Letter To The Editor Submitted By Dan Metz
In his September 10 Letter to the Editor, Tom Wheeler touted the benefits of Measure T Renewal set for the November ballot. Although I agree with the concept of the measure, I strongly disagree with this specific version. Here is why:
- Despite their claims, there has been essentially NO CITIZEN INPUT
- The 2008 Wildfire Protection Plan has been ignored
- The ballot measure is either 2 or 4 years
- It is a FOREVER TAX with no sunset, unlike the current version.
NO CITIZEN INPUT
All County Supervisors continually brag about citizen input, but there has been essentially none. They have not sought resident input for the 16-year duration of the current measure. NONE. However, now that the Renewal Measure is on the ballot, they do want inputs, but only from “likely voters”. Why “likely voters” and not residents? I imagine it is because they want to know only what it would take to pass the poorly framed current measure. They don’t care about residents’ preferences.
As an example, there are NO ordinary citizens on the Renewal Steering Committee. The membership “score” is
—-Government/quasi-government employees – 20
– Business & industry – 4
—-Citizens – 0
Wheeler named 3 committee members and listed their residence in East County
—Oakhurst and North Fork. However, each is listed only by the agency or business sector they represent. They are not identified as ordinary citizens.
Even the 2017-18 Grand Jury Report cites inadequate citizen input to the Measure T program.
WILDFIRE PROTECTION PLAN IGNORED
Supervisor Wheeler talks about the importance of evacuation routes for wild fires and emergencies, plus access for other first responders. The 2008 Madera County Community Wildfire Protection Plan listed the top 11 high priority communities by name. Those 11 top priorities have been ignored for the last 14 years. Now, only a placeholder “evacuation and safety category” is on the list of candidate projects. They are clear to say listed projects are only candidates and
. And IF they take on the Mountain Evacuation project, they
aren’t scheduled to start an analysis until 2027 or later. Wow! That’s 4 years more.
The top priority, Cascadel, has been evacuated multiple times since 2015, and in the September 7 Fork Fire, residents had to be escorted out. Instead of using existing Measure T funds to improve and publicize highly urgent evacuation routes, we got the $2 million North Fork roundabout, amid citizen protests.
RENEWAL IS PREMATURE
Our supervisor claims this renewal measure was not rushed, describing the existing Measure T as “now set to expire” as though it is imminent. It isn’t. It expires 4+ years from now! There are 2 more voting cycles, 2024 and 2026, in which to vote on a better measure with citizen input. It is clearly premature. They want to get it on the ballot now when voter turn out is expected to be low.
This proposed Measure T would result in a permanent sales tax in Madera County. The 1/2-cent sales tax would raise, on average, almost $29 million per year. They claim they need a continuous revenue stream. But if they do their jobs well, the tax can be easily renewed in 20 years and the stream would continue.
In addition to the ballot itself, there are 2 companion documents, which together constitute a contract with voters. In 2006, voters were promised specific projects, along with the explicit agreement that only voters could only change that list.
Within a few years, the MCTC Board administratively wiped out both of those promises, dropping several projects, and giving themselves the authority to change projects without voter input.
Claiming that the tax is revocable by voters is a joke. The hurdles are so high for a citizen initiative that it is almost impossible. Very high costs, and endless hours by so many volunteers are required.
A Forever Tax gives politicians and bureaucrats an open checkbook.
A sunset clause prompts voter and citizen inputs. Meaningful exchanges with resident community members are needed. Such exchanges will make future (2024, 2026) Measure T Renewal efforts stronger and more likely to pass. That is where our energies should go—looking to 2024. And, at that time, THERE MUST BE A SUNSET CLAUSE.
WE HAVE TIME FOR A DO-OVER…LETS GET THIS RIGHT. I URGE YOU TO VOTE “NO” ON THIS VERSION OF MEASURE T.