Voter Guide 2006: Measure A: sales tax boost would give $16 million a year to parks
Everyone says they love parks; the question now is whether two-thirds of the San Mateo County residents who believe in parks are willing to pay an extra 1/8-cent sales tax to improve parks in the county, its 20 cities, and three special districts.
Measure A on the November ballot would raise about $16 million a year to improve parks, recreation programs, and open space in the county. That works out to about $18 a year for the average resident, or $1.50 a month. The measure requires a two-thirds vote to pass.
The money would be shared among 24 agencies that provide park and recreation services in San Mateo County. Of the $16 million, 42 percent would go to San Mateo County, 52 percent to the cities, and 6 percent to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and two recreation districts. Agencies would be required to spend the money on parks and not divert it to other uses.
Money from Measure A could be used for a wide variety of activities, from bathrooms to ball fields, as well as trails, rangers, education, habitat preservation, capital improvements and purchase of new land.
Sponsors have been working for 15 years or more to secure a source of funds dedicated solely to park programs. San Mateo County is one of two counties in the Bay Area that does not have dedicated funding for parks, sponsors say.
Measure A has strong support from the county, 19 cities, and numerous agencies, including the Committee for Green Foothills, the League of Women Voters, the San Mateo Area Chamber of Commerce, the San Mateo Central Labor Council, and the San Mateo County Association of Realtors.
Among the 10 people signing the ballot arguments for Measure A are Sen. Jackie Speier; Supervisors Adrienne Tissier and Jerry Hill; Sheriff Don Horsley; Barbara Boles, president of the League of Women Voters of South San Mateo County; and Lennie Roberts of the Committee for Green Foothills.
A smaller but passionate group is opposing Measure A on the basis that the money is not needed and the tax would punish the poor. The tax will increase the cost of living and hurt the economy, they argue.
Five of the eight people signing the ballot arguments against Measure A are board members of the Libertarian Party, including Jack Hickey, Brian Perry, Christopher Schmidt, and Harland Harrison. Also opposing Measure A are Rob Smith of the Republican Central Committee, who also is a candidate opposing Congresswoman Anna Eshoo; and Catherine Brinkman, chair of the California Young Republicans.
South County communities all support Measure A because it would bring money into budget-strapped park and recreation programs.
In Atherton, Mayor Charles Marsala ticked off the needs to improve Holbrook-Palmer Park: upgrading 30-year-old tennis courts; renovating the historic water tower and carriage house; and renovating Jennings pavilion for weddings.
"This is an opportunity to make Holbrook-Palmer the jewel of the Peninsula it could be," he said.
Annual allocation of funds from Measure A park sales tax to cities and districts in South San Mateo County
San Mateo County (entire): $6.35 million
East Palo Alto: $315,000
Menlo Park: $328,733
Portola Valley: $205,000
Redwood City: $805,169
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District: $634,620
Ladera Recreation District: $90,660
Total for county and all towns and districts: $16 million