LBRC Boardmember Joe Weinstein Shares His View of the Proposed West/Central Long Beach Mosquito Vector Control Tax District
Dear fellow Long Beach residents and homeowners,
For decades before I came to Long Beach, I was a classic tax-spend liberal who was ready to pay a bit more in local taxes in order to support, extend and improve worthy public services. This stance made sense elsewhere but the last two decades in Long Beach have shown me that it does not make sense here. This city gets gobs of oil and tidelands revenues which other cities do not and yet City Hall (city management, in cahoots with most Council members and other local politicians) unabashedly and relentlessly works so as to exploit residents’ ignorance and naïve trust, so as to get us to pay ever more and extra taxes (for instance via the likes of Measure A and Measure M) for the same services – police and fire response, ‘infrastructure’, etc. – that elsewhere require no extra taxes.
[As has been documented by independent media, and is evident to folks who follow City Hall’s fancies and expenditures, the extra tax revenue goes not to basic needs but gets squandered on stuff like:outsized top-management salaries and pensions, favored outside ‘consultants’ and contractors, extravagant ‘Taj Mahal’ rather than routine versions of building projects, and a sell-low buy-high approach to sales and purchases.]
Like a never-satisfied mosquito, City Hall relentlessly targets us (and unethically spends gobs of our tax money to propagandize us!) for ever more mordidas (tax bites).
Now (May 2019), in its
latest (if low-key) attack, City Hall wants us property owners in most
of the city – the west and south portions covered by the City’s (rather
than the County’s) Vector Control Program (VCP) – to accept a new
mordida, a ‘mosquito tax’ to support this VCP. Property owners like me
have been sent a ‘ballot’ together with ‘informational’ materials which
propagandize for the tax.
from Long Beach Reform Coalition boardmember Joe Weinstein:
Once again, City Hall seeks to exploit our good will toward the concept of supporting ostensibly worthwhile public services. And once again, in reality City Hall’s actual proposal is not only unfair and illogical but indeed its on-line presentation (attached for your reference: it consists mainly of fourteen cherry-picked ‘frequently asked questions’ – FAQs) is full of the sort of deceits which have become City Hall propaganda hallmarks.
To sell the proposed new tax, City Hall claims that it would – at first – amount to just $8.21 per year for a typical single family homestead. But before you say OK to this tax, ask yourself the following six basic questions – which are neither asked nor honestly answered in the City Hall’s FAQs or in the mailed ballot materials.
Long Beach resident and homeowner
30 May 2019
JOE’S SIX BASIC QUESTIONS
regarding Long Beach City Hall’s MOSQUITO MORDIDA (proposed ‘mosquito tax’)
QUESTION 1. Who is responsible for the mosquito tax proposal?
Good question ! – and City Hall provides no answer !! The FAQs say nothing, and even the mailed ballot materials state suavely only that the tax proposal is in accord with the California Constitution and Proposition 218. This statement fails to clarify: whose brilliant idea was the specific proposal now before us? and who did what to make it legally a matter that we must now confront? After all, specific proposals which legally compel public decisions by specific dates don’t just appear out of thin air.
Once again, City Hall flouts citizens’ basic rights to transparency and accountability: it presents and promotes a legal proposal without any identification of a responsible party.
QUESTION 2. Is there a genuine need to impose the proposed new tax?
Doubtful! The Vector Control Program (VCP) ‘services’ to be funded (FAQs 1-3) sound cool, but In some cases it’s not clear what the services actually amount to ‘on the ground’. And even if these services are all desirable and much needed, the question remains: why now – after years and decades of local VCPs – a special extra tax, not merely extra funding? Despite a contrary claim (FAQ 4), the ballot materials mailed to us property owners don’t really answer this question. City Hall evidently deems it sufficient to note (FAQ 5) that presently LB’s VCP (covering the city’s west and south) has no stable predictable funding level: it is funded primarily by non-city sources whose revenue streams fluctuate from year to year. The key claim (FAQ 6) is that “Under the current budget structure, there is no specificity for funding the VCP.”
By speaking weightily of ‘budget structure’ City Hall would have us see the lack of stable funding for the VCP as a deep inevitability that can be cured only by imposing a new tax; but what this verbiage actually reveals is that the lack is and has been a conscious and quite elective and annually amendable budgetary decision by the City Council.
If a VCP is indeed a key city public health responsibility, one not to be left to the vagaries of fluctuating outside funding sources, then a responsible Council could and should now (as indeed it could and should have for many years past) see to its stable and adequate budgeting, as a priority for use of baseline funding sources, not as a dispensable program to be exploited cynically as an excuse for a new special tax.
QUESTION 3. Can we trust claims that a YES vote will result in more VCP funding than would a NO vote?
No!! As usual in its ‘informational’ propagandizing for new taxes, City Hall dangles hints and threats (FAQs 5-6) – but NO hard legal or quantitative guarantees – that a YES vote will result in keeping or expanding funding for a program – in this case, the City’s VCP – and that a NO vote will (or anyhow could) cut existing funding.
In order to bolster the impact of the hints and threats, it is claimed (FAQs 7-8) that the new tax revenues will be dedicated carefully and exclusively to the program. Such claims (typical of tax promotions) may be legally correct but in practice often are deceitful. Even when revenues from a new tax are legally dedicated to a given program, the LB City Council (or the state legislature) can divert – and indeed in case after case has diverted – to other purposes funds from ‘old’ sources which used to go to the program. So a new ‘dedicated’ tax may result in little if any additional funding.
Recent history provides notorious examples. Long Beach voters were persuaded to increase the city’s oil extraction tax (Prop H, 2007), with the new revenues dedicated to fire protection; yet, thereafter Council cut fire protection funding and in particular closed fire stations and reduced fire engines. In response to City Hall appeals to support a lot more police staffing, LB voters passed tax measures A and M; yet police staffing has scarcely changed. California voters were persuaded to approve a state lottery, with profits dedicated to public schools. But overall school funding did not then increase: the state legislature simply diverted to non-school programs an amount of older-source school funding equal to the lottery profits.
QUESTION 4. Is it fair to fund a VCP by a special tax imposed only on property owners?
No! Arguably, every public service aids local life-quality and therefore benefits property owners by supporting property values. Accordingly, property owners are already assessed substantial property taxes. But most public services – in particular health measures like vector control – benefit the average resident just as much as the average property owner. It is only fair – and it is usual – to fund these services also by other taxes, not just property taxes. However, the proposed mosquito tax would tax only property owners – even though a public vector control program is used and needed almost exclusively to manage public (rather than private) properties – properties which are equally everyone’s asset and responsibility.
QUESTION 5. In fact, isn’t it perverse logic to impose a VCP tax on just property owners?
Indeed! A VCP tax on just property owners is especially illogical as well as unfair because anyhow property owners already have special vector-control responsibilities beyond those of other residents. With or without a public VCP, a property owner is anyhow morally and legally liable and responsible for minimizing and even preventing occurrence on her property of avoidable nuisances and threats to public health – e.g. mosquito breeding in stagnant water.
Imposing a special VCP tax, just on property-owning folks who already have special vector control responsibilities, makes no more sense than would imposing a special tax, to pay for public ambulances, on just doctors and nurses!
QUESTION 6. Does the attempted process for imposing the tax make any sense?
No!! Only one hearing is scheduled at which the public and public officials may exchange information and perspectives and thereby derive insights on advisability of approving or modifying the tax. As if in intentional slight to reasoned thought and deliberation, this one hearing is scheduled on the voting deadline of July 2; it is designed so that there will be NO time after the hearing for property owners to deliberatively consider and integrate the information and insights before they are required to vote (namely before the conclusion of that ‘hearing’!!). (FAQs 9-11).
Once again (just as occurred in last year’s pro-forma inconveniently scheduled ‘hearings’ on Charter amendments) LB City Hall mocks the intent of state laws which seek to promote meaningful communication, information exchange and deliberation.
END – Thanks for your read and heed!