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Be an Informed Voter on Measure E

Dear Editor,

When Measure H passed by 39 votes, a group of property owners felt that the tax was both unfair and illegal and commenced a reverse validation lawsuit. I am a member of that group known as Alamedans for Fair Taxation. The tax is approximately 10 fold higher on small commercial parcels than it is on residential. Because the commercial rate is capped, it varies from property to property. After commencing suit we asked the Board of Education if they would sit down and mediate this issue with us. After some time the Superintendent agreed to meet with us. She submitted a proposal that had been worked out in advance wherein she would form an advisory committee consisting of 10 participants, 2 chosen by John Beery, and 8 by her. We balked, immediately realizing that this was unlikely to produce a fair outcome.

But the court insisted that this method of resolution be given a chance. So, pursuant to court order, The Parcel Tax Advisory Group (PTAG) was formed. Its court ordered mission was to recommend a parcel tax that would fairly resolve the litigation. The recommendation of PTAG was simply Measure H warmed over. It was still a split roll variable rate tax. Both the Borikas litigants and the Beery litigants assured the court that they would seek invalidation of this tax also. Just the same, the Board of education sprinted ahead to place this measure on a mail in ballot, to be sent in over the next 30 plus days. At least Trish Spencer had the good sense to vote no on this nonsense.

There has been much hue and cry about our efforts learn about the members of PTAG. It is essentially a reverse vetting process, because we were permitted no say in their original appointment. In trying to determine why they failed at their mission we are finding that the group did not accurately reflect a cross section of Alameda either geographically or politically. A majority of the group lived in the East-end and were parents or already active in the schools. Quite naturally they voted their interests.

PTAG was led by Rob Siltanen, an employee of AUSD. Mr. Siltanen published the following comments on his blog on August 18th 2008 “In the end, of course, no one except Alamedans for Fair Taxation can decide whether to file suit. If they do, I think they’ll find that businesses that turn their backs on the clear will of the community by participating in an effort to overturn the popular results of an election will also have the community turn their backs on them.” Among the comments following his blog is one by Page Barnes the then-AUSD attorney wherein she said “I don’t think that anyone is suggesting that all Alameda businesses be boycotted, but I do think it’s fair for people to choose where they want to do business based on their participation in this lawsuit. For instance, if I can buy my gas at gas station A which is not supporting the lawsuit instead of gas station B which is putting its dollars toward funding the lawsuit (the same dollars that could be used to pay the tax), I’ll choose gas station A.” We pose the question of whether or not it was proper for Mr. Siltanen to lead PTAG, and why are they posting these comments on the internet in a manner that they have the imprimatur of official sanction?

I encourage you to be an informed voter and read the record for yourself. Just don’t rely on the case number that the school district is using in its published agenda, because that one was discontinued 9 months ago. They apparently do not trust informed voters. Go to http://apps.alameda.courts.ca.gov/domainweb/html/index.html then click on domain web and enter VG08405316. Get the facts and vote No on E

— Ed Hirshberg

16 comments to Be an Informed Voter on Measure E

  • DHL

    Just in case you’re not outraged enough….

    The State of California’s bid to win the RACE TO THE TOP competition for a piece of the $4.3B (yes, billion!) for education reform that prioritizes good teachers..ready for this?….FAILED. See NY Times article today: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/magazine/23Race-t.html

    MOREOVER, A SENTENCE FROM THAT ARTICLE:

    “In 2009 the Gates foundation provided a $90 million grant to the Memphis school system — the state’s largest — on the condition that teachers there allow 35 percent of their performance ratings to be based on student test scores.”

    That doesn’t seem to be asking too much from teachers or the CTA. Alameda’s school system could be implementing contemporary reforms to improve the quality of education, apply for and get grants from the Gates Foundation.

    VERY interesting article. And we can learn from the second half of the article that details how/why New York, like California, failed to make the cut. I wonder why California submitted a substandard bid—anyone know?

  • Lori

    I would love a list of businesses that support Alamedans for Fair Taxation. Where can I find such a list?

  • This coming from an irregular poster to this forum who has advocated support for the tax? So that Pro-Measure E people can march into stores and try to bully the merchants?

  • Lori

    Why not? I have no plans to march into stores and bully merchants, but I think it is fair question.

  • Others have done that in the past, (Measure H) and from what we hear, are doing it again in this campaign.

  • Anonymous

    Just received a door hanger that promises Measure E will “Protect core academic programs such as math, science and language arts, and “Support small class size”.

    If I am not wrong most of the money is going to pensions of already retired teachers and administrators, administrator salaries and attorneys. Does the language of Measure E require the money to go to core academic programs? If so I’ll be glad to vote for Measure E. But if it can go to administrators and public employee pensions that are more overly generous than everyone else’s Social Security, this really isn’t going for the children of the proponents at all.

  • propubliceducation

    Questions everyone who’s thinking about voting for Measure E should ask:

    1) what happens if AUSD loses the litigation? Answer: AUSD has to pay back collected taxes, District doesn’t have money, State takeover.

    2) why didn’t AUSD float a parcel tax that’s clearly not a “split roll”? Answer: wants to maximize revenue and is willing to risk State takeover.

    3) why a cap on commercial properties? Answer: benefits Town Centre so no opposition from them, but then shifts tax burden to businesses on Park, Webster, Encinal.

    4) why same $659 for all residents? Answer: shifts tax burden to smallest homeowners so wealthiest don’t pay their share (who are more likely to vote).

    5) Why isn’t the District closing “small schools”? “Political suicide” to close Franklin, even though saves $300K/year; Franklin parents vote and donate to political campaigns.

    6) What’s different about Measure E than Measures A & H? E taxes rentals with 5 or more units like commercial property (13 cents per parcel square foot with cap of $9,500 per parcel), not like a single residence as in A & H; renters be aware. And E is for 8 years.

    7) Are District employees still receiving raises? Yes, Superintendent Vital’s contract includes a 3% annual raise.

    8) if Measure E fails, can AUSD float another parcel tax? Answer: Yes, but wouldn’t recommend until has a “Master Plan” to save money, as opposed to asking parents what they want without discussing costs and then asking the taxpayers to foot the bill.

    9) But isn’t Meas E good for Alameda and will protect housing prices? No, if Meas E loses in the courts, State will takeover AUSD and if Alameda’s small businesses have to pay Meas E for 8 years, many will be forced out of business.

    10) But doesn’t Superintendent Vital care about Alameda? She’ll be earning even more money in another District before this goes to the CA State Supreme Court. Protect Alameda – vote no on Measure E.

  • We learned recently that the judge hearing the Measure H lawsuits (Beery and Borikas v. AUSD) lives in Alameda. If the ruling goes against the plaintiffs, they will no doubt get a different judge, and perhaps a different result, on appeal.

  • Lesson 9

    Who’s the bully now?

  • We’re a bully because we noted that the judge lives in Alameda, and may not be completely un-biased in his ruling?

  • Alameda Landlord

    As an owner of a 5-unit residential property which has housed 2 owners and 3 housing voucher tenants, Measure E will raise my property tax from a bit over $300 to a bit under $3,000 – large lot. That’s about $45 per unit per month. Fixed income and other tenants cannot afford to have this passed through to them.

    The value of 5-unit residential properties have taken a huge hit, Measure E will be yet another blow to the market.

  • Larry Witte

    Is Action Alameda the same group that opposed the downtown theater, parking garage and ran the slate of candidates that opposed Beverly Johnson and lost all elections for city council and mayor a few years ago?

  • The theater megaplex and parking garage don’t generate the revenue and retail sales tax that was promised. And, as explained in this video below, aggravate the problem with funding our local schools.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAwfRXA3Ie0

    And this page shows that the cineplex and parking garage haven’t delivered the retail sales tax that was promised either:

    http://www.action-alameda-news.com/alameda-cineplex-and-parking-garage-sales-tax-charts/

  • For DHL, who asks, at the top of this thread, “Does anyone know why California failed to qualify in Round One for “Race to the Top” funding?” Yes, I’ve done extensive research. California failed largely because of union resistance — to the lifting of caps on the number of charter schools, to greater school choice, teacher accountability and evaluation and merit pay based on that evaluation, and a program in place for getting rid of non-performing teachers.

    None of this gets discussed in Alameda in the debates around Measure E. I attempted to discuss these subjects with Superintendent Kirsten Vital and Trustee Mike McMahon, and both dismissed the subject, McMahon saying that even if California qualified, such funding probably wouldn’t come through in time to save AUSD.

    Union leaders say that Race to the Top has “too many moving parts” to make it likely they will try to help their states qualify for funding in Round Two. Only two states qualified in Round One, our of 50 that applied.

    D’Green

  • Jane Marsant

    I am voting NO on Measure E because it is a regressive tax that taxes poor people the same amount as affluent people.

    Measure E will not solve the educational budget gap and another parcel tax may need to be voted on again next year.

    This is an EIGHT YEAR tax. No thank you.

    Lori, I want that list to so I can SUPPORT Alameda businesses that vote NO on Measure E.

    Stop robbing from Peter to pay Paul.

    Susan Davis has her lawsuit against the state. That will fund Alameda schools. Not Measure E.

    Remember people mail in those ballots and vote NO on Measure E.

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