Mining Tax To Be Placed On November Ballot
7/22/14 – Did you know that there is a large mining operation within the City limits of Banning ?
Unknown to many, Robertson’s Ready Mix is mining aggregate on Banning’s East side – and they have done so without paying any fees to the City for years on end . This is now about to change : according to a new proposal before the Council, voters will get to decide whether the City should tax the mine.
CORRUPT OLD CITY COUNCIL LOOKED THE OTHER WAY
Over many years, Robertson’s Ready Mix gave many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to previous Council members Bob Botts and Barbara Hanna (view), so that they would do nothing to disturb the status quo. And this is exactly what they did – nothing.
Due to the previous Council’s inaction, the mine was able operate largely under the radar. Year in and year out, Robertson’s was allowed to operate without paying Banning any taxes or fees, while at the same time, City Staff and Police officer positions were rigorously eliminated due to lack of funding.
AFTER DECADES, NEW COUNCIL FINALLY TAKES ACTION
The newly elected Council, led by Don Peterson, Jerry Westholder and Ed Miller, is determined to put and end to Robertson’s decade long free ride : they are proposing to make Robertson’s Ready Mix pay their fair share in taxes for operating the mine, the same way other California Cities require it.
On the flip side, mining operations have clearly come with a price for Banning : Many residents have complained that Robertson’s mining pollutes the air with microscopic dust particles (PM-10), emits noise, even at night, and runs trucks up and down Hathaway Street non-stop.
We were definitely able to confirm the latter : during the afternoon hours of 7/21, we observed a total of 17 trucks going up or down Hathaway St. within a 30 minute window. This makes for about one Robertsons’s truck every 2 minutes.
TAX COULD PAY FOR UP TO TEN POLICE OFFICERS
According to the Staff Report for July 22, the City of Banning could take in up to $ 1.5 million annually by imposing a tax on the mine. This level of taxation would be in line with what other cities charge ( for example City of Irwindale).
This level of income would allow the City to hire up to 10 additional Police officers. Additional officers are going to be badly needed, given the influx of criminal elements soon to be frequenting Banning, due to AB-109’s expanded Probation/Parole and criminal Court operations.
CITY STAFF CAUGHT OMITTING SIGNIFICANT PORTIONS OF OFFICIAL MINING REPORT
But of course this wouldn’t be Banning, if City Staff didn’t try to pull yet another “fast one” on its citizens.
Readers of the Banning Informer will remember that last year, Staff told the public that the City was rezoning 26 acres to “Very High Density Residential”, when in reality they rezoned over 60 acres (story). Only after this issue was exposed by the Banning Informer, did the City revert the zoning back to the originally proposed 26 acres. The “mistake” was made in favor of a large developer, who owned the land in question.
Another example : when Council approval was required for changing the “Paseo San Gorgonio” development from a hotel to an office building, Staff issued unauthorized letters permitting the change, effectively bypassing Council (story). Both incidents involved Banning’s highly controversial – and unpopular – Planning Director, Zai Abu Bakar.
This time it is no different : the agenda package for July 22 (view) includes a “2013 Surface Mining Inspection Report” that Staff represents to be a true and correct copy of the original. However, missing from the report attached to the agenda are two very significant attachments : “Appendix A” and “ Appendix B”.
For reference, the complete, unaltered Mining Inspection Report can be found here.
“Appendix A” – missing from the copy attached to the 7/22 agenda package – points out that Robertson’s Ready Mix is operating the mine without valid permits. More importantly, “Appendix A” reads as follows :
Why was this statement omitted from the document that is before the public ?
REPORT SHOWS STAFF FAILED TO ENFORCE STATE AND LOCAL LAWS FOR YEARS
With the devastating findings in the report cited above, it would make perfect sense for Staff to try and hide this information from the public. With the crucial passages of “Appendix A and B” omitted, yet “Appendix C” remaining intact, it appears that someone intended to “doctor” the content of the document in order to cover up Staff’s incompetence and inactions.
The Council should investigate how the altered document came about to be represented as a true copy of the original “2013 Surface Mining Report”. They should also take a close look at the lack of enforcement of State and local laws by City Staff, as cited in the Report.
As this example shows yet again, some members of City Staff continue to serve their own interests over those of Banning residents. No matter how questionable their actions, these out of control Staff members can always count on the unconditional support of Mayor Debbie Franklin and Councilman Art Welch, who both take every opportunity to “thank” them for the “great job” they are supposedly doing. With this attitude, will Banning ever change ?
Taxing the Robertson’s Ready Mix mining operation in Banning seems like long overdue. Banning residents need to realize that such a bold proposal would have never come from the old, utterly corrupt City Council, led by Bob Botts, Barbara Hanna and Don Robinson.
The measure will solve the City’s current fiscal shortfall. Banning will be able to hire 10 additional Police officers, raising the officer count from currently 24 to 34. And with the upcoming changes in Banning, these additional officers are going to be badly needed.
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