A letter from Action Alameda News publisher David Howard…
Having tracked the issue closely since the defeat of last year’s school parcel tax, this publication took an early position against the Alameda Unified School District parcel tax ballot measure, Measure A, on the ballot today. Measure A will tax property owners at $0.32 per square foot of home or building space, with an annual tax cap of $7,999/year, which effectively provides a much lower tax rate for the largest businesses, some with billions of dollars per year in annual revenue – those with the greatest ability to pay – in Alameda.
Below are some observations and anecdotes gathered over the course of the election cycle during the past couple of months…
- The Alameda Unified School District, and parcel tax proponents, have ignored pleadings for a more fair tax structure, and proposed alternatives, from the very group that a) defeated AUSD’s last parcel tax ballot measure, last June and b) has sued the District over their 2008 parcel tax. AUSD doesn’t seem to be listening to those who have been the most ardent opponents of their tax structures.
- Despite claiming broad support for the tax, parcel tax proponents participated in only a single public forum on the measure, citing unavailability of representatives, thereby denying Alameda voters a full hearing on the issue.
- Parcel tax proponents have tried to finesse a loophole in Measure A that allows businesses at Alameda Point and the Alameda Cineplex complex to avoid paying the tax at all. But no matter how they try to finesse it, there is simply no language in the ballot measure to make those businesses pay the school tax (posessory interest.) The Alameda Hospital parcel tax, however, has language that AUSD might want to review.
- Real estate agents – many who don’t live in Alameda and who won’t pay the tax – have advocated support for the tax, claiming that more money automatically translates to better schools meaning higher home values. Real estate agents earn commission against the sale price of a home – higher home values translate to higher incomes for them. For these people, Measure A isn’t about kids, it’s about their own income – they want Alameda residents to pay higher taxes to support their income.
- Parcel tax proponents that argue the “more money = better schools = higher home values” don’t seem to care about making west-end Alameda schools better, thereby improving home values for people living there. (Under the Romero Act, the State of California has said that Washington Elementary School performs so poorly that nobody need send their child there.)
- Despite their protestations to the contrary, the Alameda League of Women Voters has not acted as an impartial arbiter of public issues, but instead has worked actively with AUSD and the parcel tax proponents to urge passage of the measure.
- Likewise, Alameda Journal editor Connie Rux refused to publish op-ed articles submitted by parcel tax opponents, effectively working with parcel tax proponents to censor opposition, further denying voters an opportunity to hear all opinions, thoughts and ideas. A more impartial editor might have published all submissions, and subsequent responses and challenges.
- Some advocates of the tax said things like, “Yes, we know it’s an unfair and regressive tax, but we need the money!” What they are really saying is “Throw away your values and principles because our cause is so righteous!” We’ve seen this approach at the national level when the federal government approved “enhanced interrogation techniques” for Iraqi and Afghan detainees.
- Parcel tax proponents continue their harassment – if not outright illegal voter intimidation – of residents that dare to express opposition to the parcel tax. Proponents call for “civil discourse” but they themselves are the worst offenders.
The collusion of the state, media, civic organizations and loosely organized individuals to silence opposition to a government initiative is the sort of oppression that residents of Tunisa, Algeria, Yemen, Egypt and Libya have fought, or are still fighting, to overturn. This sort of intimidation – which we have seen in past school parcel tax elections – has no place in democratic society.
Today, I hope you will vote “No” on Measure A.
Polls close at 8:00 p.m.