EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Council Approves $61,000 Mailing Campaign

STEPHENS: I DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO THINK WE'RE PREPPING THEM FOR A TAX MEASURE

By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

Coming soon to a mailbox near you three educational mailers from the city saying, in effect, "Brother, can you spare a dime?" or three glossy pieces of paper to be quickly recycled. Ultimately, the city wants the latter, but only after it states it case for possible increases in tax revenue.

The San Leandro City Council voted 6-1 Monday night giving the go ahead to spend $61,000 on mailers and consulting fees in anticipation of a tax measure on the 2010 ballot. Councilman Bill Stephens registered the only dissent.

City Manager Stephen Hollister told the council the three mailers, one of which will be sent in early December, will cost $41,000 for printing and postage, while consulting fees will run up to $20,000. On Nov. 2, Hollister told the council, $34,000 would be paid to the Oakland consulting firm Lew Edwards Group, but told the council Monday night the fees were now only $20,000. When asked afterwards for the reason for the decrease, Hollister said he had over-calculated how many months the firm would be needed. He also said "budgets are complicated" and pushed the need to educate the public.

"This is an extremely serious financial situation," said Hollister. "I feel that it is very important citizens and particular voters know as much as they can about our financial situation and are informed and give informed feedback to the council."

When Hollister made reference to a ballot measure in describing the mailers, Stephens interrupted him and asked, "Why are discussing a ballot measure?" As Catherine Lew, the president of the Lew Edwards Group, attempted to quell Stephens' discontent he shifted in his seat, furrowed his brow and took off his glasses. Lew said the mailers would both provide facts about the city's financial situation and reference a possible ballot measure.

In a brief moment of pique, though, Stephens moved for the council to prematurely approve the yet-to-be conceived ballot measure. City Attorney Jayne Williams called it "inappropriate" and advised the council, instead, to direct the city staff to draft legislation for approval in the future. Moments later, Stephens admitted his motion was only half-hearted, but pointed.

"Obviously, I'm being a stinker tonight," said Stephens. "I have no intent on moving forward on this, but I want to confront everybody on the reality of it. I just don't want to send a message to the community that we are prepping them for a ballot measure and that to me is what we are doing."

Lew told Stephens. "No one, however, will want anything shoved down their throat. There is nothing disingenuous about this program. It is not a foregone conclusion there will be a ballot measure."

With laughter from some council member, Stephens shot back saying, "I'm still not convinced. I'm willing to wager that there will a ballot measure. Anybody else like to wager?" There were no takers.

Aside from Stephens, the council voiced approval with the notion of increasing tax revenue with an eye towards a more tumultuous budget situation next year. In addition, there was solid consensus for the need to make the city's case to residents through the mailing. Councilman Michael Gregory said it is an expense to the city worth taking. "I'm stunned by how we can keep a government running with less taxes and higher costs," he said.

JOIN THE REVOLUTION! www.eastbaycitizen.com

3 comments :

Council member Bill Stephens is the only member of the city council displaying fiscal and common sense. It's obvious the city is moving toward placing a sales tax measure on the ballot for June 2010. The matter has been under discussion for months by the City Finance Committee.

The city finance director is projecting $35.5 million in deficit spending over the next six years. Left unaddressed, the city will go bankrupt within three years as all reserves are used. Instead of stopping the deficit spending, the city leadership is determined to seek another tax hike.

It is the responsibility of the mayor and city council to listen the community and keep us informed of significant issues. They should be meeting with civic groups and conducting community forums on the budget. San Leandrans should not be paying for a political consultant to do the work of our elected officials. We are paying twice for the same job.

If there was no money to hire crossing guards to keep our children safe, how can there now be money for political mailings? The city council has its priorities all wrong. They should be working on finding savings within the budget, not spending tens of thousands of dollars to push for another round of tax hikes.

I think Stephens is the only non Democrat on the council. I'm sure he isn't recieving campaign contributions from the Police and Fire fighters, he isn't even up for re-election, he's termed out. This is not an easy issue. The economy is not helping us. Certain groups in the city are better organized than others, can you blame them. On the other hand coming up with some creative solutions and thinking should be part of the plan. Cassidy's idea of not taking a salary begs the question"is he so rich he doesn't need to get paid, is he asking council members to sacrifice because he's wealthy , if he's not , who will feed his children?"Most cities especially in California are facing a fiscal crisis. The Lone Ranger won't solve our problems. During the 70's and 80's we started to lose our industrial unions and manufacturing jobs,we should have fought back then, few of us did. We have since then ran our economy on the hocus pokus of financial bubles. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Most other countries have government involvement in heath care , housing and transportation. We rely on the magic of the market place. It's laize-fare man. Now its coming back to haunt us.

Craig

Why is the city paying $41thous for a mailer?(which must be a nice one,glossy paper,color,smiling faces...) there must be be cheaper ways to keep you citizens informed...hmm The San Leandro Times probably could have used some of the money, a full page explaining the needs to such a tax,maybe running it several weeks may have been less expansive then the proposed mailer, inserting a flyer with in the newspaper would also have been cost effective!
A glossy flyer will not entice more readers or better understading of city politics.

A.Vieira

Post a Comment