by Dennis Green
With only half of Alameda’s registered voters concerned enough by the supposed plight of the schools to even vote at all, less than two thirds of those voted “Yes,” only 35 percent of registered voters, defeating the initiative. Measure E would have given this island city some of the highest school taxes in the Bay Area, if not the nation. It would have cost homeowners $659 a year, and commercial property owners as much as $9,500 per year per parcel. It would have raised $14 million a year for eight years on top of the $80 million a year going to the schools from regular property taxes.
I’ve already taken down my “No on E” yard sign. For one thing, it’s not polite to gloat, and for another, I expect a vicious and violent backlash from sore losers who exhibited such behavior during the campaign. Yard signs opposing the new tax have been stolen or defaced. Merchants displaying “No on E” window signs have been threatened with boycotts. One immigrant store owner was cursed and told to “go back where you came from.”
These Gestapo tactics were meant to intimidate opponents of the school tax in the most bitter, divisive and undemocratic campaign conducted in this town in recent memory. Regardless of the final outcome, bad feelings are likely to linger for many months.
And so will school parcel taxes. In a “Heads I win/Tails you lose” strategy, the defeat of Measure E will leave in place two previous taxes, Measures A & H, until the end of 2012. Opponents expect AUSD to come at us again before they expire, with yet another parcel tax proposal. Funds leftover from the Measure H campaign already constitute a potential war chest for just such an effort.
Just a few months ago, Alameda voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative granting an Orange County developer, SunCal, exclusive rights to impose their plan on Alameda Point, site of the former Naval Air Station, without adequate compensation to the City. We voted 85% to 15% against the proposal.
Yet, SunCal has persisted in its negotiations with City “leaders” to proceed with nearly the very same plan — with only very modest changes to get around the ordinance limiting the size of new housing — in a brazen denial of voter’s clear message. So the precedent is there for the school district to do the same.
I have been very active and vociferous in the opposition to Measure E, writing many articles for publication in local newspapers and online news sites, as well as my own blog. And for exercising my First Amendment freedom of speech rights, I have been called a “curmudgeon,” “pathetic,” “misguided” and “”smelly, ignorant and intolerant.” As if I have no right to my opinion.
And that opinion is far better informed than most of the yahoos who have been insulting me. I have fourteen years experience as a classroom teacher, have thoroughly researched the need for Reform in America’s public education system, as well as finding data which refutes the claims that all our parcel taxes have produced “excellence” in our schools.
If anything, this campaign has kept my adrenalin levels fairly high, and that’s probably a good thing. Simultaneously fighting kidney failure and dialysis, the political knife fight has kept me on my toes, provided a useful distraction from the illness, and given me a deep sense of satisfaction in articulating my own views.
Now, we’ll see if all the doomsday scenarios come true, if half the schools are closed, 70 teachers laid off, and those remaining so discouraged by the voters clear message that they either slack off in their teaching or move to a more affluent district with higher pay rates, like Orinda.