Measure J in Oakland is not what it seems
Bond Measure J is a Trojan horse. Although improving the physical condition of Oakland's schools may seem attractive, check the fine print.
The Oakland Unified School District wants the authority to borrow almost half a billion dollars (yes, that's "billion") for various projects.
However, the measure identifies only 11 schools with specific needs. The district will have unfettered discretion to spend the remainder on whatever it wants. In addition, the measure will saddle every household with hundreds of dollars in additional taxes every year for decades.
It has no cap on taxes, which could and probably will balloon in a few years if interest rates rise, leaving taxpayers holding the bag. Despite the eye-popping amount of money the district wants to borrow, it fails to identify the assumptions, likely quite rosy, on which its tax estimates are based.
Once the bonds are sold, we will have no recourse. The district must do a better job of protecting taxpayers. Don't let the district leave us with this surprise. Reject it by voting no on Measure J.
Zoo measure would allow development
The Oakland Zoo occupies 100 acres of Knowland Park, Oakland's largest city park. Knowland covers 500 acres of pristine land, teeming with native wildlife that includes rare and endangered flora and fauna. Its ridgeline affords breathtaking views of the bay.
The zoo plans a $72 million expansion into the unspoiled part of Knowland. The development, including a theme park on the ridge promoting California wildlife conservation, would destroy habitat for threatened species.
Alameda County's Measure A1, a $114 million parcel tax ostensibly for zoo "animal care," is written broadly and could be used for the zoo expansion into undeveloped Knowland Park. Measure A1 is deceptively appealing without this information. Adorable yard signs for Measure A1 sport a cartoon lion and are popping up in yards all over Oakland. The zoo is spending $1 million on its slick ad campaign while reportedly violating election laws.
Should we give a private nonprofit the authority to tax us for the next 25 years with no real accountability? Vote no on Measure A1.
Piedmonters should keep tax in place
On Nov. 6, Piedmonters will be asked to approve Measure Y. This is an important measure for the fiscal well-being of our city.
Measure Y extends the parcel tax that puts about $1.6 million a year into the city's general fund for another four years. This is the eighth renewal of the tax. It has been in place for 32 years.
The general fund is the part of the city budget that pays for all of the essential services that make our city such a fine place to live and raise a family. The tax is levied based on a homeowner's lot size. Seventy-five percent of homes paid less than $8 a week last year. Measure Y simply extends the existing tax with no change to its structure.
The math is simple: Without the tax, the City Council will need to cut $1.6 million from somewhere in the budget. With reserves still recovering from the recession, there are no easy options.
The parcel tax is not the council's money. It is the community's money, and it pays for things that the community values. Make your voice heard in the election and vote yes on Measure Y to keep Piedmont a special place to live.
Measure Y is not good for Piedmont
Piedmont's mayor tells us that renewing Measure Y is essential "to maintain the excellent city services which assure the safety of our citizens and keep Piedmont an attractive place to live." Nonsense. The parcel tax is not part of the solution to Piedmont's financial challenges, it is part of the problem by affording the city the luxury of refusing to manage finances properly. The mayor and the council have chosen to ignore the important and urgent recommendations of the Municipal Tax Review Committee that they appointed last year.
The mayor fails to tell us that, over the past nine years, virtually every dime of the almost 40 percent increase in the budget has gone to rapidly increasing employee salaries and benefits.
My family and I have lived in Piedmont for 34 years and I have been glad to vote for taxes that genuinely contribute to the community's quality of life.
Measure Y is not such a tax. Along with a majority of the Municipal Tax Review Committee, I urge a no vote on Y.
An editorial in some editions of Thursday's paper incorrectly described BART candidate Rebecca Saltzman's role regarding the airport extension project. Saltzman, currently a League of Conservation Voters political coordinator, was previously a public relations strategist against the airport extension project.