On November 4, 2014, voters in the city of San Luis Obispo will decide whether they want to extend a half-cent sales tax for another eight years.
The "general purpose" tax was originally passed in 2006 as Measure Y. This year’s version is known as Measure G, and does come with some changes.
RANDOL WHITE: Joining us to explain how the tax would work is Andy Pease, one of the three co-chairs with the Citizens for Measure G Committee. Now one of the main arguments against Measure G is that it can be spent on anything because the money ends up in the general fund. How can you assure residents that the money will be spent where supporters say it will?
ANDY PEASE: Right, so the ballot language is very broad. Measure Y included essential services and capital improvement and senior center services, bike lanes, all those kind of things, and an independent audit has shown every year for Measure Y that funds have been spent as promised. Measure G will do the same. I think that the public would like to see more ongoing transparency of the process and more reporting back to the general public. This time around the Measure G includes a citizens oversight committee, they work directly with city council, so we’re adding even greater transparency just so folks really know where the money is being spent.
RANDOL WHITE: How would the committee be sourced? Where would those people come from?
ANDY PEASE: Great question, because the application process is currently open. We’re currently soliciting folks to serve on that committee. So, folks with financial backgrounds of some kind, or at least be able to dig into the numbers and really understand it, and then there will be a public process, a hearing, and then a city council selection.
RANDOL WHITE: And there would be room on that committee for some of the strongest critics of Measure G?
ANDY PEASE: Absolutely. And in fact, we are rely on them. I think some of the folks who are on the ‘No on G’ are some of the best watchdogs we have. The nice thing on Measure G is each time, we’re able to come back and say ‘yes, here it is, great question, yes. And here is the evidence that promises made promises kept.’
RANDOL WHITE: The official argument against Measure G says that under Measure Y, salaries in the city rose by about the same amount as generated by Measure Y. Is that a potential problem under Measure G?
ANDY PEASE: I think we need to be clear that the salary increase—salary is how we pay for services. So, absolutely some of the Measure Y funding went to salaries, because that’s how we provided enhanced neighborhood code enforcement. Public safety downtown, a fire marshal, extra personnel to be able to manage the capital improvement projects, park maintenance—so yes, we are absolutely helping to create jobs locally. In the meantime, the city is really working to keep the pension costs in control. They’re monitoring their salaries to make sure that they’re competitive, that they keep, attract, and retain professionals who are really well qualified and helps to keep our city great.
RANDOL WHITE: What are the predictions for the possibility that Measure G fails? How would the city of San Luis Obispo be impacted?
ANDY PEASE: It would be a flashback to 2004 or 2005, when we were having an economic crisis, and really having to make a lot of cuts. We wouldn’t be able to have the conversations about enhancing or improving it would just be bare bones—what we could keep on board. We have a savings account and emergency fund that is only 12 million dollars and we’re required by city policy to maintain that. So it’s not like we have some pocket of money somewhere to be able to keep up the level of services. There would absolutely be a drop in the services that we currently have.
RANDOL WHITE: Andy Pease, one of the three co-chairs with the Citizens for Measure G Committee. Thank you for joining us today at KCBX.
ANDY PEASE: Thank you so much.
RANDOL WHITE: And a quick programming note, tomorrow at this same time we are scheduled to hear from the other side of the Measure G argument.