The woes in Hercules' dysfunctional city government have been well detailed in these pages during recent years.
A witch's brew of gross financial mismanagement, breathtaking incompetence and rampant corruption pushed this lovely bayside community to the brink of financial ruin and placed it in a near impossible fiscal hole. So much so that many outsiders -- and we would be counted among them -- believed that it was only a matter of time, and not much of it, before Hercules became the next California city to declare bankruptcy.
But the residents of the community were having none of it. Their embarrassment and anger at their city leaders morphed into a gratifying civic revolt. They first used the ballot box and a recall effort to flex their democratic muscle. They changed the face of governance. But as tough as that was, it was the easy part. A newly minted council had to begin the unpleasant task of cleaning up the mess.
They hired an exceptional city manager; began the ugly process of cutting city employees, staff salaries and services; began selling city property that they didn't necessarily want to sell and finally convinced voters to approve a temporary half-cent sales tax to help them right the ship.
These efforts were impressive, but they don't quite put the city over the top. That is why the city is again asking the voters for help.
Measure A is a 2 percent utility users tax that city voters will consider in a special election on June 4. By law, the tax will expire in five years and cannot be taken by the state. Simply put, Measure A is a necessary measure that we believe the voters should pass.
City officials say they need the tax money to help fund the police department at current levels. They say the city has no other real options and that, should Measure A fail, they will be forced to consider contracting out police service to the county. There is some question as to whether that will happen, but it is a certainty that should Measure A fail, the police force in Hercules will be dramatically different from what it is today.
Perhaps the most compelling argument recommending passage of this measure is that there was no ballot statement filed against it. That is rare, indeed, especially for a tax measure. It tells us that there is widespread community understanding that Measure A is needed.
To be honest, if it were the people in office three years ago asking for this tax increase, we would strongly recommend against it. But it is not the same people.
While things in Hercules have been far from perfect, the new council and administration have demonstrated a mature understanding of the problem and a seriousness of purpose toward fixing it. They have done the hard things necessary to climb out of the fiscal abyss. We think they have earned the right to finish the job.
We recommend passage of Measure A in Hercules.