OP-ED: Musings on Measure A extension

City councilmembers now have the option to donate 10% of their salary back to the city to help plug the deficit.

Much has been made of the case in favor of Measure A sales tax extension. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were committed to the “Yes on Measure A Campaign” by the mayor and police and fire unions. Glossy mailers land on the doorstep of every voter two or three times per week.

Only $400 was originally spent to buy a few “No on Measure A” signs, but the City clerk notified me that several complaints had been lodged that we had not followed FPPC rules showing the campaign funding the signs. The FPPC threshold for filing a campaign is $1,000 and therefore not required in this case. It seems those in favor of Measure A object to any opposition at all.

I signed up to be one of the writers for the ballot argument against Measure A extension, before actually deciding how I would vote. For any tax or large expenditure, the Pros and Cons need to be researched and evaluated. I spent several weeks plowing through the information and data on this tax and came to a conclusion: the public has been duped. The campaign promises on how the money would be spent did not make it into the ordinance. The money went into the General Fund and lost its identity when commingled with revenues from a plethora of other sources. Measure A expenditures cannot be tracked since they were not kept in a separate account. That allows for the bait and switch.

Money in the General Fund can be spent on anything approved by City Council.

I would surmise this was a carefully crafted two-part campaign. First, get the voters to agree to a temporary tax, by dangling bright shiny objects in front of them–– promises of additional police and fire resources, street repairs, parks, libraries, a community hospital etc., and when they are accustomed to paying the higher tax, make the case for saddling them with a permanent tax. With $60 million a year to spend, it isn’t hard to come up with a few photos of projects appealing to the public.

In my conversations with residents, they are most interested in police numbers (beat cops available to respond to calls) and street repairs. I chose those two topics for examination.

The city would argue another set of numbers on police new-hires than those I reported, but on examining the data provided to me, I discovered that contract police had been included.

Contract police (airport, [A]-line, port) having nothing to do with Measure A, and so I subtracted
them from the new-hire numbers. Officers that were re-assigned to other duties also do not
count as new-hires. My numbers matched exactly those given in an LB Report article and so I feel confident they are correct. In looking at job titles, it appears that only four of the 22 new-hires have been assigned to beat-cop duties. With an average yearly intake of $20 million in Measure A funds going to police in the last 3 years, 100 officers could have/ should have been hired. Instead, they spent money on “Safety Maintenance” which turned out to be wages and compensation for existing (not new hire) officers. Subsequently, they changed their marketing message to “Measure A saved 81 officers.”

Street repairs were promised but only minimally funded. With no information on how much was spent previous to Measure A revenue being collected, there is really no way to tell if the public benefited [from] having Measure A funds.

I have to wonder if the Citizens Oversight Committee–– Transactions and Use Tax (TUT) committee–– have any accounting professionals on that team. The questionable data on the TUT spreadsheet seems to be readily accepted. No one is asking the hard questions.

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  1. I too signed up to be a writer for the argument against Measure A. I did it not because I oppose taxation, a necessity in any civil society, but because I oppose irresponsible spending and because I have an intense dislike when someone makes a promise and then breaks it. Again and again.

    In 2016 Mayor Garcia sold us a bill of goods, we paid for it ($160 million to date) but the goods? Instead we have broken promises.
    “The tax will reduce in 2023 and end in 2027”, they said. Now they want to break that promise.
    “The tax will restore our police force to pre-recession levels”, they said. But they didn’t, not even close.
    “The tax will restore our fire stations” they said, and now we have fewer fire stations.

    They did such an amazing job at breaking their promises that they expect us to go through this again, this time the tax is forever. So they now promise:
    “The tax will maintain our police and fire”, but there isn’t a single word in the ordinance that requires funding for public safety.
    “The tax will save Community Hospital”, but there isn’t a single word in the ordinance that requires funding for the Hospital.
    “The tax will repair our infrastructure”, but there isn’t a single word in the ordinance that requires funding for infrastructure.

    They go on with many promises in many glossy fliers but none of that is enforceable, only the actual ordinance, and there is nothing there except that our tax dollars will go into a general fund, from which they alone decide how to spend. Hefty pensions for the top brass? Sure! Big salary increases for comfortable bureaucrats? Sure! A $2 million dollar TV with a $250,000 yearly operating budget? No problem!

    The commission charged with overseeing how the tax gets spent was handpicked by the mayor and they have no power to do anything except offer advice. City Hall broke its promises once, they will break them again.

    Vote No on Measure A

  2. smart parents ask their misbehaving kids how their kids spend their allowance! the city never provides any real accounting on these constant increasung taxes, it must be a secret? we see changes we don’t want and don’t need like round abouts, more Miles of red curbs, bike bollards, road diets, NEW park equipment, Atlantic Blvd overpaid homeless shelter and marijuana business looney combination (DUH), free parades for some while ruined VET parades, road green lanes but not promised POT HOLES repairs / road repaving (Market, Orange, South, Wardlow, Clark, etc)

    how will ambulances negotiate around that stupid round about obstructing Termino Ave community hospital approach?

    MEASURE A Should stand for “ACCOUNTABILITY”

  3. Measure A was sold to voter as a temporary tax. 3 years into this temporary Tax, Mayor Garcia and the City Council now wants voters to make it a forever tax. The Mayor and the Council lied to voters. The Police and Fire Unions have spent $650 thousand dollars to buy passage of Measure A. Measure A has provided the Police and Fire unions with 20 plus percent raise since its passage. Do you agree with this form of ballot rigging or should employees unions, Developers and Private Labor Unions that that have directly benefited from this Tax Measures passage, be blocked form buy votes with large campaign contributions?

    The City has now added the retrofit of Community Hospital to help buy passage of Measure A. Why should $ 25 million dollars of tax payer funds, go to bail out a for profit business? Why should Molina/Woo and Pacific 6 Inc be getting $38 million dollars in Tax Breaks from the City of Long Beach?

    Do you agree that the City of Long Beach should move forward with building a $ 80 plus million dollar Pool Complex, when the City is running large Budget deficits and asking you to make the 10.25 % Sales Tax Permanent?

  4. Nearly 1.5 years ago, Long Beach Business Journal asked Mayor Garcia about getting an audit done for Measure A spending.

    How can he and/or the council not have realized how important an audit would be BEFORE asking the voters to approve a change to make the tax permanent? Perhaps they realized that once the audit was done, that making it permanent would be even harder? Why else would there be no audit for such an ask?

    I could not believe it when I found the article. Here’s the link:

    https://www.lbbusinessjournal.com/q-amp-a-mayor-robert-garcia-delves-into-city-s-momentum-as-well-as-its-challenges/

    or simply Google the doublespeak below (with quotes) and it will pop right up as the only 2 hits (one each for the website and the PDF ):

    “I haven’t heard these concerns, so they’re new to me.”

  5. Should Public Employee Unions (Police and Fire unions) be able to donate hundreds of thousands dollars to influence the passages of Measure A sales taxes that they directly benefit from and do to the fact that only three out of ten live in the City of Long Beach?

  6. Kind of ironic that the City Clerk can gripe (inaccurately) about not having signs that “show the campaign funding the signs” and yet at the same time, all the expensive, slick flyers that show up in our mailboxes don’t tell voters that a yes vote means that the sales tax increase will last forever. How is the former a crime and the latter is not???

    The Long Beach biz journal asked Garcia 17 months ago about a Measure A audit (because of concerns the funds weren’t going where they were supposed to), and yet he and the city council has had no interest in telling us where these funds are going.

  7. Measure A was always a boondoggle because it never actually stated what it would do. Just buzzwords paraded before an ever-more-ineffectual and less intellectual public. While desk jockeys and others gain massive overtime pay, while unfunded pension costs rise above the $1 BILLION mark, we’re forced to live with what the politicians want: ridiculously long red zones, road diets, a dearth of parking (free or paid), assurances that roads will be fixed when all new construction is completed, place-type signage that tells us we’re in Long Beach (we know, already, we know), media walls, a pool 10 yards from the Pacific Ocean, fraying sea walls, ineffective policing (but at least they get that overtime, right?) and a mayor who thinks it’s most important to politick for presidential candidates – just before they drop out of the race. Just a few beefs here… as Mr Swanner said, we need real accountability. Since our “auditor” has aligned with #thelongbeachmayoriscorrupt and forgotten what her real job entails, don’t expect any real answers to any questions of impropriety. There’s only one thing to do: JUST.SAY.NO.TO.MEASURE.A.AND.MEASURE.B.

  8. Not only will this Mayor and City Council do just about anything to get you, the taxpayer, to hand over your hard-earned $$$, they will even stoop so low as to violate our California State Constitution. This has been proven by the recent total lawsuit win on the Measure M fiasco. Get this people….they are willing to break the law to break you financially. And, they do so to support their pet projects and other frivolities like the $$ million plus giant-screen TV for the city hall lobby, rainbow cross walks, a $85 million plus pool on land previously deemed to dangerous for a pool, a useless homeless shelter occupied by a long-term lease marijuana facility, and the list goes on…Tax tax tax; spend spend spend.

    They will attempt to pull at your heartstrings by begging you to support police, fire, libraries, parks, seniors, schools, homelessness. They will use every trick in the book to do so. As PT Barnum mused, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Don’t be a city hall sucker….! VOTE NO on Measure A and any other bonds/propositions/measures that will increase your taxes.

  9. I’m voting against A but also against anyone supporting it. It’s clear even before reading this that we have been duped once again by city hall!

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