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Alamedans For Fair Taxation Propose Second Alternative Parcel Tax Structure

Alamedans For Fair Taxation, a local business advocacy group, has proposed a second alternative parcel tax structure to support Alameda’s schools. The proposal follows an earlier suggested structure the group released in August.

Ed Hirshberg, spokesperson for the group, told Action Alameda News that Alamedans For Fair Taxation would consider supporting a hybrid tax structure – one that taxes both land in a parcel and building improvements. Mr. Hirshberg said that AFT arrived at a suggested rate of two cents per square foot of building improvements,land and six cents per square foot of land, building improvements, reflecting a building-to-land ratio typical for a new property. “This is our assessment of what the community will willingly bear,” he said.

The group has also produced a detailed parcel database covering Alameda, with some twenty-thousand parcels listed; it has asked the Alameda Unified School District to study the data to understand why the District’s sum of taxable land in Alameda is lower than AFT’s.

29 comments to Alamedans For Fair Taxation Propose Second Alternative Parcel Tax Structure

  • VoterHere

    I attended the Thursday Oct 14th Parcel tax public meeting at Earhart Elementary.

    I did not hear any representative from AFT speak up at the public meeting.

    I did not hear anyone present this proposed parcel tax structure to the board. Were the Alamedans For Fair Taxation unavailable to attend? Are they averse to speaking in public? Why are they not engaging with AUSD?

    The AUSD board and Kirsten Vital were present. And during the meeting they also had a presentation from the Parcel Tax Adminstrator who presented data regarding number of square feet in residential and non-residential parcels.
    And they also presented lot square footage for residential and non-residential.

    It would be a good gesture if Alamedans for Fair Taxation would attend and speak at these public meetings. I hope they are active participants at the public meetings. It would demonstrate that AFT has sincere motives to engage with frank discussions with AUSD.

    Instead I see this article about the AFT making announcements. How will people take them seriously if they are not attending these public meetings? Are the AFT members not believers in public meetings? Can they demonstrate they want two-way discussions? or are they more comfortable with sending out one-way announcements?

  • […] I read on the Action Alameda blog that Ed Hirshberg and Alamedans for Fair Taxation (AFT) has a new proposal for a parcel tax. I did not hear anyone from AFT present their proposed parcel tax structure to the board that night. […]

  • Their proposal and data is published here:

    If anything, it is AFT who feels that the District is not engaging with them. AFT has stated many times that they believe AUSD did not listen to their concerns over Measure H, nor did they listen to AFT’s concerns over Measure E, which was the same as Measure H. And judging from the latest parcel data from AUSD, courtesy of SCI Consulting, AUSD is not paying any attention to AFT’s parcel database now. This publication has repeatedly asked Ron Mooney and AUSD for a detailed parcel tax database – 1 record for every parcel – and we’ve been told it does not exist.

    Ed Hirshberg has met with Ron Mooney and Kirsten Vital and showed them the AFT parcel database. (Source: Ed Hirshberg.) The District has been offered a copy of the AFT parcel database. In fact, I have been told that AFT asked Danielle Houck if they could sit down with SCI Consulting and compare data, but Houck declined, stating “We pay them by the hour.” (This was after the first parcel tax public hearing at the Kofman Auditorium. AFT members did, in fact, attend that meeting.)

    Why does AFT need to attend the public meetings to be active participants? So that “a parcel tax at any cost!” parents can attack them in person? Like the parents that stormed into Park Street storefronts during the Measure H campaign and started screaming at store owners? Or like the parents during the Measure E campaign that stormed into the Aria Market on Webster street, screamed racial epithets at the 10-year old son of the owners, and told them “go back to your own country!” Is that why they should speak out at these parcel tax hearings?

  • Anon

    If I were to hand the Alamedans for Fair Taxation a gun, would they shoot themselves in one or both feet? Nothing that AUSD does will be or could be a fair tax. Only some less unfair. AUSD has such a limited scope of perspective, platform and desired results, that it is a waste of time to deal with them. It just gives AUSD the ability to promote the latest parcel tax as one that they worked on with the business community. Not that it was necessarily approved by that community.

  • VoterHere

    I think you need to ask yourself why you are so unable to attend these public meetings. Your delusions of being attacked at AUSD public hearings are quite comical. It is quite telling of the state of your agitation.

    I have been to the last 3 AUSD public hearings.

    Lincoln Middle School – School closures meeting
    Earhart Elementary – AUSD candidates meeting
    Earhart Elementary – Parcel tax meeting

    And all speakers who went to the mic have been treated with respect by the attendees. I wonder why you have such feelings of anxiety? You can review the TV broadcasted meetings yourself. There has not been any parents attacking speakers at the mic.

    Are you going to keep having private meetings with Kirsten Vital, and Ron Mooney? Is every private citizen in Alameda also entitled to have one-on-one pow wows with them? C’mon get real. This is a public issue, get your opinions out in the public arena, not in private meetings.

    You are again mischaracterizing the supporters of the parcel tax as violent. Even an imaginary event. wow

  • Reports like these:

    are not imaginary, but they feature people who hide behind anonymity just as you do. If your concern for Alameda is genuine, and not just another ad hominem front for John White, or SunCal, or (insert local annoyance here) stand up and use your real name and stop making up a narrative to suit your own needs.

  • VoterHere

    I was at the AUSD parcel tax meeting (Oct 14th) at Earhart, and the city attorney mentioned that the AUSD board should not be getting creative with taxing according to “improvements”. The more “creative” or unique the parcel tax becomes, the bigger chance of the parcel tax being subject to lawsuits.

    I guess Action Alameda and Alamedans for Fair Taxation did not hear the city attorney say that. BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT PRESENT at the public meeting.

    I believe the board is looking at taxing based on square footage to make the tax more fair. The larger your building square footage, the more you pay. Sounds fair?

    Everyone who has a stake in this discussion have to really consider going to the public meetings.
    The board members are there, McMahon, Jensen, Spencer, Tam, and Superintendent Kirsten Vital was there.
    The city attorney was there.
    The parcel tax administrator was there.
    The parents were there (non-violent I may add).
    I saw Rand Wrobel (the candidate supporting charter schools) was there.
    Mr Svendsen from Svendsen’s Boat works was there.
    PTA group members were there.

    Who was missing? was AFT or Action Alameda there at this public meeting? Seems like if you have good parcel tax proposals, one would take the time to attend a PARCEL TAX public meeting? Maybe I’m just asking too much from our gentlemen.

    … Mr. Hirshberg said that AFT arrived at a suggested rate of two cents per square foot of building improvements,land and six cents per square foot of land, building improvements, reflecting a building-to-land ratio typical for a new property. “This is our assessment of what the community will willingly bear,” he said.

  • Good for you – you’ve been to all the meetings. I went and spoke at the Lincoln school consolidation meeting and was constantly interrupted by someone in the audience during the 3 minutes allotted to me to speak. So, you’re wrong, not all speakers have been treated with respect. I also spoke at the parcel tax hearing at the Kofman Auditorium. As I already indicated, AFT members did attend the Kofman meeting – actually, they passed out flyers that outlined highlights of their proposal on the steps of 2200 Central before the meeting. Did you get one?

    The District parcel tax proposals are on this website, as are the AFT proposals. All are reviewed before they are posted. And, yes, every private citizen can ask for a meeting with Kirsten Vital – if you want a private meeting with Kirsten Vital, you should ask – she’s generally willing to do so. If AFT members don’t go more public meetings, it’s probably because they’re convinced that AUSD pays only lip service to their concerns. Perhaps they even feel, from past experience, that AUSD is only putting on a show of “listening” and that they already have reached some kind of foregone conclusion, and that participating at the meetings would be a waste of time.

    The per building sq ft proposal is worthy of consideration, because it is progressive, just like a sq ft of lot size structure, or the hybrid structure proposed by Mr. Hirshberg. A cap on the tax would introduce the sort of inequities that AFT is opposed to – Alameda Towne Center pays 1/2 cent per square foot on their 1.7 mil. sq foot parcel at the shopping center, under Measure H. Small property owners pay 15 cents per square foot.

    There is also the question of whether people will vote to approve a tax at 25 cents or so per square foot – that will more than double the parcel taxes for many homeowners. Your harping on this business of attending the parcel tax meetings is specious and shows that you just want to cause trouble for trouble’s sake, and not work to resolve the parcel tax issue. This is a public forum right here – everyone’s opinions are out “in the public arena,” everyone is engaging, except you. And you seem to be trying to pick a fight. Do you have anything to actually contribute to the dialog about how to pass a parcel tax that is more fair and progressive than Measure E, and is likely to pass?

    And Adam Gillitt is right – you are hiding behind anonymity while accusing others of hiding and not coming out to meetings. Why won’t you use your real name and a real address when you post here?

  • Barb

    Q: Why would the City Attorney be at the AUSD meetings? They have their own General Counsel. I don’t get it. Is someone intentionally misstating the facts or is their perception simply way off? I know AUSD cannot figure out what to do so they have sought the help of Intereim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant. Does this mean the City is paying the City Attorney to try and help AUSD out because their own General Counsel is unable to do so?

    Who is AUSD going to turn to when TAM BONTA and GILMORE fire the ICM and CA?

  • VoterHere makes a very disingenuous, and disrespectful argument. I am on dialysis, and most days am housebound or even bedridden. Does this mean that I — and hundreds of other ill or disabled Alamedans don’t have a right to an opinion? There’s nothing magical about public town hall meetings, especially in a democracy.

    And before my kidneys failed, I met privately twice with Kirsten Vtal, once with Mike McMahon, and twice with Trish Spencer, and have swapped entails since with all three. If you think you get as accurate a read of a public official in a public, official meeting as you do one-on-one, you are naive about politics AND human nature.

    And behind your alias, I think I detect the tone of someone who used to post under a different, and somewhat ridiculous alias, until he was outted. Talk about having the courage of your convictions! Just like that AUSD hottie.

  • Smart voter

    Voter here…

    You do not know how many AFT members where in the audience, since we prefer to remain anonymous.I was passing out flyer’s in front of Kaufmann Auditorium and got verbally assaulted by one woman and another one shoved the flyer right back at me without even looking at it. That is the reason so many of us can’t and won’t come forward, we are afraid and believe me, with good reason. Many of the AFT supporters have experienced the ugliness and the threats of boycotts after the measure H passage and I am sure you must have heard about the incidents during the measure E campaign.

    We have been to all the meetings and are trying very hard to come up with a tax that is supported by all Alamedan’s.We have weekly meetings and have also spoken to some of the candidates that are running for the BOE. We have been working on a proposal for many month now, how about you? You seem to be so involved, got any new ideas you care to share here? We are more than willing to listen and I can assure you, we appreciate all the help we can get.

    I personally have been working on my computer many hours a day for weeks now,trying to figure out and compare parcels in the City of Alameda and crosscheck every one of them with the Assessor’s records. We know for a fact, that the AUSD numbers are wrong, there are many more parcels that can be taxed and some that are not paying their fair share, like South Shore shopping center aka Towne Center. An accurate counting of all taxable parcels would lessen the tax for each of us and is therefore much more likely to pass.

    Ed Hirshberg has a proposal that would be fair to all Alameda taxpayers, one that we would support wholeheartedly and one that would pass.

  • Barb

    Again I have to ask, why would anyone fight such rude, violent and singleminded persons? Why try to force them to accept help to make the 88% of the residents that don’t have children in AUSD pay for a bloated bureacuracy that includes supporting the McMahon family dynasty??

    What happens if the litigation seeking equality throughout the state is responded to by lawmakers and Alameda gets a fair and just amount for its schools? Anything in either the proposed “Fair” or “Unfair” proposals that addresses legislative or litigation relief?

  • Without reform in AUSD — firing half the administrative staff, laying off teachers, consolidating schools, real salary cuts, (not just phony “furlough days off”!), larger classes — I won’t vote now for ANY new school parcel tax. If my reforms sound like some of the cuts already proposed, you’re right, because they are long overdue. See Washington, D.C. former school superintendent’s actions.

    And why does VoterHere sound so much like, argue so much like the old “Hot R”?

  • VoterHere


    I keep hearing accusations of rudeness at the meetings. Please cite the incidents and dates at the public meetings where people at the mic have been treated rudely. I have been at the last 3 public meetings (Lincoln consolidation meeting, Earhart candidates meeting, Earhart parcel tax meeting). How about you? How many meetings have you attended recently?

    Please state your facts about bloated bureacracy. Action Alameda has posted the data from AUSD here.
    Shows that Alameda teachers and admins are paid 5% to 10% under the Alameda County average. Please explain how being under the Alameda County average equates to being bloated?

    Let’s discuss things based on fact. Do you want to do that?

    Another thing. Barb, did you go to public school or private school. How about public universities? Did your parents go to public school?

    Who funded and paid for these public school buildings, teachers salaries, and administrators salaries back then? So are you saying that only parents with kids should fund public elementary schools, high schools and universities?

    Should we just sell off the public school buildings and just ask parents to put all their schools in private schools? So that the taxpayers will save on taxes?

  • VoterHere – we already provided you examples – a speaker was interrupted constantly through his 3 minutes at the Lincoln Consolidation meeting. And Adam Gillitt posted links to these news stories of harrassment and intimidation during the Measure E campaign.

    If you want to talk about the tax proposals, why don’t you take a look at the AFT parcel database, and compare it to the AUSD numbers. AUSD seems to fall short compared to the AFT data. Where do you think the discrepancy lies?

  • Barb

    I never said I attended AUSD meetings. I asked why the CA would be there. Or why everyone would be turning to the (Interim City Manager that SUNCAL loves to hit on) to help the AUSD. AUSD demanded autonomy in the 50’s and got it. Instead of suffering for their shortsigtedness they stand around whining for City help.
    I no longer attend AUSD meetings. I ran for the Board once, and lost, thankfully. Bunch a one sided people in boring meetings who care only about their own children and not education.
    My insights about the district currently come from the teachers and support staff, not the highly paid administrators. Those with doctorates in education who demand to be called Dr. Yeah, and you can call me Dr. too. That would be Doctor of Jurisprudence.
    To quote one teacher, “You could close down the administrative building and everything in it, for a year and the teachers wouldn’t notice a thing.”
    I went to Paden, Washington, and Encinal. Then UC Berkeley and Hastings. My children went through public schools until the bureacracy became so dragged down with idiocy, that we shifted to Redwood (which was at the closed Franklin). Then to Bishop O’Dowd. Then to UCD and UCLA. Meantime I had run for the Board, and lost, and then the Council and won. Before I ran, I read all of the minutes for every meeting for the previous 20 years. And for Council, I reviewed not only Council, but Planning Board meetings. So I did my homework.
    Public schools in Alameda are fine until about the 5th grade. Then one needs to shift to good schools to ensure ability to compete and enter the UC system, or private universities. Sorry that’s about the size of it. The best and brightest will do well in whatever system they find themselves. But the majority of children need a much better education model than that which AUSD currently offers. Only by the time their parent(s) figure it out, it is too late. As a single parent it was extremely difficult to put two children through private schools, but I did so. I drove a 10 year old car, bought used, and bought food on sale. I shopped at Long’s because they took credit. When Lucky’s started taking charge cards, our food budget expanded greatly.
    Now I watch these parents in amazement that think their children are getting a good education at AUSD. They ought to go to Oakland, which offers a seriously better education once you get past the danger element, St. Joe’s, or other good private school for a year or two. Then come back and look at AUSD. It is a real shame.

  • VoterHere

    Action Alameda on October 15th, 2010 at 8:57 pm
    “And Adam Gillitt is right – you are hiding behind anonymity while accusing others of hiding and not coming out to meetings. Why won’t you use your real name and a real address when you post here?”

    Ah, Mr. Adam Gillitt, of the “Webster Jam’s screaming-at-elderly-volunteer incident” fame? My, what a gentleman indeed.

    Pardon me if I do not give my name. I am hesistant to let you accuse me of something. Since you’ve shown a penchant to label your opponents as violent attackers at public meetings, and/or attackers of immigrant shop keepers.

    Hmmm… yeah… giving my real name and address to you MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

  • VoterHere

    Why try to force them to accept help to make the 88% of the residents that don’t have children in AUSD pay for a bloated bureacuracy…


    I guess you have no problem of tax payers who paid to subsidize education of students who went through the public educational system years ago at Paden, Washington, Encinal, UC Berkeley and Hastings. I don’t recall they gave a tax exemption to people without kids in the schools back then.

    But now in this era there’s bloated bureaucracy and taxpayers should not fund public education in AUSD. How convenient. I guess bureaucrats and overpaid administrators are a new development in the last few years.

  • Barb

    They weren’t alive then. We all pay taxes according to what has been legislated. We all reap the benefits according to our needs under the laws at the time. They want more. While the rest of us live within our means. Sorry you lose.

  • As usual, “VoterHere,” as he’s calling himself these days, ducks the real debate. Rather than arguing the points Barb presents, he simply dismisses them and spends all of his energy taking her to task for attending public schools a few years back. Before the teachers’ unions. Before the bloated administration at AUSD. Before those administrators were making six figure salaries/bennies and the average teacher well over $60K for a part-time, nine-month work year.

    When Barb and I were going to public schools, most of the teachers were women. The men often worked second jobs after school to support their families, but they were dedicated to the profession. The two eras are not at all comparable. Let’s hear VoterHere justify all those AUSD administrative positions, no teachers laid off in the face of declining enrollment, (until the scare tactics after Measure E failed), all those luxuries and non-core expenses in the Master Plan Part A…

  • Voterhere – Do you have anything constructive to contribute to the question of how to resolve the parcel tax issue? Any idea of what’s behind the discrepancy between the AUSD numbers for square footage, and AFT’s numbers?

  • How utterly unsurprising that VoterHere’s brand new anonymous Do-bot attack dog website is already listed in the blogroll at Blogging Bayport, yet the dozens of dead links there haven’t been cleaned out.

  • Jon Spangler

    If AFT or any of its supporters really cared about their community’s public schools or this community’s students and kids they would attend school board meetings despite any small risk of hearing opposing views or what they call “verbal abuse.”

    After all, the writers here have often criticized and targeted their opponents (like and attack others or do you have something to actually contribute? If you do, please share it with us.

    I was brought up to understand that if you believe in an idea or a principle you should stand up for it and be willing to be counted. There is a long and proud history of good examples to follow in US history: union members, civil rights activists, LGBTQ activists, and anti-wat demonstrators (to name just a few) have all risked and given their lives for what they believed in. Hearing negative comments from one’s opponents is a tiny (and an unlikely) risk by comparison.

    If AFT has a contribution about which it is serious then it should present it in public for all to see – and hear – in the light of day. Let’s see how
    valuable a contribution it may be. I can only presume that if you do not come forward you must not have any proposals of real value to offer your community because you are not willing to invest yourselves in presenting it in the public square.

    BTW, Linda and I do not have any children. But that does not mean we are or should be relieved of the moral, social, and political responsibility to invest in our community’s and our state’s future. After all, our forbears invested on our behalf without needing to see an immediate and personal benefit from their contributions. Can you do that, too?

  • There’s Jon Spangler, right on time, citing the latest talking points…

    AFT’s proposal is in the public sphere, it’s here, alongside AUSD’s:

    Anyone can take a look, comment on it, download the AFT parcel database and calculate the tax amount for their property and so on. Or is it only the “public sphere” if it’s in person?

    As documented already, AFT did show up at the Kofman Auditorium public hearing on the parcel tax, and handed out flyers. AFT prepared their own parcel database and released it to the public and shared it with AUSD. AUSD has not responded to explain discrepancies between their data, and AFT’s data. This publication has asked AUSD many times to support their numbers with a detailed parcel database comparable to AFT’s – so far, AUSD hasn’t produced one. (Because SCI Consulting group provides AUSD only with a summary of the parcel data, not a parcel-by-parcel listing like AFT’s database…)

    If anything, AFT doesn’t invest a lot of time in the public meetings, not because they fear hearing opposing views, or even out of fear of “verbal abuse,” but because of past experience dealing with AUSD, which ignored their concerns, and then said they consulted “the business community.” If it were you, would you waste their time at the public hearings?

    Do you, Jon, have any actual feedback on AFT’s proposals? Any idea of what is the cause of the discrepancy between AUSD’s data and AFT’s data? Any thoughts on whether businesses on city-owned property (e.g. Burgermeister) should be made to pay AUSD parcel taxes? Or whether the parochial schools in town that divert students from AUSD should continue to be exempt from AUSD parcel taxes?

  • ed hirshberg

    I have spoken before the BOE numerous times. But that is not the only venue in which ideas can be discussed. You are taking the attitude of an apparatchnik and treating me like a refusenik. We can discuss these issues on any website, newspaper, radio station, TV station, in the cafes, the bars, church, the streets, and anywhere free men congregate so long as I live and breathe.

    Ed H

  • Smart voter


    You where not there in front of the Kofman Auditorium, so obviously you did not hear the exchange of words. Believe me, I know the difference between “opposing views” and downright hostility.

    You keep patting yourself on the back for being so involved in the community. Well guess what, you are by no means the only one.

    I have been working on this parcel tax for weeks now, checking and rechecking thousands of Alameda parcels and I am not even getting paid for this and I have no children in school either.

    Instead of criticising AFT for trying to come up with a solution to get the needed funding for our schools, that all of the community can support, you should reach out and offer to assist us, not fight us.

  • anon

    smartvoter you are right. the district will be taking a huge gambel if they push for an all or nothing parcel tax again, and lose instead of taking seriously what past opponents of parcel taxes have to say. what if the district gambels again and loses won’t the schools be in worse shape than if they asked for a more reasonable parcel tax that actually passed?

  • Barb

    First time I have ever had to look up a word Ed, “apparatchnik”. Not only do you have something of educational value to add to the discussion, you are willing to subject yourself and your supporters to the lunacy of these apparatchniks for AUSD. At the same time they are attacking the ICM & CA on other sites, they sit back and demand that these two female City employees find money for AUSD, something they are incapable of doing. They should fire Vital and ask the voters to put the McMahon Dynasty to bed.

  • Barb, as so often, is absolutely right! And Jon Spanfler, as usual, is so out of touch he sounds like a moon man. He posts, on another site, letters from two Dwsert Hot Springs former public officials attacking Ms. gallant, and it turns out that at least one of them has been convicted of conflict of interest as a former city councilman there in real-estate deals. Sound familiar? Jon is so bedraggeled and discredited he would be driven out of any smaller town with tin cans tied to his tail. Along with his wife.

    But in Alameda, he just keeps showing up. I’ve been receiving emails from him promoting the SunCal Slate, and I can only imagine that he got my address from Lauren Do or Michele Ellson. I warned him after the first one that I would report him, and I have. After the second one, I warned him that he might just pick up a virus licking my neck like that. Still, true! Politics is not only a blood sport, it’s also VIRAL!