Capdiamont\’s Weblog


SMART dodges two bullets
Thursday 31 Jul 2008, 07:18
Filed under: bicycle, Marin, SMART, Sonoma

Both Marin and Sonoma have decided to forgo putting aditional sales tax measures on November’s ballots. That would possiably reduced SMART’s chance of passing. During the same day’s news, another crash closed one side of 101. Any express bus, or any bus that uses 101 will also be stopped. Seems conventiant that the Arnold’s forget this.

Marin sales tax

Supervisors scrap sales tax measure
Richard Halstead
Article Launched: 07/29/2008 05:22:55 PM PDT

A proposal to levy a quarter-cent sales tax for open space acquisition, wildland fire prevention and farm protection fell one vote short Tuesday of qualifying for the Nov. 4 ballot.

The proposed tax would have remained in effect for 20 years and raised $200 million. Half would have been spent on open space acquisition and maintenance. Thirty percent would have gone for fire prevention, and 20 percent would have been turned over to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

State law requires the support of four of the county’s five supervisors to place a tax of this kind on the ballot. Marin County supervisors Susan Adams, Judy Arnold and Hal Brown all wanted to put the proposal before voters in November, but supervisors Charles McGlashan and Steve Kinsey said the timing was wrong.

“Two-thirds votes require consensus. This is not a measure that has consensus,” Kinsey said, noting the measure would require the support of two-thirds of those voting in November to pass.

During a public hearing a week ago, a number of groups opposed putting the initiative on the November ballot. These included the North Bay Transportation Alliance, the League of Women Voters of Marin County, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and the Marin Horse Council.

The transportation alliance backs a measure already on the November ballot that would levy a quarter-cent sales tax to fund a commuter rail line connecting Marin and Sonoma counties. Backers of that measure worry it would suffer if another
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tax measure was on the ballot.

On Tuesday, San Anselmo Councilman Peter Breen added his voice to the chorus of critics. Breen said the proposal needs to be much more specific about where $100 million raised for open space would be spent.

“Unfortunately, there has been no organized coordination with cities on this matter,” Breen said.

Kinsey said Tuesday that critics’ objection to the prominent use of the word “clean water” in the title of the expenditure plan needed explanation.

The Marin chapter of the League of Women Voters questioned the truthfulness of labeling the proposal as a “clean water” initiative when none of the tax money would be spent directly on water production or capture. County parks and open space chief Sharon McNamee has said the words were added because they “polled well” with potential voters.

“I think we need to clean that up,” Kinsey said.

Supervisors Arnold and Adams argued that there was nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting the initiative on the ballot and letting voters decide.

“I think not putting it on the ballot because you’re afraid it’s going to lose is a paternalistic viewpoint,” Arnold said.

Adams said the presidential election is likely to draw a high percentage of Democratic voters who are likely to support tax initiatives.

“This could very well be a missed opportunity for us,” Adams said.

Ross Valley Fire Chief Roger Meager spoke in support of putting the initiative on the ballot, saying that more money is urgently needed for wildland fire protection.

“We’re sitting on a time bomb in this county,” Meager said.

But McGlashan, who cast the deciding “no” vote, said the county is capable of coming up with money for fire prevention without a new tax.

“I think that is just a cynical ploy to get people to go now,” McGlashan said. “I don’t want to go out and lose.”

Sonoma sales tax

SR sales tax rejected to protect rail measure
City Council decides that placing quarter-cent hike on ballot would jeopardize SMART initiative

By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 7:54 a.m.
The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday rejected the idea of a city sales tax to help balance next year’s budget, citing concerns that the measure could jeopardize the proposed tax for a Sonoma-Marin commuter train.

The “Sprinter” commuter train in San Diego is the type of train being considered for a Sonoma-Marin commuter route.

The council’s action may set the stage for budget cuts of $8 million to $16 million, which officials said would significantly impact city services and staffing.

“Santa Rosa is making a gesture,” Mayor John Sawyer said, after the proposal to place a quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot died at the council meeting without coming to a vote.

The commuter train tax “could be at risk” with two tax measures on the ballot, Sawyer said. The city, without a boost to its revenue, will enter “a painful financial environment,” he said.

Councilwoman Susan Gorin, who said she still supported the city’s sales tax idea, said there was no point putting it to a council vote since her colleagues’ will was clear.

As a general tax, the proposal needed five votes from the six-member council Tuesday and a subsequent vote next week to qualify it for the fall election. Approval from a simple majority of Santa Rosa voters would have been needed to enact the tax, which would have generated about $7 million a year.

That would have offset most of an anticipated $8 million hole in the city’s 2009-2010 budget, City Manager Jeff Kolin said.

Piling on the red ink, he said, is the state’s reported plan to borrow money from cities — up to $8 million from Santa Rosa — to plug the $15.2 billion state deficit.

But the deal-breaker proved to be public and council concern that a city tax might doom another quarter-cent sales tax to finance the proposed Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit commuter train from Cloverdale to Larkspur.

“I can’t wait to get on that train and go down to the ferry,” Gorin said.

“I think they made the right decision,” said SMART spokesman Chris Coursey.

“SMART is the best thing that could happen to Santa Rosa’s economy,” Coursey said, adding that the station in Railroad Square will “jump-start the revitalization of downtown.”

A dozen speakers — including former Councilwoman Janet Condron, two Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce members and environmentalists — urged the council to drop the tax, many of them saying the SMART tax is more important.

Condron also noted that enacting a tax in the face of a recession is sending “the wrong message to our citizens.”

“I don’t think there’s a chance in you-know-what it will pass (in November),” Condron said.

“I think you guys are very disconnected with what’s out there,” resident Alfredo Sanchez said, noting that people are losing their homes to foreclosure.

Kay Tokerud of the Santa Rosa Area Business Association said that a sales tax is regressive, “harder on the poor than it is on the wealthy.”

A telephone poll of 400 registered voters conducted in June found more than 60 percent of respondents willing to vote for the sales tax. Sawyer said results of the $21,000 poll were “less than a resounding yes.”

Gorin said she was not surprised by the outcome, since she and other council members had heard from both environmentalists and business people that SMART is important.

SMART’s board of directors voted two weeks ago to put the quarter-cent sales tax to a vote in Sonoma and Marin counties in November. Two years ago, the rail tax got 65 percent support in the two counties, falling short of the required two-thirds majority.

“The city needs SMART,” resident Willard Richards told the council. He and others said the train will cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles stuck on congested Highway 101.

Santa Rosa residents account for 14 percent of those eligible to vote for the SMART tax.

Councilman Lee Pierce said he was prepared to cope with the predicted city budget crunch. “I think maybe we need to go through some pain,” he said.

Councilwoman Jane Bender said the city needs to “change the way we do business. We can’t continue to put our hand out to voters.”

Putting a city tax on the ballot would “doom the (SMART) measure to almost certain failure,” Bender said.

The council last month approved $5 million in cuts and fee increases to balance the current 2008-09 budget.

Future choices include making additional multimillion-dollar budget cuts or reconsidering a city tax next year or in 2010, officials said.

The city’s revenue shortfall is expected to persist in future years, Kolin said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

101 Crash

4-car crash temporarily closes Highway 101 in Santa Rosa

By LAURA NORTON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 4:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 4:13 p.m.
A four-car collision on Highway 101 in Santa Rosa Tuesday afternoon shut down northbound traffic for 30 minutes and sent two people to local hospitals with minor injuries.

The 2:20 p.m. collision near the Baker Ave. off-ramp occurred when a delivery truck transporting clams rear-ended a suburban, pushing it into the two vehicles ahead of it before running the suburban off the road.

The California Highway Patrol closed the roadway while the driver of the delivery truck was pulled from his vehicle, two people were loaded into ambulances and the crunched vehicles were cleared from the roadway.

“With four cars out there there was a lot to do,” said CHP Officer Juan Leon.

Hwy 101 reopened at about 3 p.m.

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