Measure HH - Utility Users Tax
Argument Against "Measure HH"
In the face of the climate crisis and Covid-19 economic and health crisis, we can ill-afford new taxes that fail to produce meaningful results.
Yes, climate change is a massive threat posing disproportionate impacts on the poor and Berkeley must be part of the solution. But this measure will not spend our limited tax dollars effectively towards these ends. The financial suffering of our citizens in the current health and economic disaster only underscores the need to reject this well-intentioned, but badly flawed, measure.
The measure is unlikely to achieve its stated goals for three reasons:
• There is no provision for oversight of distributed funds, and the City is under no obligation to spend according to the stated purposes. A dedicated fund would require a special tax and a two-thirds vote.
• The competing objectives of equity and cost-effectively reducing carbon emissions are at odds, but Measure HH does not include a plan to achieve these divergent objectives and no plan has been presented to City Council. Competing visions are likely to create conflict, inefficiency and compromises that will fritter away funds.
• Entire state agencies are addressing these highly complex issues among myriad existing programs and regulations. The commission to be tasked with making spending recommendations to the City Council is comprised of part-time volunteers. City staff who will be tasked with implementation are already overburdened.
As a city, we should address climate change and promote equity. Our transportation infrastructure is an obvious target. Any additional tax funds could, for example, bolster the city’s woefully underfunded “complete streets” budget, which ensures that road repaving will be accompanied by improvements allowing walkers, bicyclists, and people with disabilities to travel safely and inexpensively, while reducing climate and local air pollutants. Proponents should return with a better plan in better times.
Message from Ray Yep
From: Ray Yep <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Sat, Jul 25, 2020 at 3:26 PM Subject: Climate action fund To: Tano Trachtenberg <TTrachtenberg@cityofberkeley.info>, Jesse Arreguin <email@example.com> Cc: Margo Schueler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I had a brief discussion yesterday with Tano about the proposed Climate Action Fund and would like to follow up with more detailed thoughts. I discussed the subject with Margo, Gordon and Jim McGrath and we jointly wrote the attached letter to Council.
I am fully supportive of our CAP, the climate emergency and the need to do more to meet our goals. I am not supportive of raising the utility user tax and the way the program is being proposed. Einstein once said .... insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We are, once again, proposing an undefined program, setting a low bar for voter passage, and are hoping a well intentioned commission will figure it all out. This has not happened with Measure M, Measure O or the soda tax. We should learn from the past before we launch again.
Also, I think the pandemic changes everything. You have several ballot measures that will increase costs to our residents. That is not right. We have businesses that will never return, families that can't pay the rent, and children learning from home. We are in unprecedented times. The City is also taking dramatic steps to reimagine public safety and perhaps other city services. As you do this, I hope that you will find ways to provide city services for less money. I believe that you can find $2 million for carbon reduction activities through organizational efficiencies. I challenge you to do this; I believe that I could if I were in your shoes.
The idea of raising the UUT came up 3 years ago. Did anyone know that Gordon was also thinking of it for utility undergrounding? This is the issue that Vision 2050 is raising ... the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. There should be a way to prioritize the needs and the funding methods.
Recommendation: Do not move forward with the ballot measure to to raise the UUT and build into reimagining city services to develop funds for carbon reduction activities.