The Oakland Tribune
Editorial July 3, 2009
OAKLAND VOTERS, the city is holding a special mail-in ballot election. You should have received a ballot by now. It must be returned before July 21.
There are four measures on it. They won’t generate huge revenues, but they will help some with Oakland’s financial woes as the City Council struggles to close an $83 million shortfall.
The Tribune urges you to vote yes on all four — D, C, H and F. The measures are endorsed by a diverse coalition, including most of the Oakland City Council, the Labor Council, the Oakland Builders Alliance, the Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters. Only H has a ballot argument against it and that is, in our view, not worth the paper it is printed on.
MEASURE D: By far the most important measure on the ballot. It would help fix the financial disaster created by the passage of Measure OO last November.
The benignly titled Kids First! Two was nothing more than a shameless, selfish money grab by a coalition of organizations, many of which receive city funding for youth programs. Not satisfied with the 2.5 percent of general fund revenues that youth programs had been getting under Measure K — some $72 million over 12 years — Measure OO supporters asked voters for 2.5 percent of total budget revenues.
That, if it were allowed to stand, would result in an increase from $10 million currently to nearly $26.5 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
With the city forced to hand out pink slips and cut vital services, it certainly can’t afford Measure OO without cutting from senior services, libraries and other programs, some of which also serve youth.
Measure OO should have been repealed altogether; but politically, that would have been too hard of a sell.
Instead, Measure D offers a compromise. Kids First! Programs would get 3 percent of the general fund, which is a decent increase considering the economy, yet less than under Measure OO.
Measure D is endorsed by the original supporters of Measure OO, who thankfully, now realize their mistake.
MEASURE C: Beginning July 1, 2010, this would raise the hotel tax from 11 percent to 14 percent. Half of the money would go to the Oakland Convention Center and Visitors Bureau; the other half would be split between the Oakland Zoo, Oakland Museum, Chabot Space and Science Center and Cultural Arts Programs and Festivals in Oakland.
It’s estimated to raise about $2.7 million.
Visitors and local residents alike would benefit from the tourist attractions funded by the tax, which sets Oakland’s rate comparable to San Francisco’s.
MEASURE F: This would raise the tax on cannabis (medical marijuana) businesses from $1.20 per $1,000 of business sales to $18 per $1,000 of business sales.
Oakland’s four medical marijuana businesses, which are anxious to be treated like other legitimate businesses, endorse the tax. If the dispensaries are going to be legal, they should help pay for city services.
MEASURE H: This is an amendment to the real property tax transfer. It closes a loophole that allows corporations to avoid paying the 1.5 percent tax during a change of ownership, if there is a merger or acquisition. That’s highly unfair when residents and small business owners must pay.
Revenue estimates generated range from $500,000 per year to $4 million.
The Chamber of Commerce opposes H on the grounds that it would discourage companies from locating to Oakland. That is just ridiculous because businesses locating here already have to pay the tax. This simply makes it clear that property changing hands through mergers and acquisitions also has to pay it. We have trouble believing either a merger or an acquisition would not go through because of this.
We urge Oakland residents to vote yes on Measures D, C, H and F.
Don’t forget to return your ballot in time to be counted July 21.