In a Political Campaign, City Officials Can Spend Your Money Against You. They Call it ‘Education’
October 26, 2016
Californians going to the polls on Nov. 8 will find more than 300 measures to raise taxes. And despite multiple legal decisions limiting the practice, municipal officials in California may be paying outside consultants to run the campaign to sell you on your local tax measure. In short, government officials use the public’s money to persuade the public to give government officials more money. Take the city of Stanton. In the run-up to a controversial 2014 local sales tax measure, city officials in Stanton made 16 payments totaling $85,970 to Lew Edwards Group, an Oakland-based political consulting firm. The consultant’s Stanton proposal indicates the relationship was always about winning a campaign. Sent to city officials on March 18 of that year, that document declares Lew Edwards Group “the California leader in Local Government Revenue Measures.”

Survey Says! How One City Used a ‘Poll’ to Raise Taxes
October 4, 2016
On Halloween 2014, Stanton, California, city manager James Box wrote to the city’s residents. City officials were at the end of a year-long campaign to stampede residents toward acceptance of Measure GG, creating a one-cent city sales tax, the first of its kind in Orange County. They had warned residents that failure to approve the new tax would lead to something like the apocalypse. Just days before the Nov. 4 election, Box spoke to them one last time. “I’ve received a number of phone calls from Stanton residents about the city’s budget, employees, service challenges, and Measure GG which is on Stanton’s November 4, 2014 ballot,” he wrote. In the face of obvious public concern, Box said, he was ready to meet residents immediately – or, rather, not immediately, but in three months, long after the election, in a public park clubhouse, on a Friday morning at 9 o’clock.

Despite the Threat of Bankruptcy, Stanton Is Spending Millions to Build One Park
May 10, 2016
In March 2011, facing a $4 million deficit, panicked Stanton City Council members met in special session and voted unanimously, dramatically to declare a fiscal emergency. It was the sort of thing we’d been hearing from Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain for months—a government’s tax revenues falling so disastrously short of its spending that what comes next is slaughterhouse ugly. By the standard of the PIGS, what followed immediately in Stanton might strike you as banal: Having declared a fiscal emergency, the council agreed to ask voters to approve a 50 percent hike in the city utility tax, from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.

Stanton officials launch propaganda war on tax-repeal effort
April 21, 2016
Plaza Pine Estates is a well-manicured mobile home park so close to Beach Boulevard – the 26-mile state highway that functions as an asphalt riverbed moving automobiles between the foothills of inland Southern California and sprawling Huntington Beach State Park – that you can hear the dopplering traffic inside the community center. That’s where Councilman David Shawver led a parade of public officials, including a county firefighter and two sheriff’s deputies, in a celebration of Stanton’s voter-approved hike in the city’s sales tax – from 8 to 9 percent, the highest in Orange County. The so-called Talk with the Block series – there’ve been three-dozen so far, an official said – are supposed to be about community concerns.

Stanton is Your Kind of Town
April 21. 2016
Stanton is Orange County’s smallest city – and among its poorest and most violent. It’s also just one of two OC cities with its own sales tax, a distinction it earned following a savage citywide vote in 2014. But Stanton isn’t entirely unique in the state. This November, some 300 California entities will ask their voters to approve new taxes and bonds. Pressed by the lingering effects of the Great Recession, the end of redevelopment, and the rising costs of public employee pay and benefits, California governments want residents to give more generously. Stanton residents (Stantonians?) are still on public policy’s cutting edge, however: in November, they’ll vote on a measure to repeal the 2014 sales tax. And in that campaign, the pro-tax forces are already raining down predictions that repeal will bring about the End Times.

The powerful government unions that brought OC’s highest sales tax to Stanton are at it again
April 20, 2016
Stanton city officials have taken to the streets to fight a November ballot measure that would repeal the city’s one-year-old sales tax. In 37 community meetings and in a stream of communications from City Hall, officials tell residents the tax is essential to the city’s survival – and that its victory at the polls in 2014 was a local, grassroots effort. They say supporters of the repeal are outsiders. The community meetings, called Talks with the Block, run on that insider/outsider impulse. “Just because you’re rich and wealthy doesn’t give you the right to come and repeal our votes,” 28-year council veteran David Shawver told a Stanton audience in March. “We have the full support of everybody, and we make the decisions!”

Hoping to avoid citywide vote, Stanton officials quietly issued high-interest bonds
March 29, 2016
Taxpayers in Stanton, a quiet suburb of Orange County with only 38,000 residents, will pay millions for a pricey bond deal approved in an obscure vote of a little-known city agency five years ago. Rather than risk voter rejection over the deal, Stanton city council members David Shawver, Alexander Ethans and Brian Donohue – acting in their capacity as board members of the city’s redevelopment authority – voted in favor of the 2011 bond issue. The decision to borrow at high rates – some exceeding 9 percent – was likely driven by activity in Sacramento.

Tax hike masks Stanton’s public-safety pay problem
March 18, 2016
Stanton has become the stage for a political brawl: in one corner, city officials and the public employee union leaders who backed the measure to give Stanton – Orange County’s smallest city and one of its poorest – the county’s highest sales tax; in the other, residents and business owners working to repeal Measure GG, the city’s 2014 voter-approved sales tax hike. Late last year, the City Council grudgingly voted to put that citizen-backed tax repeal on the November ballot. Until then, outsiders might have reasonably believed the people of Stanton were united in their generous desire to pay more for goods and services than anyone else in Orange County – a full percent more than neighboring Anaheim, Cypress and Garden Grove. The pro-tax propaganda began during the 2014 campaign, when the city spent residents’ money to make the case for taking more of it.

City of Stanton Faces Taxpayer Revolt
July 14, 2015
Back in November 2014, in a 54% to 46% decision, less than 20% of Stanton’s registered voters approved “Measure GG,” which increased their sales tax rate from 8.0% to 9.0%. Needless to say, this measure will not encourage retail businesses to relocate to Stanton, nor will it encourage residents to shop there. But like local tax proposals that passed in 116 other cities in California last November, this measure was represented to the public as necessary to adequately fund public safety.

City of Stanton Proposes Higher Taxes Instead of Cutting Pay and Benefits
October 7, 2014
On November 4th, voters in Stanton, California, will be asked to vote on a 1.0% sales tax increase, which if approved will raise their sales tax to 9.0% – the highest in Orange County. Nestled in the heart of Orange County, tiny Stanton, a city of barely three square miles in size with a population in 2012 of 38,915 residents, is an unlikely candidate for the spotlight, when California’s local ballots are about to be inundated with over 140 local tax increases affecting many cities and counties that are ten times bigger. But Stanton is ground zero in a battle over how to manage municipal budget deficits, because if their voters approve this tax increase, cities throughout Orange County will follow suit.