Smith flips, gives SLO sales tax needed support
May 7, 2014
Following a change of mind by outgoing Councilwoman Kathy Smith, the San Luis Obispo City Council can place a renewal of the city’s half cent sales tax on the November ballot without skirting the law.
State law requires a two-thirds vote of a city council to place a general tax on the ballot. But, citing a court ruling, City Attorney Christine Dietrick gave the council approval to place a renewal of Measure Y on the ballot with a simple majority vote.
At an April 1 council meeting, council members Dan Carpenter and Kathy Smith opposed Measure Y renewal, saying they did not trust the city to spend the funds properly. Smith said she would only support a special purpose tax.
Over the past month, though, numerous community members lobbied her to change her mind, Smith said.
On Tuesday she did.
“I would reluctantly give up my special purpose tax if we could get the kind of transparency and oversight that I feel is necessary to deal with my faith and trust,” Smith said.
Smith assured she would provide the needed fourth vote to place the sales tax on the ballot if the council would create a citizen’s oversight committee to track the use of the funds. She also requested that the committee direct city staff on how to spend the sales tax dollars.
The council majority of Mayor Jan Marx and council members John Ashbaugh and Carlyn Christianson agreed to create a committee but did not work out the details with Smith. The council continued the Measure Y discussion and is expected to finalize the language of the ballot measure at its May 20 meeting.
Following Smith’s flip, the city no longer faces the threat of a lawsuit over improperly placing a sales tax renewal on the November ballot.
Now, Councilman Dan Carpenter is the only member of the council who opposes a renewal of Measure Y. Carpenter said he would only considering endorsing the sales tax renewal if the council made a firm commitment to reining in staff salaries and paying down the city’s unfunded pension liabilities.
Carpenter also disapproved of the idea of the citizens oversight committee.
“It’s like a babysitting committee to what we are doing,” Carpenter said. “Our primary responsibility is fiscal oversight.”