Jul 19 2011

Editorial: Time to Move Tax Committee Meetings to Council Chambers

Isn’t it time for the City’s Municipal Tax Review Committee to come out of the basement and meet in a more public setting, such as the City Council chambers, where meetings can be broadcast to Piedmont residents via KCOM and videotaped for city archives.

This important, nine-member committee of Piedmont residents has been meeting bi-weekly or weekly on Wednesday evenings for the past several months in the Piedmont Police Dept.’s emergency operations room on Highland Avenue.  The committee and City staff sit at tables arranged horse-shoe style around the room, while the audience must find seats in a few randomly placed office desk chairs in the back of the room.  Last week’s meeting drew an “overflow” crowd of about a dozen Piedmonters, requiring four or late comers to either stand or sit on the floor, including the City Administrator.

The committee’s mission is to study, discuss and advise the City Council on a critically important subject: renewal of the municipal services (parcel) tax and recommending the amount. Piedmonters will vote on whether to renew the tax, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass, in February 2012. Members delve into the heart of what makes this city tick (revenues and expenditures) and how – and if –  the city will continue to tick in the coming decade.

Will property values rise and by how much? What will property tax revenues look like? How much money should the city hold in reserve? What should or can be done about employee benefits, which have increased from 23% of salaries to 53% in 10 years? How can major projects, such as the city-owned swimming pool and the proposed Blair Park sports complex, be maintained at no city expense?

A draft committee report states, “Based on our analysis this far, we believe there is a clear need for the city to make some major changes. Although Piedmont is probably much better off than many other cities, and we don’t see an immediate crisis, we believe the city must act with a sense of urgency to avoid the problems already seen in other cities like Vallejo, San Diego, and San Jose. We believe postponing corrective action will only make the changes required more drastic and painful.”

With so much at stake, these discussions are too important to take place out of sight of the majority of Piedmont residents. The Committee’s meetings should be held in the City Council chambers, where City Commissions meet, and where the meetings can be videotaped so they are accessible to all residents.  There is room for all nine Committee members to be seated at the Council’s desks, which are equipped with microphones.  The Committee liaisons, Councilmembers John Chiang and Jeff Weiler, and City staff can be seated at tables alongside them or in the first row of the audience.

The next Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Police Dept. emergency operations room. With only four scheduled Committee meetings remaining, the question is whether any of them will be moved to City Hall.

3 Responses to “Editorial: Time to Move Tax Committee Meetings to Council Chambers”

  1. The Committee will take up the question again at tonight’s meeting. The main issue is the lack of sufficient seating and microphones for all members plus city reps. If we can work around those, we’ll try to schedule the remaining meetings in the Council Chambers.

    Mike Rancer
    Committee Chair

  2. I am pleased to announce that the committee voted last night to hold all its remaining meetings in the Council Chambers. These meetings will be August 3, 17 and 31, all at 7:30 pm. The seating will be somewhat awkward but city staff assure us they can make it work.

    Mike Rancer
    Committee Chair

  3. Dear PCA,

    Terrific editorial and I’m pleased to see Mike Rancer’s prompt response. I look forward to the rebroadcast meetings of the Tax Committee.

    Thanks so much for allowing us to keep up with these key issues.

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