sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

June 7, 2012

Hope for The East Bay

Filed under: Bay Area politics, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:30 pm

The city of Alameda sits on an island between Oakland and San Francisco, and is a former home of a Navy base.  Since the base closed two decades ago, it became swarmed with hipsters, who evidently, go there to breed (provided they are too lazy to move to the Pacific North-West) and lesbians who settle to pop out babies.  A few years ago, Alameda Unified School District made it to Fox News for mandating sex ed in elementary school under the guise of anti-bullying.  Although some old-timers are pretty darn conservative, Alameda politics have been of the deep blue variety for quite some time.

In March 2011, Alameda scrambled just enough votes to get the necessary 2/3 majority to approve a new parcel tax, purportedly to stave off school closures.  The School District Superintendent quickly proceeded to give herself a fat raise.  The teachers wanted to follow her example, and were offered only a modest increase in compensation.  A few days ago, an under-enrolled elementary closed its doors — as it should have.

This Tuesday, another tax hike, Measure C, was on the ballot.  This measure would have imposed an additional .5% sales tax promising to allocated the funds towards “public safety” and vaguely-worded projects.  I guess some people got burned by the parcel tax, because the measure was rejected by nearly 50% of the town voters.

By all standards the proposal was poorly written.  No specific need was demonstrated (at least the school district can point to cuts in state funding and threaten to do away with arts, phys ed and AP classes) and no specific projects were guaranteed, only some rather vague talk of kids, libraries and public safety. The City Hall already had the funds for some of the proposed projects.  Personally, I suspect that the proponents noted that some surrounding towns have higher sales taxes and decided to match them.

Then it came to light that police and firefighter unions are financing the Yes on C campaign.  Although that particular Bay Area bedroom community is not reflexively anti-cop, Police and firefighters got bad PR lately following a tragic incident when, a year ago, they stood around watching a man drown.  The death was probably a suicide, and union rules precluded the city employees from saving the man.

In anticipation of the election, the Alameda Sun newspaper published a Tea Party-like front page upper spread headline: Average City Salary Well Above Average Residents’.  Turns out, the Fire Chief gets$361,583, and the highest paid employee, police captain —  $409,879.  Seriously, that’s in a quiet town of 70,000 where few houses are taller than two stories.  And of course, the city is on the path to bankruptcy.  We are a bit slow on the uptake here, but eventually we might figure it out.

The No on C yard signs seemed to outnumber the Yes on C signs, even though residents complained that their No on C signs were stolen and that Yes on C signs were placed illegally on private property.  And here is the kicker: Rob Bonta who was running for State Assembly sent out mailings promising to restore fiscal sanity to Sacramento.  Of course, Mr. Bonta was endorsed by every local politician and union member, and Rob Bonta signs stood right next to Yes on C signs, so his promises have to be taken with a grain of salt.

While defeating a small tax hike is nothing like the hard-headed reforms passed the same night by the voters in San Diego and San Jose, we are talking about the geographical space between Oakland and San Francisco.  If fiscal sanity can even begin to prevail here — wow!  The Tea Party is winning.  Don’t get me wrong, San Francisco is most definitely not in play this November.  Obama 2012 bumper stickers are now gracing more and more cars, and residents will obediently vote for the man who remains their idol.  Outside the ballot box, however, fiscal conservatives might be making gains in the war of ideas.



  1. Alameda has the highest sales tax in the Bay Area. And I don’t honestly see what you get for that.

    I suppose any tax rejection is a good thing in the Bay Area but if it was for retarded kids or something maybe it would have passed?

    Comment by Harrison — June 7, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

    • Well, the proponents of the measure were trying to frame it in a sentimental manner. I was shocked to see the headlines actually pointing out that city employees are generously compensated, and letter to the editor pointing out that those are supposed to be civil servants. It’s like reading Reason.
      Editorially, Alameda Sun came out against additional funding for the projects to which the city was claiming it will use the funds (it wasn’t obligated to) because the city already had the money. While the previous tax hike squeaked by with the [barely] 2/3 majority, this one had only about 50%. That’s quite a shift.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — June 7, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

  2. The AlamedaNoOnC campaign ran a much more concise & factual website than the last anti-tax campaign. Lots of well-documented facts about bloated Alameda civil service salaries & benefits. Anyone who lives here also knows that the Carnegie building featured in the pro-C photos next to the words “for Libraries” hasn’t been a library for a decade & never will be one again. The con-C argument & 30-year life span were kept out of the ballot info packet by political manuevering. Enough voters could see these were Primadonna Projects not worth yet another special interest tax.

    I am really annoyed the SFChron endorsed Bonta & I wish they would take it back. Not only has he never voted independently of the council bloc he was elected with [Tam-Gilmore], his claims in the Candidates’ Statements in the Sample Ballot are both false & hyperbolic:

    From “Candidates’ Statements” pg AD18-1:[Rob Bonta]= “I helped convince the Navy to donate former Air Base land for local economic development projects…I helped reform pension & retirement healthcare costs to balance the budget & maintain services…”
    Really? When exactly did that happen? And is there nothing this fellow won’t take undeserved credit for? I too used to naively believe that an Alamedan elected to Assembly would be my voice in Sacramento. But he has to stop stretching the truth to its breaking point first.

    Comment by vigi — June 8, 2012 @ 11:59 am

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