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Monday, June 14, 2010

Economy, Sales Tax to Highlight Mayor's Race

Plenty of 'what-ifs' built into city's budget forecast By Steven Tavares
You don't need the Ragin' Cajun James Carville to tell you, "It's the economy, stupid!" but with five months before San Leandro decides whether to give Mayor Tony Santos four more years or give someone else a chance, some are running from the issue, leaving the possibility of a lonely tax measure saving the day.

It is quite troubling when the answer to the question of how to improve the local economy's tax base elicits identical responses amounting to "I don't know. Do you have any ideas?" That was the tenor of the responses from both Santos and Councilman Jim Prola last week after the city's $69.6 million budget passed last Monday night with nary a peep from the mayor or his challenger on the council, Joyce Starosciak.

About six months ago, there was question as to whether the economy would be the main issue confronting the mayor's race. There was indication back in December the city's role in the San Leandro Hospital situation could shape the race or even public safety, which is an offshoot of the poor economy and budget cuts, but recent news from both the national and state level only highlight a perception things may get worse before they get better. After last week's sobering budget news, San Leandro is barely treading above water with yet another major storm on the horizon.

Mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy has been the only candidate willing to speak of the impending economic problems about to hit San Leandro--making it his signature issue--but, he too has lacked any ideas on how to actually fix the problem. For instance, the root of the city's ills are far more endemic than cutting gym membership for city employees, as Casiddy has written over the past few months.

The poor economy would appear to be a cinch for any challenger, but Starosciak has been redolent of someone not willing to fully confront the problem. Surprisingly, she admitted at a reception for the deceased former city manager a few months ago that she was part of the problem. Starosciak's decision to make no comment regarding the budget last week spoke volumes towards her shakiness on the issue of the economy. It persists questions of just when she will actually begin her campaign for mayor, if ever.

For most of the last two years Santos and the council have perpetuated a feeling of victimization. The governor's decision to revoke the vehicle license fee hurt us, they say. Sacramento's numerous take-aways hurt us, they add. The national economy is killing us and lament being passed over for grants to add more officers to the police force. All are true, but not every municipality is created equal. For every Vallejo, there is a Walnut Creek and San Leandro seems striving for something in the middle.

Santos, for the first time, used the big trump card against his challengers and the economy. His campaign sent an email last week trumpeting a 2005 decision by former Shelia Young and the council, of which Santos was a part of, to set aside $20 million in reserves. The forward-thinking move is the reason San Leandro stands in better shape than many neighboring cities during this harsh economy, except the fund is nearly exhausted leaving the question hanging in the air of, "now what?"
There is a sense among economist of a looming "double-dip" for the nation's economy of which California has bore the brunt of the worst. There is sense from comments made by councilmembers and city staff of a "wait-and-see" attitudes hoping for the best in the near-future. Interim Finance Director Perry Carter says the new budget is conservative, but also cautions even a one-percent dip in their estimate will likely wipe out the remaining $1.3 million in the reserve fund.

The city's plan for the future is highlighted by a litany of very big "what-ifs" predicated on the economy improving over the next year based on the faith voters will approve by a two-thirds margin a quarter-cent sales tax hike. The city, for its part, is already setting the tone of the likely tax measure. In numerous budget presentations, the sales tax increase is positioned as the tonic to renew funding of vital public safety programs that are only budgeted for the first six months of the year. In essence, the city's tactic this fall will be to tell voters funding for two police officers and a fire ladder truck will cease if you do not pass this measure. It's a gamble that runs the risk of alienating voters, but in absence of any long-term economic plan, it's all voter can expect.

12 comments :

Once again we have the incompetents telling the incompetents what to do. City Employees are in a gravy train situation milking the taxpayers for all they can. They live in Danville, San Ramon, Walnut Creek and expect us to live with the crime and grime that they hoisted upon us. The only situation to this is not a wage freeze, but wage cuts. We need to raise the retirement age for ALL employees to age 60. No more 30 years and then retiring at FULL pay and benefits. Someone needs to tell Prola, Santos, The City Manager, The Police Chief and The Fire Chief to shut their pieholes, they are the HIRED help and the guys who pay the bills, THE TAXPAYER's aren't going to pay for their gravy train any longer.

It's assuring to read our elected leaders response to somehting as important as this is "Duuuuuuuuh, Do you have any ideas".

What the city needs are employment limits to go along with term limits. No more than 2 four year terms in a city job or contracted service and then termination without cause. This will spread out the work, reduce the pension and benefits and spread out the skills and provide full employment to all who want to work.

If Santos wants to take credit for Sheila Young's brilliant idea to put aside $20 million in reserves, then he should take the blame for singlehandedly blowing through it during his four year term.

I cannot believe anyone would want to vote for an inept moron who wants to raise sales tax in a recession (which includes BOTH Tony and Joyce). Raising the sales tax will result in decreased revenues because folks will go out of town altogether to shop. Think folks who make large purchases at Wal-Mart, Costco, won't go out of town to shop?

Frank Lynn

Frank, I agree, but I don't think shoppers will go anywhere else either. They just don't have money to spend anywhere. Somebody tell me how paying more sales tax is going to help when people don't have money to spend in the first place? Seems like a wash, at best.

Frank you don't understand the mindset of the people who vote for Tony Santos; they're freeloaders they want something from the government. All Santos has to do is slip them his linguisa and they're happy.
Manuel

John,

Shoppers will go elsewhere--for instance I know a lot of shoppers who go out of town to Castro Valley Safeway just because it's nicer. If you're on the fence about supporting a SL business vs. out of town--this will sinch it. Especially for big ticket purchases. Not to mention Hayward opened a new Costco that's close; and there's Wal-Marts in nearby Oakland and Union City. Sales tax is regressive, it hurst low-income folks the most, because they won't have the means to shop out of town. If the tax passes and moron-a-thon Santos wins; I can envision a Daly Show Segment with Tony about the Mayor of the town with the highest sales tax in California. Tony won't be smart enough to know he's being ridiculed by Comedy Central. He'll probably even have the city draw up an advertisement, and think he's finally getting the national recognition he deserves.

Frank Lynn

I would go elsewhere for large ticket items if they raise the sales tax and I already go to CV for groceries (not much loss to SL, no tax on food) so I do not have to put up with riff-raff that comes into this city from the greater Oak to shop here and makes it such a nasty experience.

Hey folks, you talk about the rif-raf that "comes" from Oakland. Guess again, they live here. All these subsidized apartment buildings. Why do you think the names on the complex's keep changing? It is because the place gets a bad reputation.
Manuel

Why isn't crime an issue? We just had some punks, probably illegal aliens, kick in a door to an 82 year old woman in Dolores Ave. and all we hear from these jackasses is "more money" or "oppresed Mexicans".

San Lenadro has become a celebration of ghettopian thugggery. The mall sells mostly gang member fashions--San Leandro Macy's is the only one where all the famous rapper's clothing lines are featured prominently while there's no business suit section. I've seen prostitutes and their pimps in thier Cadillacs by the mall in broad daylight--I thought BayFair must have opened a "Ho's R Us." I've seen kids proudly wearing their "Stop Snitchin'" t-shirts at the mall--I think they can buy them there.

BART enables the thuggery from Oakland to easily come to the mall and movie theater. And the fact that you have relatively affluent folks in Broadmoor and Estudillo who are geographically close to the poorest parts of Oakland--means there's a lot of "wealth transfer" in the form of burglaries and auto thefts.

And thanks to the white liberal elitists in town (as well as Vernon Burton and Brian Copeland)--anyone who dares say something bad about the thug culture is immediately labeled a racist--so it's too politically incorrect to complain about crime.

Not all people living in no-income or low-income housing are bad; but it does seem to create an entitlement class who have no incentive to take care of their living surroundings--or to better their lives through education and hard work. And the fact that San Leandro's political leaders want to reward those who are entitled, and punish those who work hard to produce is what is driving San Leandro further and further into the ground. That, and plain old corruption and ineptitude.

Frank Lynn

San Leandro's political leaders want to raise the sales tax, which is a regressive tax that affects people of low income the most, and you say they're rewarding people who don't want to work? That's total bullshit. What they should do is they should have an income tax.

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