Oct 11 2012

OPINION: Rebuttal to Measure Y Comments by Mayor

Municipal Tax Review Committee member responds to recent statements by Mayor John Chiang.

The several million dollars wasted by the City of Piedmont on the Piedmont Hills undergrounding debacle and city costs for the “gift” of Blair Park have consumed revenues equal to most of the $6 million collected by Piedmont’s parcel tax in 2009-2013. Yet Mayor John Chiang tells us that renewing the parcel tax (Measure Y on the November ballot) is essential “to maintain the excellent city services which assure the safety of our citizens and keep Piedmont an attractive place to live.” 

Nonsense. The parcel tax is not part of the solution to Piedmont’s financial challenges. The tax, by affording the City Council the luxury of refusing to manage city finances properly, is part of the problem. The Mayor and the Council have chosen to ignore the important and urgent recommendations of the Municipal Tax Review Committee that they appointed last year. But now the Mayor and the proponents of Measure Y claim that they are “focused on working toward a solution of ‘public pension’ costs.’”

The Mayor fails to tell us that, over the last 9 years, virtually every dime of the almost 40% increase in the city budget (a spending increase of more than $6 million) has gone to rapidly increasing employee salaries and benefits. The annual average compensation of city employees is now $160,000 ($100,000 in salary and $60,000 in benefits).

The Mayor says he is “proud” of “city leadership” on this issue. The reason for the Mayor’s pride? First, a reduction in retirement benefits solely for future city employees, a step that will take at least a decade to yield significant cost savings. And, second, a tiny and largely symbolic increase in the contribution of city employees to their extraordinarily generous retirement and health benefits.

The fact remains, as reported by the Council-appointed Budget Advisory Committee, that Piedmont households now face a $40 million unfunded liability resulting from the Council’s willingness to impose long-term costs on every Piedmont household. That represents a liability of $10,000 for every Piedmont household.

My family and I have lived in Piedmont for 34 years. In the past, I have been glad to vote for taxes that genuinely contribute to the quality of life in this community. Measure Y is not such a tax.

Along with a majority of the Municipal Tax Review Committee I urge a No vote on Y. For more information, visit www.NoOnMeasureY.com.

Steve Weiner, Piedmont Resident and 2011 Member of the Piedmont Municipal Tax Review Committee

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.  The Piedmont Civic Association does not support nor oppose candidates or ballot measures. 

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