Slo council signs off Measure Y renewal
July 2, 2014
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The San Luis Obispo City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to place a renewal of Measure Y, the city’s half-cent sales tax, on the November ballot.
A simple majority vote on November 4 would extend the sales tax for eight years. It is currently scheduled to expire in April 2015.
Tuesday’s decision concluded three months of council debate on the issue. Councilman Dan Carpenter cast the lone dissenting vote, and Councilwoman Kathy Smith provided a crucial fourth vote in support of the measure.
The council majority consisting of Mayor Jan Marx and council members John Ashbaugh and Carlyn Christianson have long stated that they support renewal of Measure Y. However, California regulations call for a two-thirds vote of a city council to send a tax measure to voters.
At an April 1 meeting, Smith opposed Measure Y renewal, stating that she did not trust city staff to properly spend the money raised. Smith instead called for a special purpose tax, which would require two-thirds support from voters in order to pass.
But, Smith changed her mind and, in May, agreed to vote in favor of Measure Y renewal as a general purpose tax. She requested in exchange that the council create a citizens’ oversight committee to track the use of the tax dollars. The council did so on Tuesday.
“My support expresses hope that the elected council will be forceful in its commitment to appoint a valid oversight commission and hold staff’s feet to the fire on sharing accurate data,” Smith said Tuesday.
Carpenter said the idea of the oversight committee is absurd and he will not recognize it if it is adopted. He also said that the council is ignoring a large number or residents who oppose a general purpose tax or any type of city sales tax.
Many residents have complained that city staff did not use Measure Y funds as promised. Much of the Measure Y money has gone to back-filling staffing costs and routine maintenance.
City staffers claim that they spent 60 percent of the sales tax funds on capital improvement projects. In recent weeks, though, staff has offered varying definitions of capital improvement projects, often including routine expenditures like street sweeping.
Most of Tuesday’s debate focused on what role city staff can play in issuing information pertaining to the Measure Y campaign. California law forbids staff from supporting the passage of the ballot measure, but both Carpenter and Smith said staffers have been promoting Measure Y renewal.
Carpenter said city staffers have been acting like cheerleaders for the initiative.
The council opted to instruct staff not to make any more public presentations about Measure Y renewal.
Additionally, the council chose to let residents craft the ballot arguments for and against renewal of the sales tax. The council is now looking for applicants for the roles.
Voting will take place during the general election on Nov. 4, and absentee voters will receive their ballots about a month prior.