Lee: Sacramento Transportation Authority and Measure A

In the midst of a recession that Guv Newsom is trying hard to turn into a long term Depression, cities and counties around the State are putting tax increases and bonds on the November ballot.  At the same time that experts tell us high density housing and crowded government transportation

The County of Sacramento still does not get it.  They put it on the ballot in mostly secret sessions, without public participation. “If you weren’t aware of any of this, I wouldn’t blame you. How can anyone be expected to focus on funding for local transportation projects in the midst of everything that is happening?  But instead of canceling or postponing their meetings — just like seemingly every other government agency and business has done with large events — the STA pressed on with hybrid meetings and decidedly limited participation from the public. Email was the only available form of public comment, and those comments were not read aloud.

On July 14 there is a rally in opposite to this theft of your hard earned money.  Interested”  go here to attend.

Want to know more about this insane effort by lazy radicals to force higher taxes so productive people would leave the region.  See the podcast explain this issue here.

Sacramento Transportation Authority and Measure A

Op-Ed by W. Bruce Lee, President, Sacramento Taxpayers Association, 6/29/20 

Over the last few months, the country has come to almost a complete standstill.

In early March, at least ten California counties, including Sacramento, ordered their residents to “shelter in place” due to COVID-19: no one is to leave their place of residence except for absolute necessities. Soon after, Governor Gavin Newsom extended a shelter-in-place order to the entire state at least until May.

Businesses are shutting down; people are losing their jobs. Hospitals in parts of the country are overcrowded, under-resourced and understaffed. Infection rates are rising.The stock market is plummeting.

And yet, despite the nationwide shutdown — despite Sacramento City and County themselves demanding individuals and businesses stop their lives, hunker down, and wait for this nightmare to end — the Sacramento Transportation Authority (STA) decided their monthly meetings are simply too important to wait. They have now met twice during the shelter-in-place order: once on March 18th and once on April 9th.

What did the STA discuss at these meetings? Perhaps some sort of emergency plan for assistance and aid related to the recent mass hysteria?

No. The main item on both agendas was the tentative adoption of Measure A, this year’s expenditure plan and to put it more simply – a brand new sales tax increase of one-half cent for Sacramento County residents.

If you weren’t aware of any of this, I wouldn’t blame you. How can anyone be expected to focus on funding for local transportation projects in the midst of everything that is happening?  But instead of canceling or postponing their meetings — just like seemingly every other government agency and business has done with large events — the STA pressed on with hybrid meetings and decidedly limited participation from the public. Email was the only available form of public comment, and those comments were not read aloud.

And if you’re now thinking that it seems a bit surreptitious to hold a vote on a tax increase at a time when most of the Sacramento community (and the rest of the world) is mainly concerned with surviving a pandemic, then I couldn’t blame you for that, either.

The expenditure plan was tentatively adopted by a 13-3 vote on March 18th, despite overwhelming opposition from the public. (It was briefly stated that the agency received far more emails in opposition than in support: approximately 435 opposed to 65 in favor.)  However, there are still a few hoops to jump through, of course. The plan was only tentatively adopted by the STA and has been approved by all the local city councils it has been presented to thus far (Isleton City Council will hold a vote on April 28th). It must still go before the County Board of Supervisors and the STA once more before it eventually appears before voters.

In the middle of this, we should at least be thankful to the three STA Directors (County Supervisor Sue Frost, Rancho Cordova Councilmember Garrett Gatewood, and Citrus Heights Councilmember Steve Miller), who were able to display some common sense on March 18th and vote against the plan. Supervisor Frost went the extra mile and argued that the public comments should read aloud — but the rest of the Board apparently saw no need to even maintain the illusion that the public played a significant part in its decision making at this time.

Certainly, the County needs to make essential infrastructure upgrades. It would be silly to deny the importance of public transportation, road safety and all such things to our community’s well being. But this only underscores the significance of placing these issues under severe public scrutiny.

To hold STA meetings in this manner during the immediate confusion regarding the COVID-19 crisis and the shelter in place order issued the day before on March 17th made no sense. Even Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg commented on March 17th that,“ Staying home is what we need to do to flatten this curve… It will still allow people to engage in all the essential functions of life, to go grocery shopping, to keep essential medical appointments, and to get outdoors and take a run or walk, as long as it’s at a safe distance from others.” 

Now, it was general knowledge that the March 18th STA Board meeting was going to be packed, including a variety of advocacy groups. Yet, the STA still held the meeting.

And interestingly enough, at the virtual last moment, Mayor Steinberg replaced Sacramento Council Member Larry Carr as a director on the STA Board: a highly unusual action. Carr had represented Sacramento for months on the STA negotiations regarding this half-cent sales tax increase, but as of March 18th, Steinberg took that role for himself.  I guess Mayor Steinberg thought this meeting was “essential.” 

Just a month later, Steinberg’s actions at the April 9th meeting (again, a meeting that was blocked from public debate) caused two additional STA Board Directors to change their positions and vote to oppose the Measure A plan. Pat Hume and Paul Sandhu, who represent Elk Grove and Galt respectively, increase the total to five directors who have now voted in opposition to the plan.

All things considered, the STA’s rush to action with such a conspicuous lack of public participation at their last two meetings is a sad situation. This matter could have been postponed to a more appropriate date  allowing time for the government agency to adapt to these new shelter-in-place protocols and giving citizens the opportunity to sort things out while still being involved.

There isn’t even a need to rush this to the November 2020 ballot when many citizens are simply trying to survive. On March 17th, even the Bay Area’s $100 billion “mega measure” of a one-cent sales tax increase for transportation was pulled off the November ballot.

Perhaps the STA should focus on the best use of its existing half-cent sales tax, which lasts until 2039, rather than rushing to add another sales tax increase. Plus, wasn’t the 12-cent-per-gallon gas tax, implemented by Senate Bill 1 (Beall) of 2017, supposed to double the revenue from the state to our cities for street maintenance needs?

Going forward, the STA must revise its approach to these types of plans. Residents should be able to maintain access to the entire decision-making processes that affect their lives in the long-term — but not before they deal with the pandemic that threatens them today.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. Really??? says

    President John Kennedy said it was a paradox that by reducing taxes government increases the amount of money it can use.

    Take money that can be used for producing more wealth through taxation and “fees” and you strangle the ability of government to function.

    The party that has become a radical Socialist Party are the Democrats. They will put more and mote taxes on YOU with the promise they will give you more in freebies. Nothing is free, everything comes with a cost.

    Sac isn’t the only one. Goleta, that became the jewel of economic recovery in SB south County now in the middle of a massive recession wants to raise taxes. They promise the people more freebies.

    Are you the voters of Calif. that stupid, and ill informed? (well if you went to public school after 1960 there is a good chance you are)

  2. William Hicks says

    Thousand Oaks City Council is following suit with the Thousand Oaks Blvd. Project where they want to mix zoning to accommodate businesses and high density housing along with public transportation and pedestrian friendly streets.

    If the people in Thousand Oaks wanted this lifestyle, they would have already moved to New York.

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