Letter: No guarantee Measure J-20 money would fund police and fire
–Here is what the city doesn’t tell you in the mailer promoting Measure J-20 in Paso Robles: It has zero to do with COVID-19. They had agreed to propose this prior to the pandemic and have not even made any real cuts to staffing during COVID, though the county and state did. Though your income likely has been drastically affected by the pandemic… the city had decided this is a great time for the tax. They have spent nearly $100,000 of your tax money in the guise of surveys, mailers, etc. to convince you to tax yourself.
This is the same roads measure that you defeated in November. This time they have bundled it and called it a police and fire measure. Don’t be fooled. At the end of the measure they quietly refer to roads as potholes and maintenance. They are using police and fire as pawns to get the measure passed. Roads will get the lion’s share of this $120,000,000 measure. The city all of sudden has interest in police and fire staffing levels. They say it has been a concern for years but have never proposed anything to help and actually have reduced the police budget as a percent of the budget in 2018 and 2019. They had a chance last year but instead chose to try to double tax you on the roads! There is a roads measure already in effect until 2024. You saw through that and defeated it.
The city attorney has stated that any general fund measure can be spent on anything the city deems essential. No money is specifically allocated to police or fire in the measure. The oversight committee is appointed by the city and can only make recommendations. The current oversight committee for the roads measure had not met since April 2019 but did meet recently as window dressing to help this measure.
The city will tell you this is just one cent on the dollar and no big deal. This will raise your city sales tax from 7.75-percent to 8.75-percent. Hard hit hospitality and ag workers making 1/3 of what a city worker makes will bear the brunt of this regressive tax. This is a 12.9-percent increase in the rate. That one penny is really 120,000,000,000 pennies over 12 years. They say the voters can end the measure at any time…this is another lie by the city. The city would have to put ending the measure on the ballot first and we all know that will never happen.
We need a special assessment to first address police needs. Like any budget, there would have to be a thorough review of the police needs after they submit a line item list of needs. Once a number is established then the exact percent can be proposed to the voters so they know exactly what they will get for the increase in sales tax. This will require 2/3 approval and city says it wouldn’t pass. Note that not only have they never tried passing a special assessment, they have never proposed any stand-alone measure for police.
You also need to look at what they won’t spend money on or could spend the money on. While they burned $70,000 of your money with an ill-fated and hardly used riverbed encampment they decided to defund your Chamber of Commerce which gets 25,000 visitors per year by nearly the same amount. The poorly implemented parking program will be $1,000,000 in the hole by the end of 2021. That is at least 10 officers if they were truly a priority.
Stay vigilant. Regular citizens are exposing the lies and misdirection from the city leadership. This will be a large no-confidence vote for the mayor, council, and city manager when defeated.
Keith J Entwistle
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