Antonio Andrade: Why vote yes on Measure C?


Consider these points:

First, did you know that 45% percent of Counties (and numerous cities) charge anywhere between 8.375% and 9.75% in sales tax? Last weekend my wife and I went to a wedding in San Francisco. We spent a night close to the city, ate locally, and shopped at the Giants Dugout store (Go Giants!). All these purchase were subject to 9.5% sales tax, a tax that essentially subsidizes that County’s services.

However, when San Francisco residents visit our County to recreate,, enjoy our scenery, attend passport weekend, the Mendocino Music Festival, etc. and buy our local products, they use our roads and services, yet pay only 8.25% in sales taxes supporting our County services Let’s strive for parity with other counties and stop subsidizing non-residential usage.

Second, we spend an inordinate amount of our County dollars on law and environmental degradation enforcement, social services, and health issues addressing marijuana- related impacts. Yet those who grow and sell weed and associated value-added products pay tax on an insignificant portion of their revenues. It is absolutely essential that underground marijuana merchants pay towards these impacts. One of the few current ways to capture tax dollars from these folks is through sales taxes paid when their proceeds are spent within Mendocino County. Sales tax is regressive, but there are free-market and government-related options we can explore to lessen that impact on lower income folks.

Finally, there is the ‘politics of no’ engaged in and paid for by Measure C opponents. In large part, they are far more economically fortunate community members and can afford to pay a small increase in the sales tax. They also have the means to travel and pay the sales tax charged in other counties and wouldn’t think to question how those taxing entities spend the tax dollars they receive.

These Measure C ‘back benchers’ legitimately question our serious County debt obligations. Yet, most never tracked what was happening with our County finances for years, and bring no solutions to the table. They advocate ‘starving the government beast’ by cutting off a revenue source and ignore the ensuing debt crisis if our County fails to meets its debt obligations—and do so after substantial County layoffs and wage concessions by employees.

I’ve come to think of these opponents as the ‘punishment brigade’. Some argue self-serving, discredited economic arguments about sales tax increases driving away business. If you peel away other arguments, they advocate punishing the Board of Supervisors (BOS) for not making decisions No on C proponents approve of. In the long run, the real victims of their “politics of no” are essentially all County residents whose deteriorating roads, dwindling libraries, diminishing sheriff services, health and social services, to name just a few .

Do I always like the way County government spends their dollars and makes decisions? Definitely not. Am I concerned about the pension debt? Yes, I’ve researched the issue, expressed my concerns publicly, and presented the BOS with a plan (they ignored) to address this. Yet, Measure C opponents set up an “us and them” argument. Look closer. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. We are all County residents. We are still a Democracy here in Mendocino County. No on C supporters vote for County representatives as we all did

Those who have employee compensation issues could have run their own candidates for supervisor in 2010. Furthermore, a majority of the Board is up for re-election in 2012. If Measure C passes and you don’t like how the Board has addressed your issue, run your candidate and see if you can convince others they will do a better job.

Real communities are far more than economic enterprises and our government far more than our pension debts. Democracies are a messy undertaking. They are not a business driven by a single individual or group of individuals based on a profit motive. They are built on a foundation of melding various interests, needs, and a helping hand extended to those among us who are in need.

These kinds of divisive battles are not a way to build a sustainable, viable community. They are ideologically driven, focus on blame and pit one against another, rather than empower citizens to solve their problems. Perhaps our hotel stay in San Francisco best illustrates my point about the ‘punishment brigade’. When we arose the next morning to shower, there was no hot water due to a power outage. What an unpleasant shock. When departing, my wife and I discussed the traditional tip we leave for housekeeping. Though disturbed by not getting what we paid for, it did not seem appropriate to essentially punish the housekeeper by not tipping appropriately for something out of their control.

Vote yes on C. Failure to shore up our deteriorating, bare-bones infrastructure now will only ‘kick the can down the road’ and result in far more expensive law enforcement and legal costs down the way.

One Comment

Not bad arguments, though I take issue with the ban on “divisive battles” — let’s disagree, OK. It’s all right. It leads to discussion and discussion leads to deliberation and deliberation leads to better decisions. At least that’s the premise of republican and democratic governance.

But the argument Andrade doesn’t address is the key one. “No” on C will force the issue of the budget to the forefront and put supervisors on notice that people aren’t looking for an easy out. So far as I can tell (and no, I haven’t parsed every campaign promise out there), none of the candidates takes seriously the possibility that the current budget crunch is a long-term product of the bankruptcy of our economic and political system and that we are going to have to make hard choices. None has held or asked for a wide-ranging public discussion on what we’re going to cut and keep. The incumbents have agonized a lot over ad hoc decisions without engaging the public. The challengers haven’t offered much more than a new revenue idea here, a favored program to guard there.

Let’s get serious. If, after a real public discussion (indeed, debate, disagreement isn’t bad) over what the county can afford and what it can’t, and how to cope without the programs cut or scaled back, we decide that the county needs more revenue, then fine, raise taxes. But unless and until that discussion takes place, citizens have little choice but to vote No on C.