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‘Crash tax’ repealed – no emergency fees

Sacramento’s controversial “crash tax” was killed by the City Council, which voted 6-2 to repeal it Tuesday.

The fire cost recovery ordinance would have charged non-resident drivers for emergency responses to accidents in which they were at fault.

The ordinance was proposed by the Sacramento Fire Department last year in an effort to recover costs from people who don’t pay property taxes – a large portion of Fire Department funding. Fees would have ranged from $495 to more than $2,000, and estimates were that the city would receive about $300,000 annually.

Though the “crash tax” has been the subject of spirited debate and community outcry, it went down relatively quietly Tuesday night, with only Councilwoman Angelique Ashby speaking in favor of it.

“I would like to say that fire cost recovery was one funding mechanism that we could use to potentially keep fire stations open and firefighters available to residents,” she said.

Ashby acknowledged that brownouts are bad for everyone, but federal restrictions on some developments in Natomas that were built in a flood plain mean that homeowners there can lose their homes even if they aren’t fully destroyed because of building restrictions.

“If the insurance company decides that 50 percent or more of the home is damaged, we can’t issue a permit to them to rebuild,” she told The Sacramento Press Monday.

When called to a vote, only Mayor Kevin Johnson and Ashby voted against repealing the ordinance. Councilmen Kevin McCarty and Jay Schenirer, who both voted for the ordinance on Jan. 25, joined Council members Sandy Sheedy, Rob Fong, Darrell Fong and Bonnie Pannell in opposing it. Councilman Steve Cohn, who has previously supported the ordinance, was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

None of the council members spoke publicly about the ordinance after the vote.

Nicole Mahrt, spokeswoman for the Association of California Insurance Companies, applauded the council’s decision to repeal the ordinance.

“I think it was a good move,” she said. “All the backlash from the creation of that crash tax made Sacramento look really unwelcoming to all the commuters who come into town.”

She added that the ordinance served as a “double tax” and that the fees charged by these types of ordinances are typically not covered by insurers.

“Sacramento joins several other cities including Roseville, Oceanside and Vista, which recently repealed their crash taxes,” she said.

Nobody was ever billed under the ordinance, since no contract with the third-party billing service Fire Recovery USA was ever approved.

Schenirer used the discussion of the proposed contract with Fire Recovery USA March 1 as an opportunity to reverse his previous “yes” vote and call for a repeal of the ordinance.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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Brandon Darnell

  • David Watts Barton


    • Rhonda Erwin

      I remember, appreciate and truly respect the passionate editorial you wrote on this very subject. Thank you!

  • Rhonda Erwin

    1) “The ordinance was proposed by the Sacramento Fire Department last year ” Now, am I surprised that both Ashby and Johnson voted against repealing this love thy neighbor if they reside in my district or if it can benefit me ordinance? Heck No!

    Neither Ashby nor Johnson seem concern that the crash tax 1) made Sacramento look really unwelcoming to all the commuters who come into town. 2) the ordinance served as a “double tax” and that the fees charged by these types of ordinances are typically not covered by insurers 3) the policy alienates out-of-towners and could drive business away from the city, and it sets a precedent for charging for other services 4) we could see the same policy charged for Police Department services, wherein non-residents would be afraid to call police when they are the victims of crimes (as stated by Councilmember Darrell Fong) not to mention 5) people can be victims of an accident and have to worry about medical, emotional, mental stress and these 2 elected officials want to have them worry about additional financial problems having to pay for the city’s funding mechanism to potentially keep fire stations open….WOW

    • Rhonda Erwin

      2) Ashby states “I would like to say that fire cost recovery was one funding mechanism that we could use to potentially keep fire stations open and firefighters available to residents,” I would like to say seems like you, Ashby, will have to find another funding mechanism and perhaps you could go to the unions who endorsed you and ask for them to spend a little less with endorsements and put some of their union dues back into their department instead of endorsing political candidates. All money isn’t good money Ms Angelique Ashby!

      Ashby was endorsed by Johnson. Both were endorsed by Police and Firefighters. And heck I now recall the concerning article I read of Johnson’s “Troubling pledge to Union Firefighters” I never forgot how it could affect youth programs, parks and recreation….. Written in the article: “Johnson is apparently willing to jettison other city budget priorities to give union firefighters what they demand. The pledge he signed goes on to say, “This measure does not include a funding source and I understand possible cuts could be incurred by parks and recreation, youth programs, libraries and other city departments.” See below link: scroll down to 4th article written 10/14/08)


      Oh, Ms Ashby I made a pledge too and that was to watch you like a hawk

  • Isaac Gonzalez

    Listen to our Mayor talk about how he felt about the crash tax on 02-02-11:

    (You’ll have to turn up the volume once the mayor talks)

  • Dale Kooyman

    Before passing and then repealing, it would be interesting to know from studies made by many cities that have the “crash tax” as to how many people actually avoid working or driving in or into those cities. I doubt very few in spite of the empty threats we read in comments previously. The crash tax message is: we welcome you but drive safely in our city because your careless driving, which results in crashes, causes bodily or property injure to our businesses, their employees, our residents and their properties and can affect their insurance rates. It did not apply to residents of the cities and ONLY to those out-of-town drivers who were at fault.

    On the other hand, council should have found out how much cost reimbursement those cities raised and if the amount was worth the law being on the books to enforce. But most CM’s or their staff rarely think and act based on a more comprehensive analysis on many issues—except in this case maybe Ashby and Cohn did.

  • P W

    Rhonda, I don’t think Councilwoman Ashby’s motivations are quite as sinister as you seem to make them out to be. In fairness, although I opposed the “crash tax” (and let her know my position) I have to say I admire the fact that she listened to both sides of the argument, and apparently made an informed decision based on her primary interest: The residents of her district. I think it’s refreshing, actually, to have a politician stick up for her principles even when knowing full-well that her position was going to be defeated by the majority. District One is fraught with lack of police and other emergency services…esp. in Natomas. Angelique Ashby is keeping her pledge to those in her district to do her best to ensure that these services are not further eroded. In these trying times, I think she made the best choice for her constituency…and not the “easy” choice that might have saved face in the interest of politics. Lastly, I’d bet that if asked, she would welcome your scrutiny, Rhonda! Keep watchin’! 🙂

    • Rhonda Erwin

      PW “the fact that she listened to both sides of the argument, and apparently made an informed decision based on her primary interest”. I’ll listen to it again but I don’t recall her commenting on both sides of the argument. She appeared one-sided. I don’t think it’s refreshing to have a “me, me, me, mine attitude. I don’t think it’s refreshing to be a ball hog and not a team player. You see principle; I see ego combined with a little one hand washes the other and lets not bite off the hand that fed me. I hope I’m wrong. But time will tell. The fact she will stand up and against anyone else actually makes me happy for a couple reasons and one is I like to watch someone with that type of personality it makes it easier to see them for who they are since you don’t have to read in between the lines…

      I think it’s good she’s keeping her pledge to those in her district. I’m going to my councilmember district meeting tonight.. The difference is our forum will always discuss what is best for the city and include our neighborhood. While Ashby appears to discuss what’s best for her district and not the city as a whole. Is Ashby looking at her district needs or remaining in office? I think she did save face in the interest of politics- (political endorsement that is) .I think she’d be for a crash tax on other City residents from other districts who crash in her Natomas–she’s not a team player. Are you serious LOL? I think, if asked, she could care less of my scrutiny LOL, when she was running for office and previously commented to me on this site she did not see me; she responded simply writing of herself…..LOL. And also, why would she care what I think since I don’t live in her district and can’t vote for her to remain in office. Oh PW, I will keep watching LOL I have an advantage because while I’m looking at her she won’t even see me because she appears so busy looking at herself LOL. I disagree but I respect your opinion and by all means Keep hope alive:)

    • P W

      Rhonda: Although I don’t want to speak for her, I have to say that Angelique ran to represent District One…not the entire city of Sacramento. So, yes, her first obligation is to think in terms of what is best for District One. The entire council does (or should be doing) likewise for their respective districts. Then, as in this case, the collective wisdom, by virtue of a vote, determines the outcome for the entire city.
      Finally, I don’t think it’s reasonable for her to publicly elaborate both sides of an issue when she has decided to take a position…as long as she’s taken the time to deliberate both sides, which, in this case, I can assure you she did.

    • Rhonda Erwin

      PW, Yes, she ran to represent District One not the entire district. Yes, her first obligation is to think in terms of what is best for District One. I met folks who are in gangs. I know gang like mentality when I see it. The youth are a reflection of the adults of this city- divided up into territories, districts, departments… only difference is they aren’t organized criminals. And the entire council does also look after their respective districts but in my opinion they also see the city as a whole. I never said she had to publicly elaborate both sides, you said she “listened to both sides” I assumed you met she weighed both sides and had proof by something she said. Seems to me she just “listened” what good is it to listen if you already have your mind made up on your own self interest? She could of sat their humming and got up and did the Cha Cha if she wasn’t weighing both sides of the issue. I don’t think it was unreasonable to assume she publicly stated how she weighed both sides… since I thought your comment came from something she publicly stated or done. PW, you are speaking for her but that’s cool because in my opinion she will need your voice.

    • Rhonda Erwin

      PW; my final thought on this subject, If you are satisfied with a council member that doesn’t appear to be able to see the forest (city) through the trees (her individual district) that’s your right. I want to councilmember’s from all districts capable of seeing the forest through the trees. And what Ashby does affects me. After all some may have voted for her to ensure she looks after the best interest of solely her district but sitting on the council she can vote on issues which affect other districts. And since she doesn’t just vote on Natomas matters she will continue to concern me. Thank you

    • P W

      Rhonda: All of your points taken…however (!) That’s why you have your very own person representing YOU in YOUR district. None of the council members make any final decisions which could affect the entire city unilaterally. We’re a city built (or not) by committee. (Did I just post an argument for a strong-mayor system???) 🙂
      I know you don’t need me to give you a civic lesson – but I also feel that I need to speak up (not FOR) my council member. BTW: You’re certainly busy today! I’m not even going to TRY to keep up with you! LOL!

    • Rhonda Erwin

      PW: LOL; I’m ignoring the argument for strong-mayor system. I better leave you alone! LOL I admire the fact you are speaking up!! I’m going to tell you a secret now promise not to tell anyone. LOL- (but I’m posting it publicly LOL) To be fair, their is something about Ashby that I like. I just can’t put my finger on it – well, my lips are sealed. LOL As Kerridge once told me nothing is all good and nothing is all bad; no on is all good and no one is all bad. I understand what you are saying and I respect you for saying it. Yes, I was busy LOL. So much concerned me at once but now it’s time for a break. Have a good one

  • Great news!

    I have to disagree with one point in the article though. You said that no one was ever charged under the program.

    I was charged for being in a bike accident about a year and a half ago and I’m actually a city resident!

    I was hit by a car and a concerned witness called the fire department. Fortunately I was not hurt but the fire department rolled a hook and ladder truck!!! and a parametic truck. The parametic took my vitals along with my name and address.

    Since I was not injured, the police on scene decided not to file a police report and did not collect the driver’s information.

    Several weeks later, I received a bill from the fire department for the cost of rolling the trucks. I ignored the first couple notices but contacted them after they threatened to turn the bill over to a collection agency. I could not resolve the issue with the fire department so they turned the bill over to a collection agency. I finally decided that is wasn’t worth ruining my credit so I grudgingly paid it but I’m still pissed.

    Was it legal? I don’t know. But they basically hassled me into paying the bill.

    • Brandon Darnell

      Hi, and thanks for your comment.

      However, the fire cost recovery ordinance never went into effect, since the contract with the third-party billing service was never ratified. In the case of this ordinance, all bills would have come from Fire Recovery USA, and never could have legally been sent.

      The fee that is the subject of this article wasn’t even brought to council before 2010, so it isn’t the same situation. I am not familiar with the situation you mention.

  • Attention all of you: On September 13, 2011 i slipped when coming down the light rail and twisted my knee. Fire department was called by the light rail supervisor. They came, assessed my condition and light rail supervisor was kind enough to take me to work close by. I have just received a “Emergency Medical Bill” of 96 bucks and asking for my social security number and insurance information from some outfit claiming to represent the City of Sacramento Fire Department. Considering the above article, I am inclined to believe this is a scam. I would appreciate some feedback on this.

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