About a week ago, Brad at Seattlest posted accusations of improper sales tax collections aimed at Sound Transit and the state DOR.  Because we make a good-faith effort to bring information potentially embarassing to ST out into the open to be examined, we linked to it and said that if he had his facts straight it was a good point, and went on to put a loose upper bound on the damage if he was correct.

But now Brad has wildly mischaracterized that post as “agreeing” with him, and somehow this paragraph of mine:

That comes out to about $62 million, but that assumes that those relatively rural areas have the same median income as the area as a whole; assumes residents do no shopping in the district proper; and ignores inflation over the past decade.  I think it’s safe to say that the total impact is something substantially less than that figure, so loose talk about “hundreds of millions” is probably not correct.

turned into this on Brad’s new post:

STB has calculated that people living in the non-RTA areas could have been incorrectly overcharged by over $60 million in sales tax for their personal purchases since the creation of the district in the mid-’90s.

No nuance, no mention of the fact that it’s probably a gross overestimate, etc.  That’s an incredibly misleading portrayal of my conclusions.

I’m not sure what kind of agenda Brad’s pushing, but if I hadn’t made it clear enough:

I hereby disassociate from all the conclusions he makes in both his posts.  To the extent that I speak for STB, I do so on its behalf as well. I have no idea if Brad’s initial accusations are correct or not.

UPDATE: Seattlest has registered my objections on the main post.  I thank them for their prompt action.  As for our “disinterest” in further exploration of the issue, if more facts come to light we’ll continue to post on the subject.

21 Replies to “Misquoted”

  1. There is something wrong with that Brad Cassiday guy. His comments on STB over the years have been petty. And he has always played fast and loose with the truth, never correcting (or defending) the blatant disinformation he initially posts. A couple months ago, Brad was whining about how Sound Transit was refusing to offer Seahawks service for pre-Season games. He apparently forgot to check the record: ST/First and Goal have NEVER provided service to pre-Season games.

    You have to wonder why a grown adult wouldn’t do some fact checking before attaching his name to his commentary.

    His bio says he’s starting a school for pet massage. I can’t tell if he’s joking about that, or not. I can tell you one thing: when it comes to writing, Brad should stick with his sports reporting schtick. Not too complicated – our team won, our team lost. Our team scored this many points, our team fired this coach, and hired another one.

  2. Look at this.

    It shows that we have a very specific determination of tax rates based on latitude/longitude and your +4 zip code. It’s nothing like MVET determinations that use a straight zip with no +4 code.

    Also, the important part: Businesses themselves do their own calculations.

    Do remember that there was a massive restructuring of the tax code. First, you had the shift of the ST boundary at 2002. Second, you have the focused reassessment of the boundary when Transit Now! passed. There’s also the shift in the system in anticipation of a destination-based sales tax that was bandied about and prepped-for since the early aughts, that destination-based sales tax passing in ’07 and active as of July of this year.

    While we often find a gray area in variable tax codes, it’s hard to imagine that being a major problem here. Washington and all states have been using GIS since 2000: http://dor.wa.gov/content/FindTaxesAndRates/Downloads.aspx

    Also, brad should have gone here first before attempting to publicly finagle money from the system with heretofore unsubstantiated assumptions: http://dor.wa.gov/content/FileAndPayTaxes/Appeals/Default.aspx — failing that, he can go here if the DoR finds against him: http://bta.state.wa.us/

    What’s going on here is an attempt to build a large amount of enmity between the public and Sound Transit and the Department of Revenue before attempting to foment mass hysteria. Ochlocratia. Mobocracy.

    I had previously not believed it to be anything inflammatory, just more curious questioning of the system, something of a pastime for me– but when it escalated into RTAgate and grim hypotheticals being bandied about, it smacked of something a little darker. Libel at worst, shrill bitching at best (I still think some cash was assessed incorrectly, but probably much much MUCH less than $1m; that’s the nature of taxation, especially if someone has improperly registered their business, but even then they should know beforehand when their documents are improperly addressed).

    1. I came to basically the same conclusion after poking around on the state’s sites. No one told him to charge that rate, he just assumed that he was within the district, without verifying, because his MVET told him he was.

  3. My car is 11 years old, Andrew. I didn’t even know there was an MVET component to the overall RTA tax structure until the story about the lawsuit broke a few weeks ago. Why should I? I don’t buy cars that often.

    Your version of my reality is much more glam tho.

    1. Brad, what do you mean you don’t buy cars often? What does that have to do with anything??? MVET / car tabs are paid on a yearly basis. Not when you buy a car.

      The annual statement from the DOL breaks down each tax and fee, and clearly identifies the “Regional Transit Authority” portion. If your car is 11 years old, you would have seen this breakdown 10 times.

      As I stated earlier: stick to sports. Or, tell us what your real agenda is here.

      Is it in the water out there, or what?

  4. As I said in a previous post, the RTA’s boundaries seem way too narrow to my eyes – especially on the eastside and in the Issaquah area. My family uses ST buses at the Issaquah P&R but where we live is not part of ST tax district.

    My suggestion should be that for those of us outside of the official taxing area, the DOL should make it an optional extra and ask us if we want to be included or not in the MVET or in our annual license fees. I am sure there are many of us who would be only too happy to contribute into ST’s funding pools. Heck, I would have been happy contributing to the Seattle Monorail and remember asking at the time if those of us outside of Seattle could make a voluntary contribution.

    Tim

    1. Great idea, Tim. You should contact your state legislators / senator about sponsoring legislation which might achieve this goal.

  5. The Seattlest post has been updated to clear up these remarks. Still, the editor has inserted, “They are not interested, apparently, in the looking into the situation further.” which I don’t feel is very accurate. I don’t understand why Brad reporting on something at Seattlest passes the burden of further investigating this case on to us. But we have investigated, and have yet to find anyone besides Brad who experienced this case. Given that sales tax numbers are self-reported, we feel that there is some margin of error.

    1. “I don’t understand why Brad reporting on something at Seattlest passes the burden of further investigating this case on to us.”

      Asking why was your first mistake, John. These clowns are employing a typical schoolyard debate tactic.

    1. “We?” I thought Seattlest was a blog about Seattle. Why not start up Duvallest, Woodinvillest or Carnationest, Brad?

      So, does that mean your Seattlest editor is drinking the funny water, too?

      “I’ve said enough here.”

      WTF? You haven’t said anything, Brad.

      “The inconsistencies are huge?” What does that mean?

      Are you trying to speak in tongues, or is this the way you always write/think outside the usual sports echo chamber?

      1. Whatever you say, John J. I am just an interloper. For all I know, Rush Limbaugh and Mother Theresa are on the same cosmic & moral equal footing.

        One cannot question (somebody like) Dick Cheney’s motives, either. Cheney deserves the benefit of doubt just as much as the next guy. The burden of proof rests with us. Not him.

    2. Brad can do “more stories” about how he overcharged himself and his customers.

      Notice how Brad refused to even comment on AJ’s well-cited post above.

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