Opinion | Let’s Shed Some Light on the “Facts” About Measure I

Published : Sunday, October 28, 2018 | 2:48 PM

The City Council, and the City of Pasadena, through its mail campaign to promote passage of Measure I, have made several statements that, at best, shade the truth and, in some cases, are outright false. Most require clarification if voters are to understand the ¾¢ sales tax measure placed before voters by the City Council.

First, the campaign promoting passage of Measure I claim the funding will go toward enhancements to services and capital infrastructure. In reality, the funding generated by Measure I is exactly equal to the funding deficits projected by the City’s Finance Director Matthew Hawkesworth a year ago when he first suggested to the City Council they consider a tax increase to backfill the deficit. At the time, Mr. Hawkesworth, a diligent, trustworthy and conscientious pubic employee, pointed out that the City would face a $20 million deficit by 2021 absent a tax increase. The current sales tax increase equals income of $14 to $21 million for the City. How will enhanced services and projects be funded if the City Council has to budget for a $20 million shortfall? There is nothing in the measure that requires funds to be spent in any way. It is at the whim and will of the City Council, each and every year.

Second, Pasadena does not get its fair share of revenues from Los Angeles County. On a year-to-year basis, that may seem accurate, but, over time, Pasadena has reaped far more in benefits from county sales tax measures than we will ever pay in. The arguments by downtown Los Angeles interests against building the Gold Line to Pasadena was exactly the same: why should Pasadena get a $750 million project when they are never going to pay enough in taxes to build it? (That $750 million project has sparked billions in investment in Pasadena and rekindled our downtown revitalization.) And, that is not considering the additional $2 billion being invested in the extension to Claremont, another boon for Pasadena. It would take Pasadena 50 years to payback the first phase of the Gold Line project alone.)

Third, there will be an annual audit of the funds generated by the sales tax increase. The City of Pasadena conducts an audit of all its finances each year, $600 million worth. Funds generated by the sales tax will be part of that greater audit of all City revenues that is focused and directed by the City Council through the Finance Department. In any given year, due to the complexity of the City’s finances, only certain funds are audited. (The Council not focusing auditors on the Underground Utility Fund, for example, led to the loss of $6 million to embezzlement, most of which has been recovered since the looted funds were discovered.)

When the City claims to have trimmed jobs and cut the budget, in most cases those jobs were really vacant positions, not employment opportunities that were filled by real human beings-in effect they were budget placeholders. No one lost their job and no service was diminished as a result as there were not personnel working in those jobs. Has your service level changed over the past few years? Have you noticed fewer trees being trimmed? Fewer miles of street cleaned? Fewer trash cans emptied? Certainly not fewer of our excellent police and fire personnel protecting our families. How is it that the City Council can find funds to fill two highly paid positions that the city manager had eliminated from the current budget without cutting services or other positions? ($400,000 of expenditures one council member likened to finding ‘change in the couch’.)

Finally, people visiting or working in Pasadena will finally pay their fair share. In fact, large purchases, such as automobiles, appliances, furniture and more are taxed based on where you live, not where you shop. Pasadenans who purchase cars in other places will still pay that additional ¾¢ sales tax, as will our residents who by furniture or appliances in neighboring cities. In LA County, recent studies have shown that more than 90% of local sales taxes are generated by residents and businesses within that community. Maybe workers and visitors will pay their fair share, but that still only accounts for 10% of the sales tax revenue. Pasadena residents will pay the bulk of that burden, as they always have.

The facts make it clear: Vote NO on Measure I.

 

 

Paul Little, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pasadena Chamber of Commerce

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