Larry Hoffman: Vote no on Measure E
April 5, 2018
The Union recently published two op-eds related to Measure E.
Ed Thomas' piece strongly favors Measure E. Terry Lamphier's questions it. I firmly oppose it, and here are the reasons why.
Measure E would increase the current Measure N one-half cent sales tax to one cent. It would also eliminate the sunset clause of N, which expires in 2023. Measure E would continue in perpetuity unless reduced or repealed by a new initiative in a future election. Measure N was pitched such that it would distribute its "funds" in roughly equal shares to police, fire and streets. Measure E is being pitched for the same reasons, with the additional mention of including sidewalks, parks or any lawful purpose (whatever that means).
Both measures, N and E, are written as "general tax" initiatives. That means the money could be used for ANY city purpose — not necessarily those mentioned in the wording of the initiative. This is significant because the wording establishes expectations for those who vote for it. Yet those words have no real teeth when the word "could" intentionally precedes the potential uses mentioned. The proposed "Citizens Advisory Committee" would not be able to change that. Additionally, the initiative would require only a simple majority (> 50 percent) of the vote because it does not specifically allocate those funds to given purposes. I would encourage you to read the initiative for yourself on the City of Grass Valley website to verify these facts.
There are other reasons for not supporting Measure E. Many of our residents are retired and must survive on fixed incomes. Most of us pay Grass Valley over $80 a month for just water and sewer service, even if we use no water at all. Our property taxes have four extra assessments, and the Grass Valley School District is considering adding another, which would also be decided by ballot. Meanwhile, our Social Security payments have barely increased and may in fact be reduced significantly. Couple this with the ever-increasing cost of health care and pharmaceuticals. At what point will we no longer be able to afford to live in Grass Valley?
The biggest reason for opposing E is that it doesn't address the elephant in the room. Our older neighborhoods (streets, sewers, water pipes, sidewalks) have been neglected for many decades. The city has no plans to make this a priority. As we saw, only a few business areas received road improvements with a portion of the money collected by N. No general tax (E or N) will guarantee that any of our aged neighborhoods will even see a penny of it.
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Those who proposed Measure E made a final point in the argument for their measure. They wrote: "The City must end the unrelenting decay of our City's infrastructure…" I couldn't agree more. This is why I would only support a measure specifically for a Neighborhood Infrastructure Renovation Initiative. If passed it would direct the tax money collected for that sole purpose. Being a "special tax," it would require > two-thirds vote to pass, but it would be dedicated to improving the neighborhoods where we actually live. Wouldn't you rather have that?
Larry Hoffman lives in Grass Valley.