At first glance one might think the proposition should be approved by a hefty majority. Even the most anarchistic of libertarians would concede that it is a primary function of local government to maintain the infrastructure under its responsibility. This proposition dealing with the road system and fire protection would qualify.
But a big-picture investigation leads to many questions and ultimately a vote against the proposition. There are grave questions of truth, manipulation, a cynical us-versus-them mentality, and issues with the wisdom of the proposed expenditures. For example, City Hall is implausibly maintaining that since it merely maintains the existing temporary quarter-percent sales tax which expires December 31st, Proposition One is not a tax increase. Looked at another way, the city cannot maintain the expiring tax. It is proposoing a new tax carrying the same rate. If City Hall does nothing, there would be a tax decrease – something to be desired, as local taxation is too high. Through its advocacy City Hall has chosen to forego the tax decrease in favor of a falsely labelled new tax. Strike one.
The election of August 4th has a single ballot item: Proposition One. Why not add it to the next ballot and not incur this unnecessary expense? Single-issue elections have very low turnout, principally by those in favor. City Hall knows this. Our city officials also know that given the failure of their last tax increase proposal, this tax might not pass if it were on the ballot with other measures. Strike two.
But another disappointment lies in the very nature of the proposal for ‘capital improvement.’ There is already provision in the regular budget for capital improvements. Roads and fire protection are the most basic of municipal services. If there is a shortage of funds for them, the gap should be filled with money from other, less important budget lines. Money is fungible. The last request for a tax increase from City Hall, which failed, was said to be for the police department. It is well known that when politicians want taxes increased they always claim that without the increases police and fire would suffer first, not their frilly pet projects or those that get votes from special interests. The city says it has a surplus, which it proposes to use to combat ‘economic inequality,’ a purpose many would say is not and should not be a function of municipal government. We are highly skeptical that the funds for needed all capital improvements could not be found in the absence of a tax increase. Strike three.
The biggest issue is simply the loss of trust with City Hall. With radicals on the City Council pushing every progressive idea coming from the coasts and an entrenched bureaucracy recalcitrant to change its ways, it appears to us long past time for a real up-and-down performance audit. Strange to say, progressives in government never have enough money, yet are uninterested in efficient, effective government eliminating bloat and waste, which would free up funds for their pet ideas. In this respect, for example, the Fire Department has stated that much of its share of the funds to be raised from the new tax would go towards replacing fire engines every five to ten years. We find it hard to believe that fire engines become uneconomical after five years. Is no one asking the hard questions about where the taxpayers’ money is going? The local newspapers aren’t and apparently the city’s internal auditors aren’t either. Strike four.
We could go on, but four strikes should be more than sufficient. Until things change for the better, voters should get out and vote down every tax on the ballot and vote new people into every elective office.