Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On companies doing business with the City of Benicia...

by George delaCruz

An editorial on the relationship of City Staff and companies in Benicia...
[in response to a newspaper article revealing that Nationwide Auto Auction is delinquent in $300,000 in back fees owed to Benicia.]

Regarding the issue of Nationwide Auto Auction, is it incompetence? Is it collusion? Just what is it that allows our City Staff to go merrily on its way? It seems to have its head in the sand. All the while companies doing business in Benicia fall behind on fees or don’t follow through on promises made to the City so they would be granted the right to conduct certain business operations in our fair city. Nationwide Auto Auctions is just one example of our City staff’s complete lack of oversight. Is it incompetence or is it corruption? Amports is another example. It has broken more agreements then you can count. It pays nothing to operate the Port of Benicia which is owned by the City. No business tax. No port tax, nothing. And then, of course, there is Valero, and Seeno and who else, may I ask? Do some in City Government have their hands out? Or does it just seem that way? Or do they just look the other way?

Nationwide should be held accountable for all agreements made with the City. As for Amports and Valero, I must again raise the issue of a port tax. Every other port operation in the United States collects a fair tax, based either on a tonnage or per unit basis for all cargo handled through that port. I would estimate that Amports alone avoids between $5 and $10 million in taxes per year which would go directly to the City of Benicia. Valero pays no port tax on the 40 to 50 thousand barrels of oil it processes daily at our port. At other ports in the U.S., these quantities are taxed, be it petroleum products, automobiles or any other item that crosses the docks, either in import or export. I suggest the City could use a formula similar to the ones in use in Oakland, San Francisco or Los Angeles to apportion these taxes because they have already been litigated. This tax money would go a long way to help this cash strapped City, especially with the present state of our economy. These companies are not paying their fair share, nor, in fact, in many cases, they are not paying any share at all. But for some reason, our City government is unwilling to make these firms pay their fair share.

But then, the question arises: Are our City employees, our City government, unduly influenced or are they in some way compensated by these companies? If there is any suspicion of fraud, then the Solano County Grand Jury must become involved. If it is just some mis-begotten, ill conceived, unfair influence from these companies, who then should or could, investigate and deal with the problem? Perhaps we could hire a team of forensic Bureaucrats to dig into our City government?

The failure by Nationwide to pay over $300,000 in fees brings up another question Did Nationwide pay the City for the equipment or automobiles it sold on consignment on our behalf? If not, why not?
But then, I remembered that Benicia, rather than taxing companies doing business in the City, would rather collect revenue from the tickets motorcycle officers are writing. Something seems out of whack here. Our self-serving City Staff, which won’t go after a source of revenue most Cities would cherish, instead go after our citizens who are already overburdened with taxes.

When City Staff takes responsibility and changes a vote of our City Council, I suggest something is drastically wrong at City Hall. If our City Staff cannot enforce rules or if it is inappropriately connected to businesses in Benicia, some should certainly be fired. It costs our community too much in salary and benefits to have incompetent or corrupt City employees. Perhaps a good old fashioned house cleaning is needed...

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