NO ON MEASURE P. We did it! Thanks for your help defeating this tax increase!
This video by a Laguna resident says it all!
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. 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.
Measure P 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, the devil is in the details.
READ §16(a) pertaining to the undergrounding of so called "evacuation routes." Started out with just Laguna Canyon Road, now its up to 12 streets AND the City Council can change or add more for "other areas" - entirely open ended.
READ §16(b) which provides we will be paying for the utility connections on private property that property owners always had to pay for themselves. Another give-away in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and a finanical insult to those residents who had to pay thousands for their own connections.
READ §16(c) allowing the City Council to backdoor expensive hundred million dollar bonds without voter approval. Those expensive surveys the City did earlier this year showed residents would not vote to approve a bond, so they took away the residents’ right to vote.
READ §§16(d) and (e), an open ended money grab basket of expenses completely unrelated to undergrounding.
READ §16(f) which cleverly says the tax money can't be used for “EXISTING” personnel, pensions and facilities, but leaves WIDE OPEN any FUTURE new hires, pension payments and new facilities.
READ §17 with its "intent" language, which is not legally binding. This is a shell game.
READ §18 establishing yet another toothless oversight committee.
This Ordinance is a HUGE OVERREACH. It does not protect Laguna Beach residents, it just picks our pockets for things the City should already be budgeting. Random undergrounding random utility poles will not guarantee our safety or protect us from fires. Measure P is a disingenous tax increase that is not needed. Neighborhoods should be paying to underground their own utilities, like neighborhoods have done for years, not riding on the backs of all taxpayers. The rest we should PAY AS WE GO.
LEARN THE FACTS:
* False Fear Campaign - The City’s “fear and fire” campaign is simply false. There has NEVER been a major fire in Laguna caused by utilities. The 1993 and recent fire were caused by arson and human carelessness, not utilities. The City is using your taxpayer dollars to play fast and loose with the facts and prey on your fears. Don’t be fooled – this is a simply a money grab by the City.
* The City Doesn't NEED the Money –The City has had budget surpluses year after year, $25 Million over the last 6 years alone. 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. Demand better planning and fiscal responsibility, don’t tax and put us in debt.
*Hundred Million Dollar Back Door Bonds will Crush our Borrowing Ability - The City knew residents would not approve a bond, so they gave themselves the ability to pass a backdoor bond without voter approval by giving the City Council the authority to do it without you. (Section 16(c)) If Measure P passes, the City already has plans to issue bonds in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the largest debt ever in Laguna & nearly maxing out our ability to raise funds in the event of a real emergency. We’ll be in debt for 25 years or more, at the same time as our City’s unfunded pension obligations continue to grow and threaten our solvency. We don’t need massive debt. Budget and pay as we go.
* Not Fair to Residents Who Already Paid to Underground - Individual neighborhoods have paid tens of thousands of dollars to underground to improve their views and property values. Why should those who have already paid have to pay again for somebody else's undergrounding? The City stopped 7 neighborhoods in the process of paying for their own undergrounding, so it could tax YOU instead to pay for it! Was the city buying votes on those streets? If undergrounding is so “vital” to our safety, why did the City stop 7 neighborhoods from self-undergrounding? It should be encouraging voluntary undergrounding, not stopping it.
*Measure P Hurts Local Businesses – The Chamber of Commerce opposes Measure P. Business owners know it will hurt their businesses, and most are struggling to survive. We have too many vacant storefronts already.
* What Happened to the Measure LL Taxes? - The City raised taxes just 2 years ago with Measure LL. That money was supposed to pay for undergrounding too. 2 tax increases in 2 years is TOO much
* Residents, Not Tourists, Will Pay Most of the Taxes –We live here, we shop here, we buy here. Per person, residents will absolutely pay the far majority of the sales tax increase 365/days/year over the next 25 years. New $50,000 car? That’s an additional $500 in taxes. Home remodel costs, appliances, restaurants, groceries, clothes, on-line shopping? That’s more of your money being paid in sales taxes. Most day trippers to Laguna’s beaches don’t spend a dime in Laguna – they pack their coolers and leave their trash. Taxes on cheap souvenirs and a meal once a year doesn’t come close to the increased sales taxes residents will be paying YEAR ROUND on their Laguna purchases. Don’t be fooled by the Visit Laguna Beach (VLB) “research” touting “visitors will pay most of the taxes.” It’s based on wild guesstimates from a super small and limited sampling of “visitors.” And it was indirectly paid for the City itself to promote tourism and support its money grab agenda. It’s not fact.
* Low Historic Risk - 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 caused any major damage.
* Dozens of Fire Prevention Measures Enacted Since 1993 – Fire Chief Holms (OCFD) of the 1993 fire said if we had helicopters dropping water on the head of the fire, the fire would have been manageable during the first quarter hour of its spread. Since 1993, we now have: (1) multiple helicopters for use; (2) new 2018 Cal-Fire regulations requiring annual utility pole, wire and conductor safety inspections, pole reinforcement (steel poles), and aggressive tree trimming; (3) 2 large water tanks; (4) fuel modification, weed abatement, tree trimming, goats, & defensible space requirements; (5) Fire retardant roofs, paints & other building materials; (6) Over 40 safety surveillance cameras & 3 drones for early fire warnings; (7) Substantial increase in firefighters & fire equipment; (8) SCE “Public Safety Power Shutoff” plan during high winds; & (9) much much more! These PROVEN cost-effective fire alert & prevention measures keep us safer then ever before. Raising taxes & spending hundred of millions of dollars to underground is unnecessary, NOT COST EFFECTIVE and doesn’t guarantee safety from fires.
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.
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?
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.
Why are we being taxed to underground what SCE and Cal-Trans will eventualy underground in its entirety?
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