Time for the ‘Family’ to Support Measures A and B

City HallBy Bob Gutierrez

Think of this in terms of a family decision.

Our family, the voters of Stockton, have a decision to make this November 4th.  Voters will decide whether the nightmare of bankruptcy ends quickly or whether the impacts will be felt for years to come. In other words, if we don’t do something, there’s no family vacation this year.

Certainly with this election, the stakes are higher than affording a family trip. The magnitude of this decision will be felt not only those who call Stockton home, but by future generations who will live and work here.

We all know the narrative of the last two years. Bankruptcy, how we got here, and how we are going to move forward, is a constant topic. Preceded by almost two decades of poor fiscal management in City Hall, we now have an opportunity to write the next chapter. We have the opportunity to take action, real legitimate action that will help Stockton recover from this financial meltdown.

In a rare show of unity last July, the Stockton City Council voted 7-0 to let the voters decide on whether we impose a three-quarter cent sales tax on ourselves. If Stockton’s voters approve the measure, it will take effect in April 2014 and increase the current sales tax from 8.25 percent to 9 percent, raising an estimated $300 million over 10 years.

Two-thirds of Measure A will raise revenue to fund the Marshall Plan, which includes hiring 125 new police officers and an array of other crime-fighting measures.  The Marshall Plan committee has representatives from almost every community, including the Faith-based, Hispanic and Public Safety communities.

In an unprecedented display of unity across different neighborhoods, the city is already making progress to reduce the crime rate by implementing parts of the Marshall Plan. Stockton has seen a decrease in crime compared to last year’s statistics.

Without the revenue boost sparked by Measures A and B, the city will face an $11 million operating deficit, and additional cuts to libraries, parks, community centers and critical government services. No one is willing to say it publicly, but expecting that somehow first responders will survive without impact is unlikely. We will go from a community moving in the process of recovery to a community facing new challenges and looking for new means of survival.

Bad fiscal management certainly put this city in a deep hole, but we don’t need bad political advice to complicate matters and send us spiraling into the abyss that now engulfs Detroit.

Long-time Stockton Republican politician Dean Andal is the chief opponent of Measure A. Like your least favorite family cousin, Andal remained silent as the Stockton City Council voted to authorize “Measure A.” Rather than voicing his opposition publicly, he choose instead to file a lawsuit against “Measure A” shortly after the vote. His objection was odd for a self-proclaimed tax fighter. Andal’s argument was that the “Measure A” language sounded like a restricted tax as opposed to a general tax. A restricted tax requires two-thirds vote to pass rather than a simple majority. In late August, however, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt denied Andal’s challenge and allowed a majority of voters to decide the outcome of Measures A and B.

This is important because Measures A and B have a good chance to pass.

Measure A will implement the Marshall Plan and keep our streets safer—and it will also enhance public confidence in local government. If adopted, the city’s accounting practices will have to conform to the recommendations found in the California State Controller’s report and the city will have a new watchdog, an independent Citizen Oversight Committee. In short, our city will have the highest level of transparency.

This is a time for optimism and opportunity. This is also a teachable moment, emphasizing to our family the importance of living within our means. We have a chance to choose our own destiny and directly reap the benefits of accepting that responsibility.

When it comes to the family in our own home, or our neighbors, or even the folks down the street, we have a responsibility to act now to restore the public trust, improve public safety, and increase oversight and accountability.

We have no choice but to take care of the family by saying yes to Measures A and B.

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