Friday Aside: A Return to the Cesspool as the San Bernardino Sun Adopts Disqus Comment System

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I recently saw this on a news-aggregating website that involves people who comment on news, and other items, using anonymous handles:

Google and Amazon wanting to make me use my real name for everything means I never post reviews of anything anywhere.  Same with newspaper sites requiring you to log in to Facebook and post comments under your real name.

If you take away the anonymity of the Internet you take a way a lot of what makes the Internet great.  I can’t believe that anyone actually posts anything anywhere that doesn’t allow you to use a username.

I don’t understand that mentality, at least for commenting on a website that has journalistic standards for publishing.
When the Sun (and the Redlands Daily Facts) and the Press-Enterprise moved to a Facebook commenting system (that also allowed Yahoo accounts), the quality of the comments increased.  There were still fake accounts, and Yahoo accounts did not require a real name.  I commented at the time the Sun moved to Facebook (but the PE had not):

I don’t often give the Sun enough credit for anything, whether it is in cutting costs by having their reporters double as photographers or by combining multiple beats into one large beat.  However, they deserve credit in that their comments have improved by taking away the anonymity that existed in the old system and replacing it with (for the most part) Facebook (which still has some fake profiles and alts), although Yahoo appears to allow anonymity.  There is less overt bigotry in the comment sections, which is a vast improvement.  . . .

The PE, on the other hand, still allows anonymous trolls, and their discourse is much lower.  Of course, some of the partisans battling on the Sun don’t let the lack of anonymity get in the way of their views. As discourse has been lessened amongst public officials, so too has the discourse of their hyperpartisan followers.  So, say what you want about the Sun’s level of journalism; at least they have cut down on anonymous trolls.  The PE would be well served, just this one time, in copying LANG on this issue.

However, with the redesign, the LANG newspapers they adopted Disqus, which allows usernames that do not reflect new names.  Though most of the frequent commenters are still using their Facebook accounts, there is the potential for abuse.  Cnn.com uses Disqus and other than partisan political sites, it has the lowest-common denominator comments extant on the Internet.
I do not understand how the Sun will not publish a letter to the editor without a real name, but allows anonymous commenting. The Sun should change back to a Facebook-only system.

 

A List of Every Address in San Bernardino, California

By Michael Reiter

I stumbled upon this file when I was writing yesterday’s post about car dealer taxation.  It is purportedly a list of every address in the City of San Bernardino, California.  The link was on the California State Board of Equalization page, but it physically resides on the City of San Bernardino servers.  I tried finding it by searching the City of San Bernardino website, but I was unable to locate the file.

If you’re looking to find every address in the City of San Bernardino, I am not sure if this list is 100 percent accurate, but I also know of no other file that presents the information in this way.

Copyright 2013, Michael Reiter
Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

The Myth about Car Dealer Sales Tax in California.

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

You often hear people talking about how car dealers bring sales tax revenue to cities from the sale of vehicles.  While there is some truth to it, there are special rules for the allocation of a portion of the tax that discourages shoppers from choosing an out-of-town retailer with a lower sales tax rate.

Further, Government Code section 53084 has discouraged local entities from providing financial assistance, including sales tax rebates to car dealers and big box retailers that are in another jurisdiction: “. . . a local agency shall not provide any form of financial assistance to a vehicle dealer or big box retailer, or a business entity that sells or leases land to a vehicle dealer or big box retailer, that is relocating from the territorial jurisdiction of one local agency to the territorial jurisdiction of another local agency but within the same market area.”

Further, people think that all the sales tax revenue goes to a local agency, when just a portion of the sales tax goes to a local entity.  Of the 7.5 percent base rate in California, the Board of Equalization states:

“Local Tax” is the general term for sales and use taxes imposed under the Bradley-Burns Uniform Sales and Use Tax Law. The basic statewide sales and use tax rate is 7.50% and is divided as follows:

  • 6.50% State

  • 0.75% Local Jurisdiction (City or county of place of sale or use)

  • 0.25% Local Transportation Fund (County of place of sale or use) [Emphasis added]

In addition to the “Local Tax,” many California local entities have special taxing districts which impose a sales and use tax by adding to the current 7.5 percent.  In the California Board of Equalization Publication 34, dated January 2013, entitled Motor Vehicle Dealers, Pages 28-29:

If you sell or lease a vehicle to a customer who registers the vehicle in a special tax district, you are considered “engaged in business” in the district. As a result, you must report and pay the applicable special district tax.
Examples:
You are located in Alameda County, where there are three districts, each funded by a 0.50 percent rate. You sell or lease a vehicle to a customer who will register the vehicle in the same county. You report and pay the standard statewide rate of 7.50 percent plus 1.50 percent for the three special tax districts in effect in the county, for a total rate of 9.00 percent.
You are located in Los Angeles County and sell a vehicle that will be registered in Kings County, where there are no special tax districts. You report and pay only the statewide rate of 7.50 percent.
You are located in Kern County and sell a vehicle that will be registered in Alameda County, where there are three special tax districts. As with the first example, you will report and pay tax at the total rate of 9.00 percent (the standard statewide rate of 7.50 percent plus 1.50 percent for the three districts).

Leases are a little different.  Revenue and Taxation Code section 7205.1 says that a California lessor, other than a new motor vehicle dealer or a leasing company, for a lease exceeding four months, the local tax is allocated from the California dealer’s sales location.

Certainly, even without certain sales tax revenue on sales, vehicle dealers are attractive to local California entities because they provide jobs, services for residents, and both local and special district taxes on parts, for example.  However, since motor vehicles are big ticket items, people mistakenly think that the special district taxes are based on the location of the dealer, when in California it is based on registration.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

When Does the Brown Act Allow A Council or Board To Meet Outside the Jurisdiction?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The Ralph M. Brown Act codified at Government Code section 54950 et seq., California’s open meeting law gives the public the opportunity to know what their elected officials are doing, and requires their meetings to be open and public.

When does the Brown Act allow a Council or Board to meet outside their jurisdiction?

Generally, the Brown Act does not allow legislative bodies to meet outside their jurisdiction “Regular and special meetings of the legislative body shall be held within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction . . .”  Government Code section 54954(b).

However, there are the exceptions listed in the same section:

(1) Comply with state or federal law or court order, or attend a judicial or administrative proceeding to which the local agency is a party.

(2) Inspect real or personal property which cannot be conveniently brought within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction provided that the topic of the meeting is limited to items directly related to the real or personal property.
(3) Participate in meetings or discussions of multiagency significance that are outside the boundaries of a local agency’s jurisdiction. However, any meeting or discussion held pursuant to this subdivision shall take place within the jurisdiction of one of the participating local agencies and be noticed by all participating agencies as provided for in this chapter.
(4) Meet in the closest meeting facility if the local agency has no meeting facility within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction, or at the principal office of the local agency if that office is located outside the territory over which the agency exercises jurisdiction.
(5) Meet outside their immediate jurisdiction with elected or appointed officials of the United States or the State of California when a local meeting would be impractical, solely to discuss a legislative or regulatory issue affecting the local agency and over which the federal or state officials have jurisdiction.
(6) Meet outside their immediate jurisdiction if the meeting takes place in or nearby a facility owned by the agency, provided that the topic of the meeting is limited to items directly related to the facility.
(7) Visit the office of the local agency’s legal counsel for a closed session on pending litigation held pursuant to Section 54956.9, when to do so would reduce legal fees or costs.
There are also special rules for school boards:

(c) Meetings of the governing board of a school district shall be held within the district, except under the circumstances enumerated in subdivision (b), or to do any of the following:

(1) Attend a conference on nonadversarial collective bargaining techniques.
(2) Interview members of the public residing in another district with reference to the trustees’ potential employment of an applicant for the position of the superintendent of the district.
(3) Interview a potential employee from another district.  Government Code section 54954(c).
Also, Joint Powers Authority have special rules.
(d) Meetings of a joint powers authority shall occur within the territory of at least one of its member agencies, or as provided in subdivision (b). However, a joint powers authority which has members throughout the state may meet at any facility in the state which complies with the requirements of Section 54961. Government Code section 54954(d).
Practically, it can be very difficult for a legislative body to meet outside its jurisdiction. For one, politically, it looks like the agency is hiding something.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Random Text on the Internet

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Sometimes when you are doing research online, you come across sheer nonsense that almost makes sense.

[Company Name] respects strict compliance with treaty obligations as a law. When the management speaks about order fulfillment, there is no room for excuses. This concerns both the intellectual and practical contributions of workers. Having high demands the company tries to match them in working conditions. That’s why it provides modern equipment for office and guarantee social protection for the employees.

I was searching for information on a candidate running for local office, and this semi-gibberish appeared.  I found it amusing and I wanted to share it with my readers.

I cannot tell if it is computer-generated, or created by a non-native speaker of English. I assume that it is designed to fool Google into thinking it is unique content.  I thought Google’s more recent changes had banished such content to the land of wind and ghosts, but perhaps not.

I think this content was highly rated on Google because there was limited information on the candidate.  The information was not actually created by the candidate, it was created on what used to be called a link farm, and I have no idea what it is called after Google’s last round of updates.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Abusive Code Enforcement

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I have begun to notice a pattern in complaints about code enforcement agencies lately.

One is that certain cities (especially large charter cities) regarding what they want out of code enforcement. They used to want to use code enforcement tools to eliminate blight and come into compliance.  Now, it seems that many cities want to generate revenue from code enforcement instead of compliance.

The second pattern is that code enforcement is abusing their discretion.  In order to make money, little infractions become major code enforcement violations.  Dormant trees in the winter become unmaintained landscaping. A burnt patch of summer grass becomes lack of landscaping.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708