Separate them out, please! Palo Alto residents should be able to vote on two individual ballot measures: one for improved libraries and the other for a new police station.
Right now the Palo Alto City Council wants to combine the two proposals into one $95 million bond measure ($45 million for libraries and $50 million for a new police station). Council members are hoping residents will want one of these enough to agree to the two projects.
In fact, in watching Monday’s city council meeting, council members debated how they could best get people to vote for both. No council member mentioned separating the two proposals. No one asked which is the more ethical approach. Their agenda seemed to be what’s the best method to manipulate the voters to get approval for both measures. Council members obviously fear that one of the proposals might lose (the police station), so they kept on asking the consultants how they can best bundle the two proposals together and get voter approval.
Council members want to choose the ballot measure(s) we vote on. That’s manipulative — or simply politics.
The council authorized a poll of residents to see whether each proposal could garner the 66-2/3 percent majority needed to approve the bond measures. Unfortunately, the survey results discussed last Monday found that the support for each and both was well below the two-thirds majority. The library garnered an initial 63 percent approval rating for the $45 million proposal, while the $50 million police station got 57 percent approval, which consultants said was too low for ultimate voter approval. And when the two were combined, only 29 percent gave a “definite yes” although a substantial number said probably — but far less than the needed two-thirds majority. No surprise there.
We’re talking about big tax dollars here that residents here will have to pay. The $95 million would result in a $42 tax per $100,000 assessed valuation. So if you have a $600,000 assessed valuation, passage of this bond measure would mean you would pay $252 in additional taxes/year for the next 30 years. And if you have a $1.2 million assessed valuation, that’s another $504 a year. That's a lot of $$$s.
Some of us want renovated and expanded libraries. Others of us want a new police station. You may want both — or neither. I think we should be able to vote for which one or two building proposals we want.
My memo to our city council: Please don’t try to frame the bond measures to get what you want. These are our tax dollars. Let us decide what we want. Separate out the measures.