During the week of October 28-November 1, 2013, the ReFund California coalition carried out a series of events under the theme “Inequality Up, Quality Down,” denouncing rising levels of student debt and the cost of higher education, and demanding that large commercial property owners pay their fair share of taxes. In SoCal, nine events took place at....
campuses across LA. Here are some highlights:
•on Monday, about 30 college students, public school parents, and others protested at Santa Monica’s luxury Fairmont Miramar Hotel and the offices of MSD Capital, run by owner and Dell Computers founder Michael Dell. The group demanded that Dell pay taxes on the value of the Fairmont when he purchased it in 2006, rather than continuing to use a loophole in state law to avoid almost $1.2 million a year in taxes on the property.
As West LA College student David Gonzalez said, "We can't get a decent education because corporations use loopholes to pay what they should. We're here to ask you to pay your fair share in taxes." The group was also joined by local community leader and Santa Monica Malibu School Board Member Oscar de la Torre. The event was covered by KPFK Radio and the Santa Monica Daily Press.
•on Tuesday, dozens of Cal State students participated in a forum on privatization of public education at Cal State LA. Later in the day close to 100 East LA College students joined by ACCE members participated in a forum on how the commercial property tax system is bankrupting our state’s education system and what we can do about it.
The whole group then marched into a local Wells Fargo branch to release the report “Wells Fargo Spreads Cash, Our Communities Lose – How Wells Fargo’s Political Spending Harms California Communities.” The report documents how Wells Fargo’s political and lobbying contributions have helped prevent the elimination of loopholes allowing huge commercial property owners to avoid hundreds of millions a year in taxes. The action was covered in the East Los Angeles Campus News.
•on Wednesday, a group of ReFund members traveled to the Newport Beach headquarters of the Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) to demand that they stop their campaign against local efforts to reduce principal on homeowners’ mortgages. This was part of a national day of action where homeowners are fighting back against banks and investors who are removing hardworking families from their homes unjustly and selling hundreds of foreclosed properties to Wall Street speculators. The event was covered in the OC Register.
•later on Wednesday students from Cal State Northridge and Valley College, and community members covered the Northridge Fashion Center, 40% owned by Brookfield Office Properties, with flyers, letting shoppers know about the company’s scheme to avoid over $10 million per year in taxes in downtown LA.
•on Thursday, scores of Cal State Long Beach students participated in a forum on rising levels of student and institutional debt, on the day a higher education coalition released the report Wall Street and California’s Student Debt Crisis demonstrating the enormous amount (over $1 billion yearly, not including individual student debt) that public colleges and universities are paying to Wall Street banks in interest. The group then held a street theatre performance outside the on-campus Wells Fargo branch to dramatize the “sentence” many students receive to a “debt prison” by the time they graduate, and marched on the office of CSULB’s Interim President to demand that the university stop giving students’ money away to Wall Street. The events were covered in the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
•On Friday, over two hundred college students, community members, and workers rallied at the local headquarters of huge multinational commercial landlord Brookfield Office Properties to demand that the company stop trying to use loopholes in state law to get around paying $10 million per year in taxes on the purchase of four well-known downtown LA buildings. The entire group then sat in outside the office of LA County CEO Bill Fujioka. We left only after he came out and received our letter calling on the county to force Brookfield to pay taxes on the current market value of their properties, as a normal change of ownership would require. The event was covered in the LA Times.
Later that day, Brookfield told the Times (see bottom of article) that they plan to pay taxes on the full assessed value of the properties, rather than trying to pay on the value from the previous purchase years ago – a difference of approximately $10 million / year!
Although the statement claims they had never planned to do otherwise, that’s not what the company indicated in a previous LA Times article responding to ReFund’s demands that the properties be reassessed.
Congratulations to everyone on a great week of action. A huge group of ReFund organizations led or participated in events during the week, including Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), AFT Local 1475 (Early Childhood Guild), AFT Local 1521 (LA Community College Faculty Guild), California Faculty Association, CLEAN Carwash Campaign, Community Coalition, InnerCity Struggle, East LA College Students for Political Awareness, Occupy Fights Foreclosures, People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), UTLA’s Progressive Educators for Action (PEAC), SEIU Local 721, SEIU Local 1000, SEIU ULTCW, SEIU USWW, Students for Quality Education, and UAW Local 4123 (Cal State University TAs). Big props to East LA College Students for Political Awareness (ESPA) and AFT 1521 who did huge turnout on Friday and led other events during the week!