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Opinion, Editorial, Election, Education

Staff Editorial

Why Measure Y Doesn't Measure Up

Posted Oct. 31, 2010, 1:00 am

Mirror Staff

Voters are being asked to impose a half-cent transaction and use tax increase on themselves without any specification as to what the funds would be used for beyond general municipal purposes, and then approve a non-binding advisory measure which would tell the Santa Monica City Council that residents would prefer that half of the $12 million raised by this tax be allocated to the local school district.

Although we certainly support and recognize their very-real budget plight of our schools, we at the Mirror do not support Measure Y – not because of the school part of the measure, but because of City-funding part. This decision was not arrived on lightly, and in truth, was toiled over until the last possible minute. Many in the city can sympathize with this dilemma, as evidenced by the many groups who have not taken a stance on it, including the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. In fact the only big-name public official to deplore this measure, Mayor Bobby Shriver, has the fortune of not having to defend his incumbency in this election.

In the end, we felt both Measure Y and Measure YY were not precisely worded or not binding enough for our comfort. Funds allocated to the general fund would be hard to track. Proponents argue these funds are essential to preserving proactive City services, especially in the face of looming deficits thanks largely to Sacramento’s overreaching and thieving arms. We were told that any further cuts to Santa Monica would affect our police, fire, paramedics, libraries, gang prevention, environmental, and youth and senior services. It is said that passing Measure Y is integral to a larger strategy to protect ourselves from those kinds of cuts.

However, if you take this argument as true and do the math, you find that the overall projected $12 million this tax would provide only represents 4.7 percent of Santa Monica's $255.1 million general fund. Compared to the overall budget of $553.6 million, the expected $12 million this would generate represents not even 2.2 percent. By the City’s own estimates, general fund revenues are projected to grow by a modest 2.1 percent in FY2010-11 and another 3.5 percent in FY2011-12.

Furthermore, if Mesure YY passes, the City will only keep half of that and give the other half to the schools. So if the City wants to allocate that amount to the schools, we feel it can take it from its overall budget, of which $6 million dollars is not even 1.1 percent. Can our police, fire, paramedics, libraries, gang prevention, environmental, and youth and senior services really depend on such a small percentage?

Compared to our own budgets, that 1.1 percent seems like not much at all, except when we are talking about putting the overall sales tax past the 10 percent mark. Although studies have indicated that these kinds of taxes have not directly impacted businesses, we are still nervous about the impact it would have. So are many of the car dealers, jewelers, and other high-cost purveyors in the city.

We don’t buy the argument that being against Measure Y means you are against schools. The Mirror has demonstrated its support of schools by endorsing the failed Measure A and by endorsing those candidates for City Council who support Measure Y. And we certainly recognize how amazing the Save Our School campaign was and that its success cannot be sustained. But that is not what this is about.

This is about how poorly structured Measure Y is (and its accompanying Measure YY).

Should it pass though, we support Measure YY, but we think the City can afford to help the schools out for one more year until it can come up with a better plan that is more specific than Measure Y. We don’t have the answer to these problems, but we don’t think Measure Y does either.

Post a comment


Oct. 31, 2010, 11:25:23 am

Joe Pertel said...

I'm very disappointed in your editorial in opposition to Measure Y. You have obviously spent little time relaying the concerns of teachers, parents, and, yes, the thousands of Santa Monica students, who will endure these cuts. Your abstract arguments are fine, but you ignore the reality of what is happening in our schools.

Oct. 31, 2010, 1:04:40 pm

Kay said...

But the editorial doesn't ignore the reality of what could happen to our businesses if we get a reputation for one of the highest retail taxes in the state. Santa Monica isn't Coronado Island. There's no long, scary bridge to keep residents and tourists from crossing into Venice or West LA to get the tax break on restaurants, etc.

Oct. 31, 2010, 6:42:03 pm

Patti Braun said...

It is my understanding that this is a USE tax. Therefore, any Santa Monica citizen who buys a car from one of our great Santa Monica dealers will pay the tax where the car is USED. That means that a Culver CIty citizen could buy a car in Santa Monica and pay the Culver City USE tax, not Santa Monica's tax. I am deeply disappointed in the SM Mirror for many reasons. Its editorial quality is POOR, it clearly doesn't employ a proofreader, and it continually shows itself as a paper that is not invested in its community. Sympathy for the very real dilemma of the schools is not enough! Y and YY will cost residents pennies, but all our pennies joined with the pennies of visitors and tourists will enable class sizes to stay small, counselors, librarians and nurses to be retained, and foundation arts programs to continue. I hope readers will vote on Tuesday and VOTE YES on Y and YY !!

Oct. 31, 2010, 7:26:15 pm

Clarence said...

Stylistically, grammatically, politically, and intellectually, this editorial trips all over itself. It needs a thorough rewrite, which would require a thorough rethinking. It embarrasses the Mirror, and the city.

Oct. 31, 2010, 7:31:40 pm

Kurt Schwengel said...

In Monday's edition you write "In fact the only big-name public official to deplore this measure, Mayor Bobby Shriver, has the fortune of not having to defend his incumbency in this election." A door hanger is being distributed all over the city clarifying that Mr. Shriver is now endorsing props Y and YY. Please know that your article is as of right now factually incorrect and could influence the outcome of the election. Please publish an article on Tuesday correcting your error or clarifying that Mr. Shriver has changed his stance on props Y and YY.

Oct. 31, 2010, 7:46:06 pm

Kurt Schwengel said...

if you are in favor of props Y and YY please pass on this video to as many SM residents as possible:

Oct. 31, 2010, 9:28:16 pm

sabino valdez gonzalez said...

I wish members of city council get investigated for what I do not know but get to answer big quiestions about all the money the city generates and they still want more. ...and then maybe they stop asking for money, and we critizes other countries of corruption.

Nov. 1, 2010, 7:10:13 am

Kay said...

That tax isn't going to be pennies if you buy a car. And what happens if you "use" a house? Anybody know? I've got campaign literature piled six inches deep--and while it says what the tax won't be on, it never quite comes out and says what it will be on...I suspect many of us are going to be in for unpleasant surprises. As the daughter of a retailer, I implore you: Do not underestimate the psychological effect of a tax of over ten percent on potential visitors, shoppers, parties/receptions, and conventions. You may wind up loosing money by frightening off the very people you hope to have spend it.

Nov. 1, 2010, 7:18:24 am

Steve Esbin said...

Meahures Y and YY should be defeated. SM residents need to consider how much more in city taxes we are willing to pay. Requests for increased taxes have been the hallmark of SM for years. Our schools, and kids, have been harmed by the school board's spending money without regard to its budget- this has been going on for years. Tax increases in Santa Monica are not the answer. We should work even harder to make our budgets work - cut the debt - and when the economy improves (which it will) the city's tax revenue will once again have value.

Nov. 1, 2010, 7:37:24 am

Mirror Editor said...

Mayor Bobby Shriver is being falsely reported as to have switched his position to support Measure Y. After just speaking to Shriver, he is still firmly against Measure Y, as he has been since its inception. Kurt Schwengel wrote on this comment section (see below): " A door hanger is being distributed all over the city clarifying that Mr. Shriver is now endorsing props Y and YY. Please know that your article is as of right now factually incorrect and could influence the outcome of the election. Please publish an article on Tuesday correcting your error or clarifying that Mr. Shriver has changed his stance on props Y and YY." The flier Schwengel refers to actually only indicates that Shriver is in favor of Measure YY (not Measure Y), the accompanying advisory measure which tells the Santa Monica City Council that should Measure Y pas, the citizens would prefer that half of its generated funds be allocated to the school district. The Mirror also took the stance as against Measure Y, but for Measure YY, as did most people who are against Measure Y.

Nov. 1, 2010, 8:14:28 am

Kurt Schwengel said...

Thank you to the SM Mirror for taking the time to research my comment. I officially stand corrected but I do feel that Mr. Shriver being against Y but for YY is playing both sides of the fence. I would liken it to being for the war but against killing.

Nov. 2, 2010, 8:21:31 am

wolflen said...

prop Y if passed will bring the total sales tax rate to any casual observer may know...taxes rarely stay static but increase over time...and there will very good reasons in the near future to raise the SM sales tax...even if their intended purpose is never addressed..this tax raised the surrender flag to the state (country) saying..yes our financial condition is in bad shape...and we are not going to support spending fact..we want to spend more..and im sure it will not cover all the costs because we wont stop spending...remember the federal income tax started out as a TEMPORY 1% tax!!! few people realize how bad the situation is...a national debt of 13+ trillion .. the number is beyond most calculators,,much less mere mortals...but to put it in friendly a dollar a would take over 400,000 years to pay off...thats four hundred thousand years...!!! i know if we try real hard we can get it into light years soon..

Nov. 1, 2010, 8:29:51 am

Randall Mckenzie said...

Shame on Mark Gold I am shocked, disappointed and confused that Mark Gold, president of the Heal the Bay Foundation, would be against props Y and YY and publicly claim that the city and schools "do not need the money". I am shocked because I am not sure why he is weighing in on this issue as if he were a politician or local celebrity. I am disappointed because he is a Samohi graduate and has children in the Santa Monica schools. And I am confused because he, despite his south side address was somehow able to send his children to Franklin and Lincoln, on the North side of Santa Monica. Perhaps that is why he does not think the schools need the money. Maybe this influx of money could someday make his neighborhood schools good enough for him to send his children to. I will be voting YES on props Y and YY. I do not have the luxury or the connections to send my children to the schools on the North side of Santa Monica like Mr. Gold so I can assure you that our schools need every penny they can get while state education budgets are being decimated. Please excuse me, I have a certain fish skeleton sticker to scrape off my bumper. Randall Mckenzie

Nov. 1, 2010, 11:28:43 am

theconlib said...

Thank you to the SM Mirror for this editorial. Santa Monica has enough problems with it being "too expensive" to enjoy and adding to the sales tax surely won't help the situation. As a resident I can say that it definitely effects my decision on where to purchase goods and solidifies any questions I have on where to buy big items that will not just be pennies. Don't fool yourself - this city is not "broke." They have anti-smoking campaigns, social services out the ying yang, new bathrooms on the beach, new parks for LUCE and city employees making great salaries. Now they want to raise sales tax after raising bus fares and parking rates while proposing upping rent on sidewalks and street performers. They need to prioritize their budget, not make it bigger.

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