Tuesday, July 20, 2010

San Leandro's Quarter Cent Solution (Dilemma)

By Steven Tavares

After nearly a year of discussion and unofficial campaigning, San Leandro will place its near-term fiscal health on a ballot measure slated for the November ballot. The San Leandro City Council approved the placement of the measure which would increase the city's sales tax by 0.25 percent to 10 percent and raise an estimated $4 million annually for the next 7 years. The council voted 6-1, with Councilman Bill Stephens being the lone no vote. Stephens has longed been an opponent of the measure and took umbrage with it as early as last fall for the perception the city was "prepping" voters for the measure.

If approved by San Leandro voters, the 10 percent sales tax would be the highest in Bay Area. The big, round number could be an unprecedented psychological obstacle for some voters, a fact some proponents of the bill made reference Monday night. Councilman Jim Prola discounted the perception by framing the potential tax increase as merely 25 cents for every [$100] spent. "I will still be shopping in San Leandro," he said.

San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos alluded to Great Britain's seemingly unrelated 17 percent value-added tax as not being a determent to commerce in that country. "When I go to Europe," said Santos, "I still see people shopping."  Aside from Santos' brief statement, none of the three councilmembers running for office this November (Joyce Starosciak, Michael Gregory and Diana Souza) made much of a statement regarding the sales tax measure. Starosciak, who is running for mayor, only congratulated the city staff for "giving a concise reason for why this is urgent."

City Manager Stephen Hollister again starkly painted the city's dire economic situation and said numerous city services and programs would greatly suffer without passage of the sales tax increase, although he said the measure would only create precious time for the city to begin the path towards economic health. "It does not get us out of the woods," he said.

The city has lost $11.6 million in revenues in addition to $7 million in takebacks from Sacramento while cutting spending by $8.5 million over the last two years, but without additional revenues from the revenue enhancement measure, even more drastic cuts could occur next year, according to Hollister. The city would lose up to 10 partially funded employee positions in addition to cutting use of one fire ladder truck along with positions in the police department. According to Hollister by the beginning of the 2011 fiscal year, the city may need to close some of its smaller libraries while reducing hours at the new Manor branch. He said the city would "likely" close the Boys and Girls Club and eliminate most recreational programs.

The city's polling firm found that most residents felt comfortable with extending the sales tax sunset clause to seven years. Hollister said revenues gained over seven years projected the closest to its target of restocking the reserve fund to 20 percent of the general fund while allowing time for the economy to recover and before the city begins to absorb new revenues from the coming Kaiser Permanente project.

Nevertheless, Stephens has opposed the sales tax measure every step of the way. In November of last year, Stephens presciently saw the future of the city's vision for increasing sales tax revenues saying, "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."

Monday night, in voting no Stephens said "I have seen over the years an imbalance on how the council allocates revenues" and added the council has spent tax dollars on labor and not on items to expand and grow the city economy. It will not be enough, he cautioned and and predicted more budget cuts will be needed in the future.

Mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy, who has made fiscal responsibility his hallmark talking point, disagreed with the mayor and council's decision to approve the ballot measure and its populist overtones based on opposing the state's legislature. Cassidy equating it to one of history's ill-fated stewardships.

"Blaming Sacramento or the recession for all of the city’s budget woes is like the captain of the Titanic blaming the sinking of his ship on an iceberg," said Cassidy."

Cassidy also challenged the council's past decisions regarding its increasing responsibility to maintain soaring employee pension costs. "The city council’s lack of fiscal discipline and failure to reduce employee pension costs, along with overly optimistic and unrealistic revenue assumptions in previous years, explains why our city is on the path to bankruptcy," said Cassidy. "The solvency of a city should not be risked on the outcome of an election, but because of the decisions this city council made, that is precisely what is occurring.

UPDATE: (July 20, 2009, 4:20 pm) a clarification was made regarding the candidates for office this year who did not make remarks Monday night on the sales tax measure


Well, well, well. It took Bills Stephens 7 and half stinking years to wake up and say something intelligent. I am impressed.

Prola and Santos are ditz' pure and simple. You could look up "ethnic stereotypes" and have pictures of Prola and Santos. This is the same Babooze Santos who goes to some backwards village in the old country then comes back here and brags about "how impressed I was each City Councilman there had a chauffer and the amount of respect the people have for the Councilman". Hey Babooze, respect is earned not given. I'm sure Babooze Santos will be doling out the linquisa and bacalau to get this thing passed and himself re-elected.

I can't believe that city council members would want to raise a regressive tax during the worst recession in history since the Great Depression, in a town where the local economy is dying. I would humbly invite Joyce and Tony to take a college-level economics class to learn how economies work.

Joyce and Tony should ask themselves, who needs the money more--the working single parent in San Leandro who needs to buy clothes and school supplies for her children, or the city worker making $150K per year in a do-nothing job who will get to retire at age 50 with full salary for life. I guess the money goes to who votes for the corruptors, not who needs it. For shame.

Frank Lynn
Pleasanton resident, San Leandro property owner

How come Cassidy left the school district in the hole? He never had a balanced budget there and now he is telling us how to do it. give me a break. As for Vargas/Lynn. they have been consistant opponents of us, so nothing new there. by the way, I did in fact take several economics courses; I must confess in being a keynesian. I also followed Galbrath and Krugman. We locally did not cause depression; this was done by Bush and his cronies. Tony Santos

Forgot to note following: when did Cassidy join the "tea party" movement? What did workers ever do to him? He is big time attorney; his firm, ambulance chasers that they are, make millions of dollars a year. When will they cut their fees? Also when will they donate to local charities?

Oh, Tony, don't be bitter. If you want to criticize Stephen Cassidy I'm sure you can find ways to do it beyond silly ad hominem attacks.

And BTW, isn't your "charity" of choice the "Kids Wish Network"? A "charity" that spends 88% of each dollar they raise on fund-raising.

But, really, instead of attacking Stephen why don't you spend some effort in figuring out how to balance the budget of San Leandro without taxing the people who can least afford it?

I hardly know anything about Cassidy, but I did note he and Bill Stephens, my councilman, were the only to disagree with the sales tax increase. That's a boat I don't want to be in.

By the way, I don't think Tea Partiers would think being called one of them is an insult. It's called politics, if you can't fight back, stay out of the ring.

Is someone writing under the name "Tony Santos"? Because if the Mayor of San Leandro wrote such juvenile/half witted responses such as the above, he really is in the early stages of dementia.

Manuel, I wouldn't be surprised if that is indeed, Tony Santos. His lack of logic and attacks against Cassidy are similar to the emails he has sent to me. Juvenille and half-witted is more complimentary than how I would describe Mr. Santos

Tony, more businesses have left San Leandro under your watch than in any other time period. No, you didn't cause the global recession, but your anti-businesses policies and inability to economically develop downtown have hurt San Leandro's economy. What's wrong with pension reform? Even the looney liberals on the SF Board of Supervisors are calling for it.

Tony, your jealousy of Cassidy's profession, advanced degree and employer are unbecoming. Cassidy is a consumer protection attorney. Without consumer protection attorneys, we'd have cars that explode, food that kills you, and toys that harm children. What did you do again? Auto claims adjuster? I'm guessing from your advanced age, it was a pretty easy job since the only cars available back then were Model Ts.

Frank Lynn

The comments posted are indeed from Mayor Santos. It was confirmed earlier. Election season is on!

Santos is so stupid he doesn't realize that the biggest benefactor of this tax increase will be Amazon.com. What a jackass!

I just purchased a 46 inch Sony Bravia on the internet for $1399, saving me $140 in sales tax!!! SCREW YOU TONY SANTOS!

What the hell do you expect from Santos? This is the same jackass who wanted to tax homeowner insurance. His reasoning; "Oh the Fire Department puts out the fires on the buildings the insurance company insures so the companies should pay for the Fire Department. What kind of logic is that? Other than bullsh&^ from a moron? Hey Tony you stupid senile dumbass, the Insurance Companies insure the buildings they don't OWN them!!! What a fool.

Here's a great article about one city that might be more corrupt than San Leandro: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/scavenger/detail?entry_id=68559&tsp=1

Big, corrupt government thrives on a poor, ignorant populace. This is why Santos and Starosciak fight San Leandro schools tooth and nail, and Joyce refuses to put her daughter in San Leandro schools. S

If Tony or Joyce get elected, this is the direction that San Leandro is headed.

Frank Lynn

Frank, San Leandro is already there. Maltester took her there for 50 years. California is littered with small little corrupt towns that were incorporated for just that reason. Hmmm Rizzo????

Frank there is something intrinsically evil when government officials are only worried about their pay and not the general welfare of their locale. Why would any government official want to flood their locale with non-working parasites and purposefully chase out businesses and people who can carry their own weight? How many of these jackasses whom you see with Santos, Perry, Corbett, et al signs on their lawns even know that the City Council has themselves on the CALPERS plan and that they can draw a pension for being on the Council? How many of these bacalau fools are aware of what goes on? Not many. All they care about is getting a freebie off of the government; a junkie getting a needle full but with them it's a $12 piece of salted fish and half a linquisa.

I have to admit I agree with the "twins F and M" on a couple points - the need to get San Leandro moving forward again and that Santos does need to go. Our city has never looked dirtier and less cared for than it does now.

I see that out in the Tri-Valley the business community is out there attempting to attract employers and high tech companies to the area. Employers that pay wages. But here in San Leandro we have Tony Santos and the rest of these parasites wanting to attract welfare industries, "non-profits" that dole out freebies to those who don't want to work. The nerve of Tony Santos to say that Cassidy's law firm should donate to "local" charities. We have those big blood suckers at Davis St. bringing in welfare cases from all over the Bay Area to San Leandro to suck off of us. We don't need more. We need a business friendly environment and we don't have that with the likes of Tony Santos, Girls Inc. Davis St. and Rose Johnson (who by the way high tailed it to Pleasanton about 10 years ago).

I have to agree with Tim...this is fascinating! to Manuel ....Santos doesn't speak portuguese but he does speak German,(no offense to the germans) and cod fish is spelled bacalhau.....and your continuous reference to linguisa and bacalhau is not called for,indeed neither one is part of a german food group. Tony and joyce are the wrong candidates for this city.I will hold to see what Cassidy has to offer!,hey Tony it was under cassidy that the bound measure B was passed and the 9th grade campus will be open on time and under budget and oooh by the way there will be money to operate it. If tony had ran it the building would have been built and the closed up for the next several years....oh yea the 2 million for the dredging could probably have ran the senior center to at least 2 years.

I have not read all of these comments yet, but I have thought about the situation and talked to residents and businesses alike. Businesses are already struggling to stay in business, residents already, go out of town to shop. This is an anti-economy drivin solution. Get out of a recession=create jobs locally. Not by driving businesses and residents out. Cut unneccessary spending. Cut costs by conserving. Do not put burdens on residents & parents, but encourage community support. We need to attract successful businesses to San Leandro. I eat at TSURUs most of the time when I have sushi here in town, and I noticed that within 10 feet a new sushi place went up a few months ago, always empty I might add, great use of land, why not an indian restraunt or something unique. The City can control a situation like that if they took action. Shop locally, now let's drive out Car Dealers. May I ask what will the tax dollars be spent on where is that PLAN??????????? Oh maybe we will hire a consultant to make one if it passes, a firm that doesn't even reside in San Leandro.

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