Tuesday, July 8, 2014

San Leandro Places 30-Year Sales Tax Extension on November Ballot

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | Nearly four years after voters in San Leandro approved a much-needed sales tax measure viewed by many to have helped the city escape the worst of the Great Recession, city leaders will again ask them to extend the half-cent increase next fall for another 30 years.

The San Leandro City Council approved placing the extension on the ballot Monday night that could potentially net the city $8 million annually in revenue. The vote was 6-0, with Councilmember Ursula Reed absent.

The previous referendum, known as Measure Z, passed in 2010, but included a sunset clause set to expire in 2018. City leaders, however, said the time is now to ask voters to renew the successful sales tax measure to increase budget predictability and repair some of the worst roads in Alameda County.

“The timing is right,” said Councilmember Michael Gregory. In particular, the state of San Leandro’s roads and the lack of funding has been a consistent problem over the past four years, said Gregory “We have been searching and failed to find any funding,” said Gregory. “Nobody has come up with a better solution that I know of.” Federal and state funding for road work is unlikely, he said. “We can’t wait; we have to do this now.”

During his run for office in 2010, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy campaigned vigorously against Measure Z, but now supports its extension this year. Without the additional sales tax revenue, steep cuts to services and staff that highlighted recent economic down times could return, said Cassidy. “If Measure Z expires and there is no replacement, it will be some hard constraints on our budget.”

Cassidy is not running for re-election this year, but the two council members running to replace him this fall, Councilmembers Diana Souza and Pauline Cutter, both registered strong support for the proposed ballot measure. Councilmember Jim Prola added, he believes the steady flow of sales tax revenue will not only help the city repair its infrastructure, but potentially help it hire more police officers.

The City Council also discussed adding a second ballot measure in November. This one, an extremely simple and non-controversial revision to the City Charter hopes to move the ceremonial appointment of vice mayor from May to January.


San Leandro roads do need repair as they are in bad shape. You can't wait for the county because that hasn't happened. A few more police officers wouldn't hurt either.

San Leandro does seem to be getting a lot of positive press lately in the business community. Businesses want good roads and a safe city. So do the residents. It's a yes from my household.

The people I know in San Leandro tell me they will vote for it.

I seem to recall that the City Council promised voters in 2010 that revenues raised by Measure Z would be used to fix potholes and maintain city streets. They also promised to appoint an oversight committee that would manage the way the funds were to be spent. This committee was to publish an annual report on the tax measure. Four years into the tax, the committee has only produced ONE "annual" report (actually prepared by the Chamber of Commerce), which wasn't even published on the city's website until I demanded a copy. Street maintenance projects only received 6% of the money (less than $250,000) in the first full fiscal year. $4.6 million went to pay off debt incurred by the City Hall and Library remodeling projects, and to refinance the city's pension obligation bonds.

If they want to renew the tax, why don't they wait until it has shown some success at accomplishing the goals that they promised the voters (better maintained and safer streets)? If street maintenance was so important to them, why haven't they spent more money on that promise?

Please don't be fooled by these empty promises. This tax is not intended to benefit the citizens of San Leandro; its sole purpose is to benefit city employees (primarily the police and fire departments, who are already the highest paid employees on the payroll). The Police Officers Union spent $30,000 to sell Measure Z to the voters four years ago, and I predict they will spend at least twice that much on Measure HH, since it is worth twice as much money in their pockets.

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