Local ballot measures – Measure MM and Measure WW

UPDATE: Both Measure MM and Measure WW passed.

In addition to the Californian Propositions, there are also a couple of local measures on the ballot in Fremont.

Measure MM – if passed by a majority of the electorate (50% + 1), this measure will increase the City’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) rate from the current rate of 8% to a new rate of 10%, effective January, 1, 2009.
The proposed tax is a general tax, which means the monies raised will be used for general governmental purposes, including such essential services as police, fire, and street and park maintenance. Hotel/motel visitors who stay in the City’s hotel and motels for a period of 30 days or less pay the tax in addition to the room rate.
Based on the current estimates, a 2% increase could generate approximately $800,000 in new revenue for the General Fund for a full fiscal year. Anu Natarajan, Fremont City Council member, is one of the sponsors of this bill.

“This is an easy fix for our budgeting problems and long overdue,” says Anu. “Fremont is still at 8% whereas cities around us have moved to a 10% Transient Occupancy Tax(TOT). 90% of the revenue is likely to go to fund public safety programs.”

The only argument submitted against this measure is whether the city can be trusted to use the monies properly. Given the budgetary constraints every city is facing in this economic environment, it seems like a poor argument and given that even the Fremont Marriott has no problems with this tax, this should be a no-brainer.

My recommendation – Vote YES.

Measure WW – Measure WW, an East Bay Regional Park District (“District”) bond measure, seeks voter approval to authorize the governing Board of the District to cause general obligation bonds to be issued and sold in a principal amount not to exceed $500,000,000 at interest rates within the statutory limit.

The measure’s purposes are to finance the District’s completion of its Regional Park District Master Plan by acquiring and improving regional parks, trails and recreation facilities.

Opinion – On the face of it, anything that increases park land sounds like a good idea to hikers and nature lovers. However, a couple of issues give me pause. One is that 25% of the bond amount goes, not to the EBRPD,  but to places like the Oakland Zoo and municipalities. It also puts a future interest and principal repayment burden of a billion dollars without any proposal to generate revenue.

Also, I hear rumblings of discontent from hikers and environmentalists who complain about the stewardship of the EBPRD and the bloated salaries of the officers. ( the starting salary of a gardener us supposed to be $50,000!) One comparison I read about was that the EBPRD spent 143 million dollars in 2006 compared to the 344 million dollars spent by the entire California Park System. Also, of the 153 square miles under the control of the EBPRD, a very small percentage is open to the public now.

My recommendation – being unsure of the value of this measure, I am going to go for default option on any such measure or proposition – NO.

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