The Measure V cell phone and land line tax is a bad idea. It’s too expensive; hurts families, and with a $1.8 million dollar city surplus, not needed. It's a blank check for City Council. The City rushed this thing and did a real sloppy, inaccurate job.
One of the five city council members, who voted to place Measure V on the ballot, checked in last week in a column in this paper to explain why Council needed V. The column read like all the other campaign rhetoric coming out of the pro tax camp. Their high priced campaign consultant could not have written a better column. Claims of inaccurate facts by the no tax side are as empty as the "facts" the tax group bring forward.
Let’s see, they claim that Measure V amends the 1983 PG&E gas and electric tax. Amends! Nice word for “adds another tax”. A 60% increase! It is true that in the 1983 version seniors received an exemption. What they do not point out is that in the 1983 version, low and very low income residents also got the exemption. This low income protection was left out of the current cell phone tax because whoever authored this was sloppy and the ordinance was poorly vetted, or the omission was deliberate. Why would the proponents of this tax crow about helping the low-income Resource Center while at the same time agreeing to tax those least able to afford it! Unconscionable.
This measure is way too complicated. Council will appoint an Advisory Committee to monitor the proceeds of this tax. The budget for 2013-2014 has 75 pages of tables and descriptions. Good luck to the committee. Steve Rhodes made note at the first council meeting where this tax was discussed in late June that an oversight committee could not really monitor anything. As the ordinance itself says “Proceeds of the tax imposed by this section shall be deposited in the (unrestricted) general fund of the City and be available for any legal purpose”. (Sec.3-11A.04 G) The money can be spent for anything this council, or any future council, wishes. Finally, here's the real ordinance statement on the advisory committee: " ensure the tax revenue authorized by this chapter is expended within the city" Just how are they going to manage that? Does this end contracting with out of town vendors? Another example of how poorly written the tax measure is.
The pro tax advocates make a lot of claims about the tax cost. Let’s take a look at some of these. This tax may raise $1,075,000. Now where did that number come from? Turns out it was made up. We did a public document request asking for analysis and sources for this number. THERE WASN’T ANY! They could have plugged any number in there. Our bet is their consultant told them that’s a good low-ball number to deliver to the public. $6 dollars a month is being bandied about as a cost. Once again, a public document request was made. Amazingly we received the same answer back as our previous request. There is no support for that claim, other than their consultant told them it was a number that would not scare your average voter. You notice a pattern! We urge a NO vote because we believe this tax will actually be higher than touted and hurt families with children. We all know that most of our kids have cell phones of their own. We also know that it is us, the parents that are paying for them. We fear that this tax could approach several hundred dollars a year.
On June 10, 2013, council declared the budget balanced and a 1.8 million dollar reserve. Less than 30 days later, City Manager Rhodes (now a lame duck city manager) declared doom and gloom. Pacifica will now have a deficit next year which will extend over the next 4 years, he reported. Guess what the supporting analysis showed? Yep, you’re right, Mr. Rhodes made those statements with no staff report, no supporting numbers, no projections. These numbers were used to justify a phony fiscal state of emergency for our city and further justify putting a tax initiative on the ballot. Transparent? Doubt it.
Every three or four years Council cries “wolf” and wants a new tax. This poorly written and vetted tax increase is no different. The City’s own documents, approved by Council, show the largest surplus in five years, a balanced budget, and all programs are funded. Measure V is a bad idea all around. Vote NO.
Submitted by Jim Wagner & Mark Stechbart