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Letter to the Editor: Support Measure F

Albany resident Peggy McQuaid writes in support of Measure F.

-By Peggy McQuaid

The Contra Costa Times has joined Assembly Member Nancy Skinner and the AUSD Board of Education, each individual Albany City Council member and your neighbors to endorse Measure F (Contra Costa Times editorial, November 1, 2012: Albany voters should approve Measure F.)

If it were almost any other city, we would probably oppose Albany's Measure F.

The proposed eight-year, half-cent sales tax increase would bring the total rate in the city to 9.25 percent. In the East Bay, only El Cerrito and Union City are that high.

We generally don't like using sales tax increases to close budget gaps because they are regressive and put merchants at a competitive disadvantage.

But we back Measure F because of Albany's circumstances. Revenues from sales and commercial property taxes are substantially less than in most communities. At the same time, city leaders have been fiscally responsible: Unlike most cities, Albany never adopted the most generous pension benefits for police and firefighters. And, they've paid off much of their pension debt.

Despite responsible financial planning, the city has had to cut 7 percent of public safety jobs and 17 percent of other positions.

Measure F seems justified and we urge a yes vote.

*Send letters to the editor to Laila.Kearney@patch.com.

Michael Barnes November 06, 2012 at 06:18 AM
The story Steven Brown refers to is here: http://albany.patch.com/articles/column-the-district-did-pretty-much-what-it-said-it-would-do-with-albany-pools Please note the pdf there of the final flyer we handed out to the voters. Note the floor plan of the pools. It is extremely similar to what was built with the exception that the outdoor pool lanes are rotated 90 degrees. I designed this flyer and handed it out around town. The voters knew what they were getting. Mr. Brown is a bit hazy on the timeline of events. I left the board in late December 2006, or early January 2007, depending upon when the swearing in ceremony occurred for the new board. Although I was on the boardf when we decided to plan for a new pool, I was no longer on the board when the vote occurred, nor was I on the board when the voters decided to build the new pool. I was a volunteer at that point. As for that bridge in Brooklyn, I'm not sure you'll find any takers, given what the climate-amplified superstorm just did to NYC. But climate change, and the idea that we need to prepare ourselves for it, is another topic that I have been supporting for years, just like our news pools.
Rebecca Nemeth November 06, 2012 at 07:08 AM
I'm torn about this one. I see the cuts every day (especially in the schools), and I know how hard some of the people behind the scenes in city government are working to make things run smoothly and responsibly. But a lot of us are tired of the inaction and lack of focus caused by divisive politics. I can't help but think that Measure F would be far less necessary if we were encouraging reasonable development that is desirable to Albany & other local residents and increased our commercial tax base. It's ridiculous to me that potential tax dollars are diverted every single week as people drive out of/through Albany to Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, and a hundred other shops that would fit beautifully with our town's culture. I see no good reason why we don't have resources like these in Albany.
Rebecca Nemeth November 06, 2012 at 07:11 AM
I'm grateful to the restauranteurs and small & large business owners who are here, and whose hard work makes our community a more appealing place to live. (I am told that it's no easier to run a business in Berkeley, unless you're one of the Apple or Restoration Hardware types they actively courted.) Why can't we pull together and encourage more business we'd like to have to set up shop here? We need a longer term focus on Economic Development. Haphazard and special-interest driven "planning" is not working. This is not a big town, and compared to larger cities all around us we have a pretty homogenous population (re. income, education, etc.). We all need the same basic things, and we don't have anonymous fabulously wealthy people we can tax to solve our problems. Please put on your big kid pants and just get this done, so we don't need any more "oops" taxes to keep our basic services in place.
Peggy McQuaid November 06, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Rebecca, thank you for your well thought out comments. This sales tax is designed with an expiration date in 8 years giving us time to develop a long term economic development strategy. This will require strong leadership by the council and watchfulness by the citizens. It will require making smart economic growth the priority and decision making based on creating a healthy, sustainable, and prosperous business community in Albany. It will require listening to all the people, not just special interest groups. It all begins today with your vote for a new City Council.
Steven Steve November 06, 2012 at 04:43 PM
@Peggy - TIME IS UP - thank you for your well thoug...wait a minute I dont have to pander. Peggy, expiration dates can be changed and you have had plenty of time to develop a long term strat (econ or otherwise) TIME IS UP. There are already watchful citizens who have been let down by our 'leadership' and the BAT (Barnes, Abbott,Thomsen) people are just more of the same. I find the rest of your comment trite and obvious to the point of mind numbing...better to say, "The day is hot, and the night is cold". Time to get rid of this kind of thinking in the City Council!!! Your ilk has brought us here, and Albany is tired your 'leadership' style...I dont want to pay for this 'service' anymore. SAY GOOD-BYE TO THE BOLOGNA...LETS GET ALBANY BACK TO WORKING AND THEN NOT TURN IT OVER AGAIN TO THESE PEOPLE
Steven Brown November 06, 2012 at 05:07 PM
The Voter Information Pamphlet and campaign literature clearly state that the plan was for an INDOOR pool and a SMALL WARM INDOOR POOL. If anyone thinks that's what we ended up with, I've still got that bridge in Brooklyn. Also, the proponents provided financial projections that were far off the mark. When you read Barnes' column be sure to read the well-referenced comments from Ira Sharenow and others that thoroughly demolish Mr. Barnes' claims. But we all agree about climate change. . . all the council candidates and practically everyone else in Albany. Good point and nice pivot.
Susan Miller November 06, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Mr. Steve This is not a forum for you to offend and show your anger. This is a forum for reasonable people to discuss important issues reasonably. Unstick your caps lock key and what other stick you have so you can open what few skills of observation you have. For the last six years the city has been controlled by a quorum of special interest who have not had the city's best interest in mind, just the furtherance of their backers' agenda. Thomsen, Barnes, and Abbott would break that quorum and get us back on track.
Steven Steve November 06, 2012 at 05:36 PM
@Miller Time - I am not angry, nor have I attempted to offend. Though, seems you maybe part of our community who likes to tell others the who, what, where, why and when we can or cant do something. This section seems to drip with irony w/ regards: to your comment, "This is a forum for reasonable people to discuss important issues reasonably. Unstick your caps lock key and what other stick you have so you can open what few skills of observation you have." A little offensive and a bit angry, not to mention the insinuation of an alternative position being unreasonable imho. Though unsurprising, it is okay for you to do...but not for others...seems to have been alot of that going around in our community and City Council. Seems you like that double standard way of living...but for those who DO NOT...DO NOT vote for Barnes, Abbott, and Thomsen. They are the next revision of MORE OF THE SAME. Pick someone else if you want SOMETHING ELSE.
Robert Smith November 06, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Happy Produce was terrible. I don't think overpriced fruit at a rich-folks farmer's market had anything to do with the rotting produce and fruit flies at Unhappy Produce.
Ulan McKnight November 06, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Regressive Tax Definition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regressive_tax Progressive Tax Definition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_tax Sales taxes charge everyone the same dollar amount. Conservatives argue that they are "fair" because everyone is charged the same. When I think of fairness, I ask myself if I want to balance our budget on the back of high school students? I can afford to pay more and therefor I think it is "fair" that my rate is higher than a students. Should we raise the price students pay for lunch so we can skim a few pennies for their education? Or should the parents who bought the house in Albany because of the great schools pay a bit more? Should Target pay the same dollar amount in business fees to operate here as our small stores? We need to generate more revenue. Prop F asks the poor to pay a larger percentage of their income to help us balance our budget. I believe people like me who have more resources should pay more than those who have less.
Peggy McQuaid November 06, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Any monetary changes to business licensing have to go for voter approval due to prop. 218, because it is a tax.
Ross Stapleton-Gray November 06, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Target doesn't pay the same amount, they pay more. Albany business licenses scale with the number of employees, so a larger business will pay more. That doesn't capture the difference, say, between two small retail stores, one of which sells Bic pens, and the other Mont Blancs, but that will happen at the sales tax level.
Kenneth November 06, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Senior - Measure F is no more or less specefied than the other sales tax money (or ad valorem property tax money) that the City already receives. You should have no less confidence in this incremental $600,000 than the rest of the General Fund revenues that the City already receives. I already am concerned about Council spending. That's why I am going to BAT for ALbany.
Kenneth November 06, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Steven Steve - Voltaire wrote about the perfect being the enemy of the good. Least bad is better than the alternatives. If you have a better alternative, tell us what it is. Complaining about the least bad is a waste of time.
Chris November 06, 2012 at 06:44 PM
One problem with raising property taxes on homes is that it's already high for new buyers. The median home value in Albany in 2010 was over $600K (according to city-data.com). This means that a new buyer like us will be paying around $10,000/yr just in property tax. But presumably most folks pay much less than this because they didn't purchase their house recently. But there needs to be a fairer way to distribute property tax burden on residents. As an example, our next door neighbors pay 1/2 and 1/6 of our property tax even though their houses are worth around 75% as much as ours (according to Zillow). It places a big burden on young families starting out who want to buy and get their kids into Albany schools. Obviously, it was our choice to purchase a house and all the associated costs, but it is a little daunting to know that we will pay $300,000 in property tax over the life of our 30 mortgage, in addition to the actual mortgage and maintenance costs.
Ulan McKnight November 06, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Re: Target doesn't pay the same amount, they pay more. Business fees are progressive. Rather than passing a sales tax, City Council can increase the business fees in progressive ways.
Ulan McKnight November 06, 2012 at 07:04 PM
I agree. I think it is about focus and priorities. We do not need another sales tax. Albany generates the vast majority of our income through progressive taxation of property owners and businesses. We can increase the rates of our fees in progressive ways and raise enough to cover our projected budget shortfall. I would also like to see greater exemptions for the poor. Our fees can be more progressive and more "fair".  If elected, this is exactly the conversation I want to have with Albany. Exactly how should we, as a community, raise the money we need to keep our government functioning?
Senior A. Titude November 06, 2012 at 07:22 PM
@Kenneth. Therein lies the problem. I have not been happy with the use of my tax dollars so far, and have no reason to believe I would be more satisfied with the decisions of a future council. If you can't get 2/3's support for a specific use, then the majority of people don't want the funds utilized in that manner. The voters have spoken. An unspecified majority measure delays voter input until the next election. Not good enough imo.
Ulan McKnight November 06, 2012 at 07:24 PM
http://www.unc.edu/depts/econ/byrns_web/Economicae/taxprinciples.html Businesses with more employees pay more fees to Albany. This is one form of progressive taxation. We could also progessively tax on revenue, physical size and net income. We could give examptions for hiring the elderly, local students or veterans. We can do all sorts of things if we have the desire and the commitment. What we need is vision. Regressive taxation is not visionary. It is easy to sell, but it hurts the poor and our small businesses. I believe we can do better. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Tatter Salad November 06, 2012 at 07:34 PM
WHY I LOVE ALBANY: When my phone is inundated by unsolicited calls, It's comforting to know I live in a city where I can switch to AT&T, and I won't be bothered by calls. I love the fact that my grandchildren, and their grandchildren will always have a place to learn to drive, as the Albany RaceTrack parking lot will always be there. I love to communicate with Mayor and Council wanna-be's, that base their education off of Wikipedia, and then don't read it. They fail to notice that a 'sales tax' is where the tax rate is fixed as the amount subject to taxation increases; and is neither 'progressive or regressive'. I love to those bask in their philosophy of contradictions. Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong. Reason is not automatic. The logic of suing the City one pretends to service is not logical, and is the tool of the scoundrel. Do not count on them. Leave them alone. Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where Bolt Cutters begin. Rights are not a matter of numbers - and there can be no such thing, in law or in morality, as actions forbidden to an individual, but permitted to a mob. There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist. (Ayn Rand)
Ross Stapleton-Gray November 06, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Why sales taxes end up being regressive is that everybody buys toilet paper. Richie Rich may by finer toilet paper than I do, but the range of expenditure that covers "what you need to live" is much narrower than various things we have more discretion on. Gasoline is another good example... Richie's Hummer might consume gas twice as fast as my beat-up Civic, but we're both paying $4 a gallon, which includes both state and federal taxes. So by year's end, he's paid a smaller fraction of his gross income to the basic necessities, and taken a smaller tax hit, percentagewise, than I will have. Of all the tax issues that have been discussed on Patch lately, the one that really jumps out is the disparity caused by Prop 13: two identical homes, adjacent to one another, are wildly different in how they're taxed, based solely on when they were last sold. I'd love to see that fixed (we bought in 2001, so we're on the higher end of median there... it'd affect us personally, but there are many others who're hurt more), but it'd be tough, and need to happen gradually. Other places I've lived assess real estate taxes on annually-calculated assessments (and I wonder if Zillow is lobbying any states or counties to adopt its "Zestimates" as such a measure), and it could be done here.
Tatter Salad November 06, 2012 at 09:26 PM
WHY I LOVE ALBANY (2): No one ever complains now if a street light goes out; their brightness only competes with distant stars (and we prefer the stars). I love a city that tickets SOME cars for not moving on street cleaning days; but NOT ticketing in the areas that have the most trees.
Tatter Salad November 06, 2012 at 10:24 PM
WHY I LOVE ALBANY (3)... While I was throwing a ball at the Memorial Area B, a college girl was on the other side of the Fence on her IPod; she said: Yes, I'm just North of Berkeley, and it's another world!
Caryl O'Keefe November 06, 2012 at 11:12 PM
@Steven Steve, has someone appropriated your nom de computer to type "..nor have I attempted to offend"? Surely that could not come from the same author of quotes on this thread such as: "We need to get rid of people who think like that," "you like that double standard way of living," "your ilk has brought us here," "I stand-by my accusation of cherry pickingness." Maybe the phrase is a hint from yet another pseudonymous poster, who wants Steven Steve to post with common courtesy.
Rebecca Nemeth November 06, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Wow. I've been away from the Patch for a little while, and I'm surprised to see this kind of discourse here. Not surprising that the city government can't get much done if the citizens who are the squeakiest wheels are treating each other this way. Here's hoping we can do better going forward.
Peggy McQuaid November 06, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Just to add some facts into the earlier discussion (not sure exactly where all of misinformation was posted). I was at the pool this morning and confirmed that the outdoor pool is still 25 meters by 25 yards and 13 feet deep in the deepest section The Albany High School swim team has completed one successful season there and the Albany Armada swim team USA team) is currently using it. It clearly meets the needs of those swim teams so the claims that it is too short are false.
Steven Steve November 07, 2012 at 03:00 AM
@Cry-a-little O'Keefe - I stand by my statement that I have not attempted to offend. I also stand by my opinions. The cherry comment I made to Lubov was accurate, as was my recounting of her position on marijuana (notice she did not correct me). Miller was displaying a dbl standard, which allowed her to both claim she was 'reasonable' while mocking and chiding apposing points of view. Then there is you, "Yes it is time to return to the subject of the article [SEC]. Ignore mean-spirited comments without factual basis from those hiding behind pseudonyms." You occasionally drop into comments how nice, sweet, and kind we children are all playing in the sandbox. Not sure who gave you the mother-goose hat, but you do love showing it off and let us know of your approval. Though it does seem youve proven your apt to both chide and hold a dbl standard, while being a touch sarcastic. Your a poor leader, and I stand by my comment and by my assessment of your skills. No offense.
Susan Miller November 07, 2012 at 07:25 AM
I suggest a poll among ourselves. Vote here in reply about whether you have had quite enough of Steven Steve or not.
Susan Miller November 07, 2012 at 07:26 AM
I have had more than enough.
Tatter Salad December 01, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Peggy: The pool's too narrow. It's not 25 metes by 25 yards; it's 25 yards by 25 yards. To swim the distance swim is 65 turns! The butterfly event is 3 complete strokes before bumping your head. The 'deep end' of the pool, is not the 'end' of the pool; it's the 'side'.

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