While I often disagree with Davis Enterprise editorial policies, rarely have I found their discussion as misinformed and wrongheaded as in their blurb on Tuesday’s preliminary tax discussion in the Friday “Cheers and Jeers” segment.
In the blurb on the taxes, the editorial board of the Enterprise wrote, “Jeers to the timing of the City Council’s discussion of its next bid to siphon dollars from our wallets. While a parcel tax to fund overdue road repairs may well be needed, the discussion just one week after the approval of Measure O, the half-percent sales tax increase, was like rubbing salt in the wound.”
They continue, “First, let’s have a wide-ranging, public conversation about ways to boost our city’s revenue stream that don’t involve taxes — specifically, business parks or so-called ‘innovation centers.’ We have at least two opportunities on the near horizon to add to our business base — the Nishi property and land east of Mace Boulevard — and these must be seized if we’re to dig out of our endless budget problems. High-tech, locally based businesses like Marrone Bio Innovations and FMC Technologies Schilling Robotics want to stay in Davis, but we lack the facilities for them to expand.”
They conclude: “Let’s give ourselves a chance at generating more revenue rather than piling additional burdens on Davis residents.”
Two commenters immediately called them on it. Michelle Millet stated, “I would like to thank the city council for addressing the need of funding for road repairs ‘just one week after the approval of Measure 0.’ Our city has some serious financial decisions to make, delaying them to avoid ‘rubbing salt in our wounds’ seem a fiscally irresponsible one that I’m glad our council did not make.”
An unnamed commenter would add, “If people were paying attention, the City Council’s plan to address the budget deficit was clear: 1) ask for a modest sales tax increase in June; 2) ask for a parcel tax increase in November; 3) aggressively pursue an Innovation Park.”
From our perspective the Enterprise got this completely wrong. First, as the unnamed poster pointed out, this was not a bait and switch situation where the council waited until the sales tax was approved to pounce with the second tax. From the start they had made it clear that the sales tax was only the first part of addressing revenue needs.
Second, the timing was of necessity. The council would have to act by the end of July to put a parcel tax measure on the ballot. They had a set workshop set for next week and the item this past week simply laid out the options.
The council has just two more regularly scheduled meetings set between now and the end of July when they would have to act. They could add meetings later in July if need be, but the Enterprise misses the point – why push off the discussion of a new tax?
From the rest of the blurb, it seems that the Enterprise wants to wait on the tax measure, much as Dan Carson yesterday suggested we wait. That may ultimately be the right move and may ultimately be what the council does. But they have to be able to discuss that in order to figure it out and, why wait? The council will take a full two hours on Tuesday to thoroughly discuss the options available to them.
Finally, in response to the Enterprise, we get the need for generating more revenue, but an innovation park is not going to solve short-term revenue needs and it’s certainly not going to enable the city to take out revenue bonds to repairs its roadways, parks and building infrastructure. To suggest that is irresponsible in my opinion.
Rich Rifkin made a comment yesterday on the Enterprise site, saying, “We have a City Council whose actions have been so irresponsible for so long that our general fund can no longer pay for basic services, including roads, sidewalks, building and facility maintenance and other infrastructure repairs.”
He adds, “But for the latest tax increase, the City would have had to lay off about 50 of its employees, just to cover the added compensation costs for its retirees and the remainder of the current employees. And you write that you are glad the Council did not make a fiscally irresponsible choice by delaying discussion of a new tax for road repairs? Isn’t that like thanking a thief for not breaking down your door after he finished burglarizing your home?”
In my view that misses several essential points. First, most of the problems were not caused by the current council. Come July 1, Rochelle Swanson will be the only councilmember on the council in 2010, and Dan Wolk will be the only other one on the council before 2012.
Second, what is done is done. We need to fix the problems, going forward, and we need to have those discussions immediately.
We criticized the council last year for failing to discuss revenue options between the passage of the budget in early July and December. We’re now going to criticize the council for having those tough discussions early? Sorry, that just doesn’t make sense.
I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that the council rubbed salt in the wound, after passage of a very small tax, to talk about the next stage of revenue needed to perform basic functions in the city.
We have spent countless pages criticizing past councils and the actions of public employee groups, but the citizens themselves bear some responsibility for allowing the situation to get out of hand. They were asleep at the wheel, they were complacent, they continue to elect councils that passed unsustainable budgets and agreed to unsustainable contracts.
The voters were part of the problem and now that we are in a crisis, they bear a good deal of responsibility for getting us out of this crisis.
—David M. Greenwald reporting