Oct 21 2012

OPINION: Why Vote Yes on Measure Y

Parcel Tax Defeat Will Not Solve Problems-

 I too have been reading the pamphlets and news articles searching for the logic behind a no vote for Measure Y.  The opponents have cited three main reasons to vote no:

1. A few years ago the staff and council was in charge of an undergrounding project that went very wrong;

2. Employee pension obligations are unsustainable;

3. The tax is unnecessary because it won’t lead to cuts in emergency services.

I don’t dismiss the importance of these three issues, but nixing the parcel tax cannot address the first two and is beside the point on the third.

Money lost on the undergrounding fiasco can’t be recovered, and so we must learn from our mistakes and move on. I guess the idea with a no vote is to “send a message” to elected officials and department heads.  But if the council didn’t hear the message loud and clear by now, then we need a new council (see below).

Secondly, like many local governments across the state the city employees’ compensation seems to be out of scale with revenue and public support and probably should be adjusted downward. But negotiating with employees and their unions is a long-term process that can’t be fixed in a single year. So if we can’t afford to keep them with present revenues, how are further cuts going to make things better?  The city has already taken steps to reduce its future obligations and may need to follow that course of many years if not decades.

Lastly, the idea that a defeat of Measure Y won’t cut police and fire services suggests that the rest of city government is unimportant. As is typical in cities around the country, when cuts finally are made, it is fire and police services that are the last things to be touched. Which means that everything else is on the chopping block, from recreation programs (including the pool) to street maintenance.  And I think Piedmont is a great city because of ALL the city services, not just its 911 services.

If this debate has taught us anything, it is that financing a city is complicated.  But you cannot “vote with your pocket book” to change government policy.  The way to change that is by electing hard working and intelligent leaders to make good decisions.  I think we have some of those kinds of people running the city right now, but if you disagree, you’ll have your chance to change that when the next election rolls around.

Tom Gandesbery, Piedmont Resident

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 or oppose candidates or ballot measures.

4 Responses to “OPINION: Why Vote Yes on Measure Y”

  1. Mr Gadesbery,
    With respect, I acknowledge your position. So, let’s vote on both the parcel tax and a responsible, diligent City Council in February, 2014. Taxpayers should request more from our City Council in the employee contract negotiations for comtracts expiring in 12/12 and 6/13.

    Eric Lindquist

  2. A few items missing from Mr. Gandesbury’s list that are important:

    4. In February of this year the City stated the EPA was requiring Piedmont to replace its mainline sewer and asked for $10M + in the failed Measure A. The EPA was not requiring mainline replacement and the cost of the replacement was half the $10M. We need an honest process.

    5. The Council gave the Undergrounding District another $296,00 for the collapsed Crest Rd. trench when in all instances the trench was only there for the private benefit of the district.

    6. The Council ignored and denigrated the Planning Commission in approving Blair Park Sports Fields.

    7. The Council went ahead with an anti-slapp defense against the Kurtins that was so inherently defective the Judge stated no competent attorney should have brought the action. Taxpayer total cost: $616,000.

    8. The Council refused to even acknowledge requests for an independent and objective 3rd party Undergrounding investigation.

    9. The Council appointed undergrounding “audit” refused to acknowledge or address City Attorney Peyton’s role or discuss utilizing his errors and omission policy to recoup some of the losses. Money may not be recovered because Council is not taking action to recover beyond the litigation against the engineers. If that does not go well, the legal bill will be significant.

    10. Blair Park Sport Fields was represented as a “Gift” with “no taxpayer money,” a position restated by CA Grote. Taxpayer cost to date, c.$440,000.

    11. All the inadequate and missing pre-construction risk assessment issues of the undergrounding were repeated with the approval of Blair Park. Council neither learned from nor listened to the League of Women Voters Task Force and its own audit report.

    The City reports that the Pool is breaking even and requires no subsidy, so I am a bit surprised that is used by tax proponents as threatened. Unless the eventual accounting proves a public subsidy is necessary.

    We have a difference of opinion as to whether past mistakes are being learned from so they are not repeated. I respect your thoughtful viewpoint. I do not find Council’s actions substantive in regards addressing total employee compensation cost sharing or the many other issues I have listed out.

    Rick Schiller

  3. I have already publicly opined in the direction of Mr. Gandesbury, but Mr. Schiller continues to make good points about questionable past actions by the Council and/or staff. Nevertheless, I tend to think that the Council has gotten the message. Wasteful as the City been, there is a valid need for money for those extra public works and recreation services that make Piedmont a special place. Mr. Gandesbury is probably right that the cuts would not occur in police and fire, but in other services, maintenance and capital improvements. The only currently avialable tool to break the stranglehold of public employee’s unions on Sacramento is Prop 32. Its passage can change the future for the whole State. I read that it is up to about $40 million that the unions are spending to defeat it, so it must be a game changer.

  4. While I always respect Mr. Henn’s thoughtful input, I suggest that there is another tool to relieve the Piedmont taxpayer burden for local overly generous compensation packages: defeat Measure Y. The City can then state the electorate has spoken, the matter is out of our hands. Defeat of the tax is necessary as City Hall has not voluntarily taken the substantive steps needed.

    Prop. 32 is a tough call. I am troubled by the recent Supreme Court “Citizen’s United” ruling that allows Super PACS unlimited funding with no accountability. If Prop. 32 passes, would the Super PACS be exempt or not?

    A must read on “Citizens United” is the Jeffrey Toobin New Yorker article:


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