The Pleasanton City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to support a county-wide measure that would ask voters to reauthorize Measure B, a sales tax revenue-supported effort to improve transportation in the Tri-Valley. The 2012 Alameda County Transportation Expenditures Plan (TEP) offers a ballot measure as part of the Nov. 6 General Election asking voters to extend the half-cent sales tax for transportation in the county, to add another half-cent tax through 2022 and extend the tax in perpetuity to fund the transportation programs and projects being advanced by the TEP.
While the projects in the plan are good, including renewed promises to extend BART to Livermore and to widen Highway 84 across Pigeon Pass between I-580 and I-680, the ballot measure itself is not. If this measure qualifies for the ballot and passes, it'll be 20 years before Measure B3, as it's called, comes back to voters for renewal, presumably long after the projects Pleasanton wants are completed. Although a two-thirds vote is required for Measure B3 to pass, it also contains a provision that the next time around -- 20 years from now -- only a simple majority of votes would be required to extend it for another 20 years...and then another 20 years. That's where the "in perpetuity" comes in, which we don't like.
Nor do Pleasanton City Council members Cindy McGovern and Jerry Thorne, who voted against the proposed ballot measure last Tuesday. They like most of Measure B3's funding plans, as we do, but also want a sunset clause that would give voters a chance to review B3's accomplishments every five or 10 years and then decide if we want to extend it again. Theirs were gutsy votes that astonished Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, who helped draft the proposal, and Council members Cheryl Cook-Kallio and Matt Sullivan who endorse it. The new sales tax would by one of the highest in the state. Add to it another half-cent sales tax being proposed by Governor Jerry Brown and it would be the highest, hurting the poor and those with young families the most.
The first Measure B was approved by voters in 1986, becoming one of the first half-cent county transportation sales tax in the state. The vast majority of the money went for capital projects, with a small portion for AC Transit and paratransit. The measure ran from 1987-2002. The second Measure B was rejected by voters in 1998, no doubt influenced by a weak economy and anemic campaign, and also by strong opposition by the Sierra Club and then-Assemblyman Don Perata.
In 2000, the same measure came back as B2, considered to be a more favorable, politically-correct title for the ballot measure that would last until 2022 with $1.4 billion in funds to complete a myriad of projects. It passed, with 81% of those voting approving the measure.
In 2010, the Alameda County Transportation Commission began plans to put a new measure -- B3 -- on the 2012 ballot, raising the sales tax to 1% and extending this new tax in perpetuity. Take out the "in perpetuity" clause measure and it might gain our support. Until then, this is a tax without an end or adequate accountability that we urge voters to reject.