This fee increase should be anathema to liberals and conservatives alike. Liberals should hate it because it's a regressive tax -- costing the same amount for a small house as for a mansion. Conservatives should hate it because, well, it's a stupid tax.
Back in May of 2007, the mayor's office said they would "make the case" to voters for why the increase was necessary. I've searched diligently for any information which makes this case, and I haven't found it. I think it's more likely they're hoping to conduct a stealth campaign of convincing large landowners and Leftists to vote yes, while keeping the rest of us in the dark.
Last time they tried this, in 2006, the Tribune seemed surprised that the city needed the LLAD slush fund to take care of such normal city activities as maintaining parks and providing lighting. I guess $2.2B doesn't go as far as it used to.
Honestly, these special districts are just a trick. I looked though the LLAD's PDF describing where the money goes, and I was unsurprised to see that they listed a bunch of things -- ballfields and the like -- which are hard to argue against.
It's a clever move. They know no one would be likely to vote for the increase if it went to fund Deborah Edgerly's salary. Though, on second thought, I'm not sure the increase would raise enough to cover that.
No, the city moves popular public services into special districts while hiding overtime and corruption in the general fund. This way, they get as much of our money to spend as they can possibly grab with as little oversight as possible.
My belief about the possibility of a stealth campaign was bolstered tonight as I reviewed the city's PDF about the resolution to increase the tax. Oddly, and somewhat comically, they seem to have inserted a bunch of text into this document just to confuse or bore the public to death. It reminds me of SPAM I sometimes receive in my inbox that reads like some sort of bizarre poetry. From page 18:
Turf mowing is more time consuming than any of the other cultural practices involved in caring for turf. Regular mowing with a sharp mower blade at the proper height will help keep grass growing vigorously and maintain adequate density to completely cover the soil surface. In addition, mowing with sharp blades will cut the grass blades cleanly rather than tearing and shredding as would be the case with dull blades.... Shredded ends of the grass blade are more susceptible to disease invasion.
I'm confused. What is the point of providing such inane information in a public filing? Who compiled this document, and why?
The city wants us to vote yes on this increase because of a purported budget shortfall. Well, I've got news for the Oakland city government. Real estate values and transaction volume across California are dropping like stones. The city's housing transfer tax (yet another egregious hidden tax) is bringing in around half the money it did in prior years. It's just a matter of time before residents begin requesting downward revisions in property values for property taxes. That line item grew 12% last year (an unsustainable number, even in the best of times).
I have a sneaking suspicion this is the real reason Deborah Edgerly plans to leave her post as city administrator. She knows the city is in for repeated rounds of brutal budget cuts, and she wants to leave before the blame game begins.
Only in a declining revenue environment can we hope to see true budget cuts and some rationalization of the city's priorities. But to make sure this happens, we must do our utmost to avoid "feeding the beast." Voting down the LLAD increase is a step in this direction.
Even if we vote this down, we can expect to see numerous additional proposals in the coming couple years, as the city and its parasitic twin, the public employee unions, lash out at us. Already this has begun with the teachers union.
We must stand firm and unwavering in our commitment not to give the government any more money than we possibly can. Vote no on the LLAD increase.