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City leaders stump for tax measures

Officials from Grass Valley and Nevada City say the proposed sales tax measures on Tuesday’s ballots for roads and infrastructure are fair and needed now to fix streets and facilities in both towns.

Both taxes will require a two-thirds majority to pass. Officials said the two-thirds vote will ensure the sales taxes are used for what election documents said they were intended for by state law.

In Nevada City, Measure S will pay for 74 street and 10 sidewalk repair projects using $7.2 million. This tax would last for up to 16 years. In Grass Valley, Measure T would raise $72 million over 20 years to fund the city’s portion of the Dorsey Drive interchange, resurfacing of city streets, a downtown parking garage and bus center and the Wolf Creek Parkway.



Both cities could have taken the 50-percent-plus-one vote route to pass the half-cent taxes, but that kind of election sends money to the general fund and not to specific funds or projects. With voter confidence across the country at low levels, both towns feared a 50-percent-plus-one vote for an open-ended type of tax would not be accepted by the electorate.

“Even I wouldn’t vote for that,” said Nevada City Vice Mayor Sally Harris. But she thinks it is time to vote, for residents to turn out in force to pass Measure S by a two-thirds tally.




“Decades have passed without enough money to fix our streets,” Harris said. Dwindling state road funding and a city with less than 3,000 residents have made it so that residents can no longer afford to pay for street improvements themselves. That’s why Harris likes the sales tax.

“The sales tax is the fairest way to do it because it results in everyone who uses the streets, pays for them,” Harris said, not just city residents.

Grass Valley Mayor Gerard Tassone feels the same way about Measure T. He said the city chose a sales tax instead of another path because between 30,000 to 50,000 enter the city every day, impacting its roads just like residents.

“If we don’t do it now, the costs will get even more astronomical,” Tassone said. The mayor said it will also make the state more likely to give the town money for roads if they see residents are already taxing themselves for better streets.

Howard Levine, executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association, said the tax will pay for infrastructure needed to keep the city healthy.

“It’s up to residents to understand the economics,” Levine said. “This is the time they can stand up and say everybody together can improve the future of Grass Valley.”

Paul Matson is the co-chair of the Nevada City Citizens Committee to Fix Our Streets, which is backing Measure S.

“This is our only opportunity to fund all the street and sidewalk improvements without dumping it all on the backs of the citizens of Nevada City,” Matson said. “With the sales tax, we can shoulder the financial responsibility among all those who use our city streets.”

Tassone said earlier ballot confusion over the two measures caused by an elections information mailing mistake has hopefully been cleared up. In recent weeks, the county elections office sent out subsequent mailings correcting the earlier incomplete and erroneous information about the taxes.

Grass Valley City Council candidate Terry Lamphier has opposed the tax, calling it a boon for developers, but there has been little other opposition. There has been no strong opposition to the Nevada City sales tax proposal.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

Election Day information

• Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

• Call the Nevada County elections office at 265-1298 if you don’t know where to vote or have questions.

• If you are disabled and need a ride to vote, call Gold Country Telecare at 272-1710.


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