Who is behind the Initiative/Ballot Measure?
The West Covina Police Officers' Association through a "PAC" has provided all of the funding so far. The initiative was actually filed by Glenn Kennedy of West Covina, who was appointed by Jessica Shewmaker to be a planning commissioner. Other people or organizations may provide support in the future.
What is the proposed purpose of the sales tax increase?
While some of the language on the legal notice seems to imply that the money raised will be used for public safety, the actual specific implementing language states that the money can be used for any West Covina General Fund purpose. If the use of the money were to be restricted to just Public Safety, the initiative would require a 2/3 vote to be approved. As the implementing language is written, the initiative only requires a majority vote for approval.
Why a Sales and Use Tax (Sales Tax) increase?
The purpose of a Sales Tax increase is to effectively "tax" all people shopping within the City of West Covina. With having two very large shopping malls, the sales tax will target visitors as well as residents. It should be noted that the vast majority of the sales tax will be paid by West Covina Residents. It should also be noted that a sales tax is regressive, disproportionately affecting poorer people.
I was told that Los Angeles County is trying to raise the sales tax and West Covina must raise it first to benefit, is that true?
The answer is a little more complicated than that. The State of California currently has a maximum sales tax allowed set at 10.25%. So once a city has reached that amount, the sales tax percentage is "capped." However, in the last couple of years there has been attempts in Sacramento to raise the sales tax cap. Most people understand that if the County of Los Angeles wants to raise the sales tax, property tax or any other tax but are prevented by state laws, they will just lobby the legislature to make the needed changes. So, the argument of "we need to do this before someone else" is merely a scare tactic to help move people into the support column.
Is the Los Angeles County Fire Department really looking to add a tax to the Ballot?
The answer is YES. They are placing a "Parcel Tax" ("Property Tax") on the ballot for March 2020. The Los Angeles County Fire Department realized they could not gain enough money by placing a Sales Tax on the Ballot becuase so many cities were scared into passing a sales tax increase, so they are placing a Property Tax on the ballot instead. So at this time we have found the sales tax argument to be an INACCURATE political "Scare Tactic" being used by many cities that have already passed this exact same tax. If you search the various news outlets for cities like COVINA, SOUTH PASADENA, LA PUENTE, etc. they all used the same tactic of "Scaring" residents into supporting a tax and "Keeping the money in the community" instead of letting the County of Los Angeles get the money. The City of Claremont has defeated their potential sales tax increase during the November 2019 election. Residents saw through the lies of "Keeping the money local" and voted it down.
What about the Southern California Air Quality Management District ("SCAQMD") trying to pass a sales tax as well?
That has been talked about for some time. However, the facts are that the State Legislature has been reviewing a possible bill in Sacramento (SB732), but it has been stalled in various committees for some time. It appears to be stuck in that process for a while and not likely to make the ballot as people are indicating. This is more of what we would consider a "Scare Tactic" to make residents of West Covina sign the petition and vote for the measure. Click Here for more info on the current status of the Bill in Sacramento. The last committee hearing was cancelled at the request of the Bill Author on May 13, 2019. Effectively the bill is not moving forward at this time. In fact, even if the bill does move forward, it will effectively raise the sales tax an additional 1% above the 10.25% that is being proposed by the Public Safety Sales Tax here. That would mean that the sales tax in West Covina would be 11.25%. So the claim of "If not West Covina, then AQMD will get it" is 100% inaccurate. Just read the next Frequently Asked Question and click on the link provided.
Where would I find the info that shows the SCAQMD would raise our sales tax above the 10.25% regardless of the West Covina Public Safety Tax?
That is published in the "Senate Committee on Governance and Finance" Report dated March 27, 2019 and prepared for the hearing on April 24, 2019, the report states the following "SB 732 allows SCAQMD to add up to an additional 1% rate on top of pre-existing district taxes, of which Los Angeles County has 30. Several cities in Los Angeles County already have 10.25% rates (Burbank, Compton, Cudahy, Culver City, East Lynwood, Glendale, Hawthorne, Huntington Park, Lawndale, Long Beach, Lynwood, Pasadena, Pico Rivera, Pomona, Santa Monica, South Gate), so SB 732 has the potential to increase these rates as high as 11.25%." This quote is found on page 5, section 3. Please feel free to click the link above to review the actual report from the California Legislature Website.
I read that they want to create an "Oversight Committee" with this measure, how does that work?
Buried in this notice and easily overlooked is a requirement that if this measure passes, that the existing Audit Committee will be replaced by a new “Oversight Committee”. In other words, it would remove the very "Finance & Audit Committee" that was put in place as the result of the Grand Jury and State Controller’s investigations in 2015 that found "...the City of West Covina’s administrative and internal accounting control deficiencies to be serious and pervasive; in effect, controls are non-existent." (Excerpt taken from the report by California State Controller Betty T. Yee's office, provided to the City of West Covina in July 2015)
How does the number of committee members affect the oversight?
The measure mandates that three members must be "elected" in the City of West Covina, two of the members must be employees of the Police and Fire Departments respectively, and the remaining four members will be appointed by the City Council. Basically you will have a five member representation from the Elected Officials and members of the Police and Fire Departments that can majority vote over any members of the public that may have been appointed. But also, keep in mind that the City Council can appoint people that they feel are going to vote how they want them to vote. Doesn't sound like much oversight to us. Another important issue is that an Audit Committee by definition must be independent of the people who are being audited. Having police and fire personnel on the committee prevents that from happening.
What is the difference between a "Finance & Audit Committee" and an "Oversight Committee?"
"Finance & Audit Committees" look at details to determine if money was properly accounted for, and was in conformance with legal requirements and city policies and procedures.
The “Oversight Committee”, according to the “Notice” will review implementation of the new sales tax to ”ensure the sanctity of public safety for the City of West Covina.”
Can the City Council make changes to the new "Oversight Committee" if it is not performing correctly?
Yes they can. However, any changes the City Council wants to make with respect to the Oversight Committee must be approved by the West Covina Police Officers' Association and they have the authority to consult with the West Covina Fire Fighters Local 3226 BEFORE any changes can be approved. This means that the City Council has virtually NO CONTROL of the oversight committee without the people who are being provided oversight approving the changes. That is like giving a Convicted Thief the keys of the bank vault and telling them they can prevent any alarm codes from being changed.
Wasn't the "Finance & Audit Committee" formed at the request of the State of California Audit in 2015?
Yes, the City of West Covina requested the State of California to perform an Audit of the financial practices of the city and the details of that Audit are publicly available. In that State Audit they recommended that the City of West Covina setup an Audit Review Committee to ensure that third party people have some oversight into the financial decision of the City Council and City Manager/Staff.
How will the restructuring of the Audit & Finance Committee to the Oversight Committee help the city?
In our opinion, it will actually not help at all. This is probably the largest problem with this measure and provides an insight to the intentions of the Public Safety Unions.
Will people stop shopping in West Covina due to the higher sales tax?
Yes, it is very widely known that people in California have gotten smart and tend to shop in lower sales tax cities. It is also interesting that states like Oregon have no sales tax. One of the reasons people are buying more and more things off the internet is because it is sometimes possible to avoid sales tax that way.
How will this affect the average citizen/resident of West Covina?
Your costs of day-to-day living will increase. Examples include the cost of Gasoline, Dining Out, Car Registration, Car Maintenance, Clothing Purchases, General Goods Purchased, etc. Anything you purchase in the City of West Covina will cost three-quarters of one percent more (0.75%) than it currently does.
Can the City Council disband the Audit Committee or Oversight Committee?
NO! - If this measure passes, the Finance & Audit Committee will be replaced with the Oversight Committee and any changes going forward will have to be approved by the West Covina Police Officer's Association President. Basically invalidating any power the City Council has to make changes to this Committee. The ultimate power to make changes to the "Oversight Committee" will rest with a union and NOT with the City Council.
Can the City Council create a new Audit Committee if this measure passes?
YES! - They can create any committees and ad-hoc boards they feel are needed. However, you must ask yourself "Why would you support a measure eliminating the Audit Committee, just to ask the City Council to create a new one?" The argument of the proponents and many of their supporters is that the City Council can just create a new committee. If that is the stance of the proponents, then why include the elimination of the Finance & Audit Committee in the first place? It just does not make any logical sense to us. It is just political double-speak trying to salvage a bad idea and still get supporters to sign the petition.
It appears most supporters on social media are somehow affiliated with the Police & Fire Departments.
Yes, we are noticing this as well. In watching various social media platforms, we have seen many people speaking in favor of this measure. Most are family, friends, or employed by the Police/Fire Departments. Many others are affiliated with the City of West Covina in some fashion or way (Employees, Volunteers, etc.). You will notice City Council Members, City Commissioners, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, their spouses, friends and others really pushing the political spin to get the support they need. They stand to benefit the most with increases to wages and benefits, so of course they will be out in force supporting this measure. That is why we put together this website, to show the true facts of what is being said. Most of what you are hearing on social media from the supporters are only half truths or completely inaccurate. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions. We have provided links to the various documents to support our findings on this website.
Audit Committees - Do they have any "Power?"
Council Members have an important oversight and policy setting role, and a wide range of responsibilities that include community leadership, representing citizens, and making decisions about the provision of services for the betterment of communities. Collectively, council members are responsible for decisions that affect the lives and livelihoods of individuals, organizations and businesses.
In executing its functions and fulfilling its obligations, the City Council is assisted by various functions within the governance structure of the municipality. One such function is the Finance & Audit Committee.
Like nearly all committees, commissions and boards within the city government setting, the Finance & Audit Committee is no different and provides recommendations to the governing body of the city, the City Council for final decisions and rulings. The Finance & Audit Committee holds public meetings and provides detailed financial analysis to the City Council so they can provide policy to implement those recommendations. The Finance & Audit Committee has the power to influence the City Councils decisions and direction by providing detailed financial analysis to the Council Members.
If the Audit Committee has no "Power" or "Authority" as many have stated, then why change it?
We have been asking ourselves the same thing. People on social media are touting this very argument. But if the Finance & Audit Committee has no "Power" or "Authority" as the supporters are stating, then why do they want to eliminate it and create a new Oversight Committee with members from the Police and Fire Departments? Something is not right with that argument. It obviously has enough authority that they want it eliminated and people from their departments put into the new committee to provide more voting power to support their agenda.
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