association officials misinterpreted the proposed changes, and believed the measure would allow the city to grant workers social security benefits on top of state pension benefits, something it already can do but doesn’t.

“Adding Social Security benefits to the current retirement plans would further increase the city’s financial problems,” the group declared, urging voters to reject the measure.

But after learning that the changes have nothing to do with the city’s ability to offer workers Social Security benefits, Dan Drummond, the association’s executive director, said the group no longer opposed the measure.

“We are going to withdraw our opposition to Measure T,” Drummond said. “The last thing I ever want to do is to put something out there that is false or misleading.”

Drummond said the group made the decision after conferring with Mike Lavin, a director of the association and the author of the argument.

Bob Andrews, a member of the city’s Charter Review Committee, said he also informed Lavin that the group’s opposition was off-base.

Drummond said he is still exploring how to go about withdrawing the argument.

State election law allows “any or all of the materials” in a ballot argument “to be amended or deleted” during a 10-day public review period if a judge finds “clear and convincing proof that the material in question is false (or) misleading.”

“I think at this point their only option would be to have a judge order us not to put it on the ballot,” said Elizabeth Acosta, Sonoma County elections manager.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.





17 Responses to “Taxpayers group withdraws opposition to Santa Rosa city charter change”

  1. Dan J Drummond says:

    Sorry, John. I wasn’t sure if your understanding was correct, so I was asking Dan A. Drummond to clarify. I didn’t see Dan A. Drummond’s reply, because the moderator must have released both our postings in the same batch.

    I hope the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association updates their web site to simply say,
    “Everyone is invited to attend. Price per person is $25 ($20 with advance reservations) and includes lunch.”

    I wonder if there’s a dress code. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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  2. John Galt says:

    The “other” Mr. Drummond already did- he said I was right on all accounts.

    what exactly do you think that “potential members” means? That would be guests, and they are welcome to attend.

    And if your hard earned money is important to you, I would suggest making an advance reservation, so you can save 25% on the cost of your lunch.

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  3. Dan J Drummond says:

    Is what John Galt said “You can attend meetings as a guest, and just pay the cost of your lunch.” true?
    The Sonoma County Taxpayers Association (SCTA) web site currently states “All members, potential members and their guests are invited to attend. Price per person is $25 ($20 with advance reservations).”
    (To Dan A. Drummond: I did not steal or lift this from you web site. I copied and pasted it so as to not create any further misunderstandings.)
    Why doesn’t the SCTA list the fact that the meeting includes lunch? If true, this gives me important information on exactly how my hard earned $25 will be spent. And I still confused about if I can just show up as a guest from the general public, or if I have to be invited by a SCTA member (of which I know none). Maybe Dan A. Drummond will see this and clear this up.

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  4. Dan Drummond says:

    John,

    Right on all counts. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  5. John Galt says:

    @Jorge Marin

    You sure are full of opinions, yet have no idea what you are talking about.

    1. The $60 annual fee pays for the overhead of running the organization. It is much less than the annual fee to be a member of comparable civic or trade organizations, such as the chamber of commerce.

    2. The $20 per meeting for the lunch that is served- which is very reasonable. In fact, it’s hard to get a breakfast meeting catered in this town for $20. It is paid to the host facility, stimulating the local economy. And it is far less than the $50 per plate dinners that the Association of Mayors and Councilmembers routinely hold every other month (most of them have their constituents pick up the cost on that).

    3. The Taxpayer’s Association is not anti-tax. If local government used tax revenues judiciously, they would not feel compelled to oppose many of the funding proposals put forward by unimaginative autocrats, many of whom have never had to and don’t know how to make payroll.

    4. The Taxpayers Association has been on the right side of most of these fiscal issues… including the SMART Train debacle, which was backed by most business groups. The Taxpayers Association warned us that it was not a financially feasible project back in 2008. Their predictions and research proved out.

    5. Regarding your charge of hypocrisy…. to quote the memorable Indigo Montoya: “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” There is no compulsion in membership. You can attend meetings as a guest, and just pay the cost of your lunch. Or you can choose not to join. That’s a fair bit different than compelling everyone to pay a tax for an ill-conceived project, or runaway retirement costs.

    Finally, I hear that the Taxpayers Association is offering a special deal- $20 for anyone who wants to join for the rest of the year.

    I can’t remember the last time that I got a 2/3 reduction in my taxes, even temporarily.

    Your vitriol is really unbecoming. If you don’t think you’re paying enough in taxes, you are free to voluntarily contribute as much as you want. Please do, and quit complaining about those who decide to advocate for fiscal sanity and reasonable taxation policy.

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  6. Jorge Marin says:

    So The Sonoma County Taxpayers Association cost about $60 to join the club and $20 per meeting? What hypocrites?! I guess they don’t mind being deadbeats when it comes to paying for schools and libraries and roads but god forbid someone choose to not pay their overprices “Fees” to attend a meeting. I am not surprised at all that they sounded off on a issue without due diligence and investigation. That’s what they are known for. Reactionary dead beats who squawk about paying any taxes while the rest of us take up the slack to make our streets safe and clean and keep our parks open. They have cried “wolf” once too often and this embarrassing episode is proof they have no credibility.

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  7. Western Cluebird says:

    I am glad to have the Taxpayer’s Association doing research and making recomendations regarding the spending of our hard earned tax money and not sure why anyone would enjoy trying to discredit or slander them.
    Thanks to the real Dan Drummond for watching out for our best interests and setting us straight about the imposter, “Dan. J” whose real name and agenda is anybodys guess.
    The poser “Dan J.” reminds us what lack of character and credibility looks like.
    He sounds like a creepy stalker to me, hiding behind a false casual demeaner and the constitution to do harm to others and avoid accountability.

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  8. Dan Drummond says:

    Jamie Simon,

    You kind of make the point, albeit unintentionally I’m sure. The issue has never been about whether current city employees (or the city as their employer) pay into social security. It’s common knowledge that they don’t. If you reread the article, you’ll see the issue is about the potential for layering these additional benefits onto existing pension benefits at some time in the future. But I’m sure you know that already because your follow-up paragraph makes clear your motives. Still, I challenge you to open your mind and revise your initial conclusions to comport with the real facts.

    And for everyone’s information, the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association is strictly non-partisan and independent. We have no affiliation with Grover Nordquist, the Tea Party or any other group. Such false comparisons are frequently made by those having no meaningful response to our positions.

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  9. Dan J Drummond says:

    Lighten up, Dan. Wouldn’t it be funny if I became a member of the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association? Or a rival within SCTA just having a little fun with the Executive Director? Just kidding.

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  10. David Stubblebine says:

    How about this? Listen to the Tea Partiers. Listen to the Democrats. Listen to the tree-huggers and the developers, and the fascists, and the libertarians, and organized labor, and the occupiers, and the 1%’ers, and everyone else with something to say. Weigh what each one has to say against your own values and then –
    Think for yourselves.

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  11. Skippy says:

    “Stop listening to the Democrats, and think for yourself.”

    Good advice.

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  12. Dan Drummond says:

    Thank you, Dan J, for identifying yourself. I’ll make you this deal – if I ever post on an article that you either wrote or in which you are mentioned, I will absolutely make clear that I am someone else, I will not lift material from your website and claim as my own, and I will not present myself as a representative of your organization. Deal?

    For everyone else, thank you for your understanding. I am told that impersonators and negative press coverage are the marks of a job well done. I guess I should be flattered.

    Since Dan J has attempted to portray the Taxpayers’ Association on this site, let me clarify a few things. First, the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association is made up of over 400 members who are joined by a common purpose of promoting the effective and efficient use of public resources. No more, no less. We are non-partisan and non-profit. And contrary to common portrayals in the media and by those who disagree with our purposes, we are neither anti-government nor anti-tax.

    There are 16 local measures in Sonoma County appearing on the November ballot. We have taken positions opposing five and supporting three. We have taken no position on seven and one measure remains under consideration. We will be posting our positions on our website as soon as our support or opposition to the final measure is determined.

    As those numbers demonstrate, we are not automatically opposed to every tax or bond measure proposed. Some are indeed necessary and appropriate. We evaluate each measure to the extent our resources allow. We meet with those proponents willing to discuss their measures with us and if sufficient stewardship of taxpayer monies and genuine need is demonstrated, we will offer our endorsement. In many cases, however, city officials, school district trustees and others have not demonstrated the stewardship we expect of those entrusted with public resources and for that reason we oppose their measures.

    And, as in the case of Measure T, should we subsequently learn of additional facts that bring into question our initial analysis, we are more than willing to reevaluate our position and, if appropriate, change it. Unlike those who cling to a position long after it has been disproved, we are always willing to reexamine ourselves. We make no claim to possessing all knowledge and welcome input from all interested persons.

    If you would like to help us, we welcome your support. More information is available at our website, http://www.sonomacountytaxpayers.org. You may also e-mail us at taxpayer@sonic.net or call us at 481-1089.

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  13. Jamie Simon says:

    Oops! If the Sonoma County Tax people had done some research they might have learned that SR City employees don’t pay into SS. That has been in place for many years.

    Makes one wonder what other illusions about public workers they are holding. Stop listening to the Tea Partiers, and think for yourself. Don’t take Norquists’ word for everything about taxes.

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  14. Dan J Drummond says:

    Relax Dan. Many people have asked me if your comments were written by me. Well, now you know how that feels. I’m just exercising my First Amendment rights on this public forum.
    I just thought the readers would like to know that the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association cost about $60 to join the club and $20 per meeting. That’s more money than this old hobo will pay in gasoline taxes this year!
    I’ll use my middle initial on my postings, if you will too. Deal?

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  15. Vinyl Rules says:

    Wait, you mean a taxpayers association without due diligence or research reflexively opposed something that costs money? Shocker!

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  16. Missy says:

    As usual the left is a bunch of bullies – pretending to be people they are not. Another way of bullying that the left does 24/7.

    They can’t post their ideas because they slammed by the PEOPLE of Sonoma County so they PRETEND to be regular posters to wreak havoc.

    To the REAL Dan Drummond – please continue posting let’s not let the leftist babyish BULLIES win this one.

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  17. Dan Drummond says:

    To all WSC readers:

    I am the Dan Drummond who is referenced in the above article about the Taxpayer’s Association by Kevin McCallum. The Dan Drummond in the preceding post is an imposter and has posted several times this week using my name. I have reported this abuse to the PD and am told there are several Dan Drummonds in the county, which may indeed be true. But this imposter is lifting material from the Taxpayers’ Association website in an obvious atempt to pose as me. I will defer making any further posts on WSC until this imposter is removed from the site or properly identified.

    Dan Drummond
    Executive Director
    Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Associaiton

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