Last week, Congressmen Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and TJ Cox (D-Fresno) sounded the alarm about the Social Security Administration reinstating the practice of sending “no match” letters to employers.

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub

Politics 101

David Taub

The letters notify employers that an employee’s name and social security number don’t match. SSA encourages corrective action, such as filling out paperwork to fix the errors.

However, the congressmen opined that the purpose of the letters — which before March hadn’t been sent since 2012 — was nefarious.

“I’m concerned about the return of these no match letters that politicizes the Social Security Administration,” Costa said. “I’m concerned this policy will hurt our economy, destabilize communities and create greater fear.”

SSA says the letters are to notify employers of errors.

“The purpose of the letter is to advise employers that corrections are needed in order for us to properly post its employee’s earnings to the correct record,” Social Security says on its website. “There are a number of reasons why reported names and SSNs may not agree with our records, such as typographical errors, unreported name changes, and inaccurate or incomplete employer records.”

Effect on Illegal Immigrants

Costa and Cox expressed concern on how this would affect illegal immigrants.

“You can’t speak about immigration issues without speaking to ag,” Cox said. “It’s just another tactic to further marginalize and scare our immigrant communities and their employers.”

Cox speculated this could lead to higher costs for farms and more expensive produce for consumers.

Christina Beckstead

Christina Beckstead, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau, believes — despite the congressmen’s misgivings — there is some legitimacy to the letter’s goal of fixing potential social security errors.

“This has been a problem for a long time that needs to be addressed,” Beckstead said. “This is a scare tactic for employers.”

She notes that the current batch of letters SSA sent out are less threatening than they used to be.

There is one area of agreement she has with the congressmen about SSA’s scope.

“We just have to see how it plays out. If it is the government’s push to try and do some sort of immigration crackdown, that’s not Social Security’s job,” Beckstead said.

Provocateur Crashes Event

Before Costa and Cox got started, Ben Bergquam, the one-time staffer for Assemblyman Jim Patterson who is now best known for posting videos of himself crashing events like this — crashed the event.

Bergquam posted the entire sequence, as he usually does, on his Facebook page. He arrived on the 11th floor of the United Security Bank building at the Penstar Group offices, where the news conference took place.

As he entered, he bumped into Cox, who had a brief, albeit seemingly innocuous exchange. Then Bergquam did what Bergquam does: Yell pointed questions and accusations at elected leaders.

A staffer for Costa, as well as a representative from Sen. Kamala Harris’ office surrounded Bergquam, telling him he was unwelcome. Penstar President Leta Ciavaglia told him this was her office, and he needed to leave. In the background, world boxing champ Jose Ramirez stood by, in seeming bewilderment.

While Costa also asked him to leave, Cox responded to him directly, passionately defending his immigration policy.

Thanks to the encouragement of building security and other men in badges, Bergquam left the building and headed across M Street, where he echoed his views on immigration and politics via bullhorn. Despite being outside and eleven floors below, he could still be heard.

Cox Thanks Volunteers … in SF

A posting on Eventbrite shows that Cox, along with freshman congressional colleague Josh Harder (D-Turlock) will hold a “thank you” event for campaign workers and volunteers Friday (April 26).

It seems like a nice gesture to show appreciation to those who helped flip two Valley seats from red to blue in 2018. Of course, the event is at a hip San Francisco bar.

The host list includes dozens of names that pop up often on the federal campaign donor list.

And, how much thanks can the event be if it has a no-host bar?

Oakland Refuses to Collect Taxes in Measure with P Similarities

While a majority of Fresno voters favored Measure P last November, it was not enough to implement the sales tax to be spent on parks.

At least, that is how the city interpreted state law when it came to the percentage of votes needed to pass such tax initiatives, a majority or two-thirds.

A 2017 state Supreme Court ruling in a related tax-vote bill muddied the waters, and caused a lawsuit by parks advocates in Fresno. They say a majority is enough. That case will go in front of a judge in June.

Meanwhile, a similar situation in Oakland is taking place. There, voters thought they passed a tax measure for early childhood education with 62% of the vote. But, like Measure P, it needed two-thirds to be implemented.

Initially, the city took the lead of the 2017 Supreme Court decision and declared the measure passed. That led to a lawsuit.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that the city council voted against collecting the tax.

“For me, this is about hearing from my constituents that they are losing public trust in us here at City Hall,” Oakland councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas told The Chronicle. “They’re losing public trust in our elections.”

The council will next discuss a truce with the plaintiffs and possibly put the tax on the ballot next year.

A similar situation is happening in San Francisco with two tax measures that gained more than a majority, but less than two-thirds.

Hail the Chief

In addition to engaging in online surveys, the city of Fresno scheduled five community meetings over the next three weeks to discuss hiring a new police chief. The current head honcho, Jerry Dyer, is scheduled to retire in October.

graphic of community meetings on Fresno police chief search

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