VOTE NO ON MEASURE P. We need your help to defeat this tax increase NOW!
Misleadingly entitled "Utility Undergrounding and Fire Safety Measure", don't be fooled by MEASURE P. It's nothing more than the City picking your pocket. It's a money grab, and provides NO PROTECTION and NO PLANNING for Laguna residents. MEASURE P asks Laguna residents to increase our own sales taxes by an effective 12.9%. It would raise our local sales tax to 8.75%. making Laguna a city with the HIGHEST sales TAX rate in the County. Vote NO!
This SALES TAX INCREASE ballot measure is deceitfully worded to mislead residents to believe the tax is necessary or will keep us safer, or that the money will be dedicated exclusively for "utility undergrounding and fire safety." BUT read the small print. Not only will undergrounding random utility poles not guarantee our safety or protect us from fires, but the tax money can be used to underground utilities in any "other areas" and can also be used for "safety measures and improvements" whatever the City, NOT YOU, decides that means. In other words it's another blank checkbook that the city DOES NOT NEED! Neighborhoods should be paying to underground their own utilities, like neighborhoods have done for years, not riding on the backs of all taxpayers.
LEARN THE FACTS:
* Less than 2% of fires have been caused by utilities. There have been 394 fires over the past 10 years in Laguna. Just 6 of them were "caused" by utilities, which is just 1.52% of all fires in Laguna. NOT ONE of those 6 fires caused any major damage.
WE NEED YOUR HELP TO DEFEAT THESE TAX MEASURES.
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Your support and contributions will enable us defeat this tax increase. Join other Laguna residents and local business owners in supporting S.T.O.P.
If approved, this sales tax increase will exist for over 25 years.
This sales tax increase is far-reaching. Items such as cars, on-line shopping, appliances and ALL local shopping, eating and drinking. Buy a car in Irvine but register it in Laguna? TAXED! New appliances? TAXED! On-line shopping? TAXED! Don't be fooled by the false claim that tourists pay 2/3rds of all sales taxes in Laguna - t-shirts and few beers don't come close to sales taxes on a new car. Plus increased sales taxes hurt our already struggling small businesses.
What the City and City Council won't tell you is that they already have plans to use the sales tax increase to float a Multi Hundred Million Dollar revenue bond, which only they will vote on, NOT YOU. This revenue bond will burden our City with its BIGGEST DEBT EVER and limit our ability to borrow money in the event of a real emergency. This debt will take DECADES TO REPAY, with interest. City
Council knew voters wouldn't approve a bond, so they are instead going behind your backs and planning to do it anyway, without your vote.
Sneakily, not only is there no end date to the taxes, but the tax measures takes away voters' constitutional referendum right to remove the tax measure by a citizen initiative. The tax measures say we can't vote to remove the tax if it would "impair" or not be "consistent" with the city's financial obligations and commitments "that are dependent on the imposition of the tax." The City put this "poison pill" in the tax measure to protect the planned BIG DEBT multi-hundred million dollar revenue bond the city wants to float, jeopardizing our city's finances, to promote their agenda. We could be STUCK with this tax for 30 YEARS or more!
Undergrounding will NOT stop all fires in Laguna. Less than 1% of all fires in Laguna have been caused by utilities over the past 10 years (assuming 100 fires per year/all causes), and there has never been a major fire in Laguna caused by utilities. Individual neighborhoods should pay to underground their own utilities, and the city should "pay as we go" to underground LCR and PCH, not tax us more or put our city in BIG DEBT. Cal-Trans already has plans to underground 21 poles on LCR, and more to come. SCE will likely be undergrounding more, at their expense, not ours. Why tax us?
The City has had budget surpluses year after year, close to $10 Million in 2015 and 2016, and $4.1 Million in 2017. If the City stopped spending our money irresponsibly it would have more than sufficient funds to "pay as you go" to underground for aesthetics and improve Laguna Canyon Road. Think about it - if undergrounding is so "critical" to our safety, why hasn't the City been saving all that surplus money each year for undergrounding, instead of taxing us even more? Shouldn’t we demand better planning and fiscal responsibility of our City’s leaders? Tax and spend, tax and spend punishes the residents for the City's poor planning and fiscal stewardship. Remember that in elections for city council this year. Two tax measures in two years?
The City raised taxes just 2 years ago with Measure LL. That money was supposed to pay for undergrounding too. $2.4 Million in additional taxes was collected in 2017, but only $1 Million was set aside for undergrounding. More could be allocated to undergrounding without increasing taxes yet again.
It's not. For years individual neighborhoods have paid tens of thousands of dollars to underground and improve their own views and property values. Why should those who have already paid have to pay again for somebody else's views? At least 7 neighborhoods were in the process of forming neighborhood assessment districts to pay for their own undergrounding, and the city actually told them to stop so it could tax YOU instead to pay for it! Was the city "buying" votes from those "in-process" neighborhoods so they would vote for the sales tax increase and get a "gift" of free undergrounding at your expense? A majority of the existing city council members will stand to benefit from improved views and home values in their neighborhoods on the so called arbitrary "evacuation routes" to be undergrounded. Doesn't that seem wrong?
The City wants you to believe that a citizen oversight or audit committee will make sure the new tax money is spent as "intended." But these committees are often stacked with city "yes" men and women carefully selected by the city council to do their bidding. They are essentially toothless - they have no say in HOW the money is to be spent. They only verify after the fact how the money WAS spent. If the City spends the tax money on a new desk for the city manager that he deemed "essential" to performing his services, the audit committee would simply verify that, why yes, a new desk was purchased. It's like a rubber stamp, and certainly no safeguard for the residents. Don't be fooled.
The City estimates over 6 1/2 years and just under $10M before construction would even begin on undergrounding due to planning, engineering and approvals. Think about it. Wireless delivery of power to users already exists, and is developing faster every day for mass scale use. Soon electricity transmission by wires will be obsolete. So why are we spending hundreds of millions of $$$ to underground a soon to be obsolete method of delivering power? Let's invest in our future, not the past.
Effective 2018, SCEdison must follow new CPUC safety regulations which create significant new fire prevention rules for utility poles and wires, including frequent monitoring and inspection of all utility poles, immediate correction of safety hazards in high fire threat areas in Laguna and major new rules for vegetation management. Shouldn’t we wait and see if these new safety measures, which should dramatically reduce fire risk, work before asking taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to underground utilities? Is the City rushing to underground based on fear and frenzy? If SCEdison fails to comply with these new regulations, there may then be substantial cause to legally require SC Edison to underground the utilities at its own cost.
Founding Member Jennifer W. Zeiter, Laguna Beach resident, transparency advocate and fiscal watchdog.
Phone and mail contact info below:
2599 Glenneyre Street, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, US