Mixing words and deceiving SLO County voters

July 24, 2016
Gordon Mullin

Gordon Mullin


Our SLO county council of government (SLOCOG) and seven cities have recently agreed to put a sales tax measure before the citizens this November and the governments and the media are already staking out positions. The money, if the measure passes, is intended for county-wide roads and transportation and you can be assured we will be treated to a four month long sales pitch paid for by us taxpayers.

Ironic isn’t it. It’s our tax dollars that will largely fund the advertising to convince us to further tax ourselves. Now people tend to believe what the government and the press tells them and it is unfortunate that the Tribune and SLOCOG, to date, have chosen to incorrectly present the sales tax initiative as it really is. Here’s how.

The Tribune, in both a story a week ago and most recently in an editorial this weekend, chose to misrepresent the sales tax increase as a “half cent increase” when they know that that is not true. In fact it’s not a ‘half cent” increase, it’s a one-half percent increase. I appreciate that to many folks it’s a trivial variation but in the upcoming battle over the initiative it’ll make a difference.

Also, SLOCOG, in both a brochure I was given this last Thursday and on the website they built supporting the measure, tout the increase as “a half cent,” not as half a percent as it really will be.

Now you may ask- ‘What’s the big deal?’ Aren’t they the same? No, they’re not.

Frankly a half cent increase doesn’t sound like much as the supporters of the measure well know. It’s only half a penny, isn’t it? However, in truth, it’s not a half cent increase- it’s half of one percent.

For the math challenged, on a $200 purchase, under the half-cent proposal the cost would be, well, half a penny; presumably rounded up to a single cent. Under a one-half percent tax it would be $1 A substantial difference

When I ran for a seat on the SLO City Council two years ago, many is the time when I was discussing Measure G the one half percent increase passed by the majority of voters in 2014, folk kept saying ‘a half cent’ and frequently, even after I pointed out that was not the case, they said “but I read it in the Trib” or “the city said it’s half a cent.”

They believed the tax would be only half a penny per purchase because that’s what they were told.

Note that SLOCOG, the principal driver of this current initiative claims on its supporting website: “In Nov. 2016, voters will be asked to approve a ½ cent sales tax to address these needs.” Yet, further into the website, under the “ordinance” link which cites the actual wording of the initiative, they use the correct “one-half of one percent (0.5%).” It’s not that they didn’t know.

In turn, the Tribune this weekend, in its editorial extoling the virtues of the measure several times referred to the “half cent” increase.  And they know that’s not true.

Many will acknowledge that the true cost is ‘half a percent’ but many, far too many in my experience, will have that half a penny cost stuck in their heads and will be far more likely to think, “what the hell.  It’s only half a penny. Why should I care?” And they too get to vote.

Supporters of the SLO city measure during the city’s Measure G initiative in Nov. 2014 would typically refer to the ‘half cent’ increase. Did and do the supporters of these initiatives purposely misrepresent the basic fact of the increase knowing that some segment of the voters will actually think the added cost will be a mere half a penny for each purchase?

I can’t look into the soul of these folk and uncover whether they had knowingly misled the public. I don’t have that power. But look closely at how our governments and the media characterize the measure in the future. If they continue to mislead the public I think it fair to assume that they know some voters will take them at their word and will be knowingly lying to the voters.

I hope that won’t be the case but we’ll discover their character by their actions over the next four months.

Whether you support or oppose this initiative in November, I hope that both our governments and our press will take the time to accurately present the facts to voters.

Half a penny is not equivalent to one-half percent.

Words matter, or they should.


Seemingly, we have two choices in how we maintain our local road systems.

Defer the needed costs & allow pavement conditions to deteriorate further, which obviously increases our costs exponentially down the road.

Or, we can bite the bullet & pay for it now.

Preventative maintenance has always proven to be cost-effective & essential for our roads & even the vehicles that tear up the roads.


Here is a new alternative, cut the government employee costs by 1/2, thats 50%, then redirect that money to where it should have gone if the first place, infrastructure and maintenance. How to cut the costs?, that easy cut, cut , cut. reduce current staffing, reduce benefits, reduce pensions, (the pension system is broke and underfunded by billions, time for a major overhaul).

Mr. Holly

We could always look at some government positions that are getting some pretty incredible salaries and benefits packages. It seems that if any of the governments due get into the green that immediately it goes to employees. These road conditions did not just happen overnight. One can clearly see by the government reports themselves that road conditions are very predictable. With that said where have they been to establish reserve funds to take care of the roads. In the past (long ago) I had always thought that governments were put into place to take care of its citizens. That certainly is not the case today,


Spread the word to VOTE NO it does’nt cost to tell your friends and neighbors, we are slowly getting taxed and regulate out of our beautiful place to live.


My personal assessment: We are *QUICKLY* being taxed and regulated to a degree previously not seen!


We need to get rid of out-of-control fraud, waste, abuse and corruption in local government, not pander to it.


“you can be assured we will be treated to a four month long sales pitch paid for by us taxpayers”. Don’t forget the sales pitch paid by the companies (transportation, construction, etc.) who will benefit from this additional fund.


Who what they say it is. Just vote no, and let them figure out.

It’s pretty easy. Just take a look at things from their perspective. Why do they want it, what is in it for them. Then it all makes sense.

Josey Wales


I agree with Mr. Gordon Mullin!

His commentary makes a lot of ‘sense’, and I think we should all stand in opposition to this latest attempt to raise our taxes. As you all know, the power to tax is the power to destroy, and our local government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

As Mr. Mullin points out, these local big government types appeal to people’s ignorance and non-thinking nature in trying to pass these types of measures, but more and more people are waking up to the reality that more socialism will not yield its intended result.

Say NO to new taxes, keep freedom alive.



You’re quibbling- 1/2 cent, 1/2 of 1%. Let’s just say for sake of argument the Tribune and everyone else who writes or speaks on the issue uses the correct terminology, the terminology isn’t going to make any appreciable difference on how most voters are going make their decision. You may believe it’s important but for the voter they are going to be convinced by how much is it going to cost them and what are they being promised.

If you want to change their minds you need to add is it also fair. I believe there is a considerable problem with the fairness of the approach the County is using. There isn’t a strong link between buying taxable items and how much you drive.

The County and SLOCOG are also advocating approval for the tax because they are indicating that 1/2 of the overall tax collected will be from visitors outside the area. I don’t know if this is true or not but there is a high likelihood that if you purchase taxable items in Bay Area, Santa Barbara County, Southern California or the Central Valley you are paying a similar tax. In a sense those counties are collecting tax from us so let’s charge them. However, the reality is that given the 20 counties that are already Self Help counties and their location it’s a wash.

Kevin Rice

Do we want media and leaders who dumb us down, or that use correct terminology? I’m sick of media and elites treating the public like idiots. That’s what the Tribune thinks of you. The Tribune is dishonest and misleading and in bed with our dishonest and misleading leaders.

Kevin Rice

Good point. Illustrates how we are being scammed at every level. Even mere language informalities are skewed to favor big government. And with such a dishonest and corrupt local newspaper, the public stands little chance.

Extremely Stoic

Excellent article, you are the man!