Pubdate: Sat, 23 Aug 2008
Source: Alameda Times-Star, The (CA)
Copyright: 2008 ANG Newspapers
Author: Lisa Vorderbrueggen, Contra Costa Times
Note: Only relevant issues included in the sidebar, below.
Cited: Proposition 5
Bookmark: (Marijuana - California)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


East Bay voters face a double-edged ballot on Nov 4.

At the same time they pay more at the pump and the grocery store, 
cash-strapped local public agencies are asking for money, too.

Of the 58 local ballot measures on Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano 
County ballots, a third propose new or extended taxes totalling more 
than $750 million.

Nearly half the measures raise funds for schools either through bonds 
repaid with property taxes or parcel taxes.

The largest is a $500 million parks bond for the East Bay Regional 
Park District. A handful of cities seek cash to pay for new police 
officers, street repairs and library services.

"When California's economy catches a cold, these local agencies catch 
pneumonia," said Bay Area pollster Alex Evans. "They need money when 
the economy is bad."

Proponents argue that public agencies need the money to keep up with 
essential services and meet the demands of their residents, while 
watchdog groups say taxpayers are already overly burdened with the 
costs of an ever-expanding government.

"Local governments believe they absolutely need this extra revenue in 
hard times," said Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon 
Coupal. "But what about the hard times being experienced by the 
people who have to pay the bills?"

Coupal predicts the economy could dampen the prospects for local tax 
measures, particularly if the state pursues a sales tax hike to close 
its $15 billion budget gap

But despite the grim economic climate and the perennial debate over 
taxes, others say the November election - with the lure of an 
exciting presidential race on the ballot - may be these agencies' 
best chance for success at the polls.

"November is a good ballot for these measures because there will be a 
high turnout, particularly among Democrats and young voters who are 
more likely to be supportive," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the 
Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State 
University in Sacramento. "If I were running these ballot campaigns, 
I would put them on this ballot."

Livermore, Martinez, Pittsburg, West Contra Costa and Dublin school 
districts will take a run at the difficult two-thirds voting hurdle 
with parcel taxes. Acalanes and John Swett Unified will ask voters to 
approve bonds, which only require 55 percent to pass.

Districts may use bonds for one-time costs such as construction of 
new facilities, while parcel taxes can be used for ongoing expenses 
such as teacher salaries.

School measures often pass, especially in the affluent Bay Area where 
education is a high priority among its predominantly liberal and 
moderate voters, said Kim Rueben, an adjunct fellow with the Public 
Policy Institute of California and a economist at the Tax Policy 
Institute in Washington, D.C.

"I'm guessing that a large percentage of the measures will pass," she 
said. "With the state budget in crisis, there is a concern that money 
will get tight and having local sources will help ensure that schools 
don't have to cut programs."

Among the other measures, Oakland seeks a parcel tax to pay for new 
police officers, while Oakley and Richmond propose new or 
reformulated business taxes.

The measure under the greatest pressure is most likely the $500 
million East Bay Regional Parks bond. Proceeds would pay for trails, 
parks and open space.

Bond advocates hopes taxpayers will view it as an extension of 
Measure AA, a $225 million bond passed in 1998. They even structured 
the new measure to keep the tax rate the same, about $50 a year for a 
$500,000 house.

While many public services are experiencing cutbacks, some question 
whether recreation warrants such a large investment. On the other 
hand, East Bay residents love their parks.

Its voters formed the park district and passed a tax to fund it 
during the Depression, said board member Ted Radke of Martinez.

"At a time when people suffered tremendous financial problems, they 
saw the value in parks and open spaces," Radke said. "We think that 
when people take a look at what we accomplished with the 1998 bond 
and realize that we're not asking for a new tax or raising their 
taxes, I don't think they will quibble."



East Bay residents face a plethora of state, local and regional 
ballot measure questions Nov. 4. Here's a partial list:


Proposition 5: Expands drug treatment diversion programs for criminal 
offenders, modified parole supervision procedures, allows inmates to 
earn time off their terms for participation in rehabilitation 
programs and reduces penalties for marijuana possession. Majority 
vote required.


Measure JJ, Berkeley: Amend city law to remove limits on medical 
marijuana, form a peer review group for enforcement of rules and 
eliminate the requirement for a special use permit for medical 
marijuana dispensaries. Majority vote required. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake