It will not be easy for San Mateo County voters to fork out a teeny bit more in sales tax to support parks and open space, but we hope they do just that and say yes to Measure O on June 3.
By doing so, voters will ensure that maintenance of the county's incomparable open space and park holdings will continue and that cities and special districts also will receive financial support for maintaining their parks.
The measure, which would cost county residents an estimated $1.50 a month or $18 a year, is expected to raise $16 million annually, of which 52 percent would go to cities and 42 percent to the county. The remaining 6 percent would go to special districts, primarily the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. The funds would be allocated according to strict guidelines published in the current election pamphlet mailed to all voters.
Most residents will agree that this county's superb quality of life comes in large part from our proximity to huge amounts of open space. The 55 rangers in the county parks department are responsible for overseeing 16,000 acres of land in 18 parks. The county says its staff is short 15 rangers and has a backlog of $112 million in deferred maintenance and other projects. It is a recipe for disaster that must be changed.
Measure O will help protect the open space that we admire as we drive north on Interstate 280, or breath in as we head down Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, or hike into the foothills. These are the precious lands that will remain open space in perpetuity, and are our responsibility to maintain and protect. Measure O, which will keep money flowing to our park system for 25 years, is the best way to ensure that these precious lands will be protected and managed properly.
In 2006, 55 percent of voters approved this measure, but the number fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. This time around, we urge all voters to not only support Measure O, but to make sure their friends and relatives do as well. The parks and open space areas that we are blessed with cannot run on autopilot. We must do our share, and in this instance, the price is a tiny, tiny fraction of the revenue we routinely shell out in sales taxes.
We urge a yes vote on Measure O, to support our county and city parks.
Vote no on Prop. 98, and yes on Prop. 99
There are only two initiatives on the statewide June primary ballot. Both are constitutional amendments that restrict the power of eminent domain — the ability of governments to take private property for a public purpose in return for fair compensation.
Proposition 98, sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, prohibits state and local governments from condemning or damaging private property for private uses and prohibits rent control as well. The latter provision would override local rent control ordinances, including controls on rents in mobile home parks in dozens of California cities. It might also eliminate the type of inclusionary affordable housing provisions that have been used in Menlo Park to require developers to build some affordable units along with higher-priced homes. The land use/eminent domain restrictions attempt to accomplish what a similar initiative, Proposition 90, proposed, and the voters rejected, in 2006.
We opposed Proposition 90 in 2006 because we believed it had the potential to effectively prevent the state and local governments from enacting laws to protect the environment and open space and would have undermined the authority of locally elected leaders to do what they think is best in their communities. Proposition 98 appears to have even broader application than Proposition 90 did. Proposition 98 is opposed by the state's major environmental groups and a diverse coalition including the Consumer Federation of California, the League of Women Voters, the California Chamber of Commerce, California Teachers Association, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, tenants' groups, labor organizations and others. Proponents, in addition to the Jarvis group, include major mobile home and apartment owners' organizations.
Opponents argue that the measure's language could void many existing environmental protections, prohibit new ones and restrict actions needed for water projects, schools and infrastructure, and lead to lawsuits and project delays.
Most opponents of this initiative are supporting a competing measure, Proposition 99, which addresses the core issue that Proposition 98 proponents say they are addressing, without all the collateral damage. It prohibits state and local governments from using eminent domain to acquire an owner-occupied residence for conveyance to a private person or business entity with exceptions for public work or improvement, public health and safety protection, and crime prevention. This provision deals with the core fear triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo decision. It is drafted to nullify Proposition 98 if it receives more votes.
It is clear to us that Proposition 98 is a dangerous initiative that deserves to be rejected. The sleazy ads being run by its proponents, with the voices of children talking about their fears, complete the picture. You can vote against 98 a second time by voting for 99.
We recommend No on Proposition 98 and Yes on Proposition 99.