The following guest opinion by Dee Tolles, former mayor of Menlo Park, was published in the Almanac's March 14 print edition:
In the summer of 2006, I was invited to endorse Menlo Park's Measure K, the Utility User Tax.
The decision I made to endorse this tax and appear on fliers was based on the information I was given that stated the city was running a deficit and that drastic cuts were going to have to be made unless this tax was enacted.
The endorsers of Measure K were told that the city's beloved institutions, such as the public safety providers, the library, and our street maintenance programs, were at risk of drastic, destabilizing budget cuts. All this because our city was running an $800,000 deficit and, we were told, would continue to run deficits unless the UUT was passed.
In January 2007, it was announced to the public that the city ran a $3.7 million surplus in fiscal 2005-06, not the forecast deficit of $800,000.
In fact, we have not run a significant deficit for the past four years, and no further cuts to vital services were contemplated. In fact, on Oct. 6, 2006, one month before the election, the city manager and finance director had the auditor's report in hand that revealed the $3.7 million mistake. Why didn't we hear about it then?
Would I have endorsed Measure K had I known these facts? No! Would the City Council have endorsed this tax? At least three former council members say no. Would the residents of Menlo Park have voted for this tax had they known these facts? I doubt it. The tax passed by only 65 votes.
This tax allows the city to collect from each of us 3.5 percent of our ever-increasing water, electric and gas bills and 2.5 percent of our cable, cell phone, DSL and telephone bills. It will cost many homeowners several hundred dollars a year.
I submit that the City Council should rescind the UUT because we all were deceived. Any argument or spin with regard to the current or future need for this tax is irrelevant. Measure K would not have passed if we knew we had a surplus.
I put my good name and reputation out there to support what I thought was the right thing based on information that was completely false. If the current City Council does not rescind the UUT, the residents of Menlo Park should get organized and petition the council.