Politics of Public Financing

Politics of Public Financing
Dear Readers,
This issue focuses the politics of public finance and how vital infrastructure will be financed. Within a few weeks citizens will cast millions of votes and those votes will dictate local infrastructure priorities, notably transportation and school infrastructure. We selected the best articles we could find and hope that our choices are useful to our very busy readers.

Thanks for your support and comments!
Neilson Buchanan and John Guislin
Co-Editors

Peninsula Fissures Erupt


Regional Measure 3
 is on the June 5 ballot to “solve” traffic congestion by increasing funding via bridge tolls.
Five Peninsula newspapers are recommending a “NO” vote on RM3 to their readers.
Below are excerpts from their recommendations. Note: the last three summaries are excerpts from one publisher.

The San Mateo Daily Journal warns that traffic solutions have become “dicey.” Their opposition is based on equity….”small group of commuters should not be burdened with the cost of transportation improvements that only have a rough connection to the bridges they cross.” The Journal questions vauge, serial transportation taxes and notes scant project benefit for San Mateo County.
San Mateo Daily Journal

The Palo Alto Daily Post notes the cost shift to lower income commuters, serial transportation taxes in the past two years and too few benefits to the mid-Peninsula. Additionally the newspaper emphasizes opposition from Santa Clara County Supervisor Simitian and Mt. View Councilperson Lenny Siegel.
Palo Alto Daily Post

The Mt. View Voice observes, “When Bay Area cities, especially San Francisco and those on the Peninsula, approve massive additional office development without housing to accommodate all the new workers, the natural result is longer commutes and unbearable traffic. That is why Bay Area corporate leaders, state legislators and regional and local officials keep turning to voters for money……..”
Mt. View Voice

The Palo Alto Weekly writes, “Now along comes Regional Measure 3, which asks voters in nine Bay Area counties to approve three successive $1 increases in bridge tolls on all Bay Area bridges except the Golden Gate Bridge. The new tolls will increase the cost of crossing a bridge from the current $5 to $8 by 2025, and will thereafter be increased with the rise of the Consumer Price Index.”
Palo Alto Weekly

The Almanac News: As part of the two recommendations immediately above, the Almanac News added “RM3’s toll increases, along with the implementation of inflation escalators, ask for too much and attempt to leverage the public’s frustration over bad traffic to disproportionately penalize bridge commuters— a small fraction of voters and therefore an easy target.

Bay Area business leaders and their advocacy organizations such as Silicon Valley Leadership Group need to work more of the root causes of our transportation problems—the continued approvals of new commercial development on the Peninsula without housing…… Until that becomes their priority, taxpayers will continue to be pressured to pay for transportation improvements that seek the impossible: the accommodation of the ever-increasing number of workers commuting long distances from affordable housing.”
Almanac News

Ed. Comment: We cannot state RM3 issues more clearly than these three newspapers. Most of all we urge our readers to study RM3 and cast a well-informed vote.

 

Jumping the Shark
VTA is disappointed that the San Jose Sharks would take a position to impede or try to prevent the delivery of San Jose’s BART subway project.The Sharks say that a parking garage was promised in an early planning but is no longer in the environmental documents. The Sharks cite parking and construction mitigation issues in their complaint.
Silicon Valley Business Journal
Ed. Comment: It’s one damned thing after another. Caltrain also with its lagging grade crossings, endless delays and budget deficits is mass transit going poorly. We look forward to learning how certain Peninsula city councils will organize crosstown vehicles to jump over or under speedy. new trains in 2022. Expectations for timely solutions remain low. It is nothing that hundreds of millions can’t fix in 10 or 20 years. When will someone take a great leap forward by demanding merger of BART and Caltrain. This will happen when voters demand an integrated system with totally new management. Anything less than new management and system integration is perpetual mediocrity. We argue for structural reformation of BART and Caltrain.

 

Manna from Heaven

San Mateo County is celebrating almost $500 million state grants to relieve congestion. $253 million to add two express lanes with tolls to Highway 101; $164 million to electrify Caltrain service; and $15 million to pilot bus routes on Highway 101.

But each of these projects is far from fully funded. The total budget estimates are $514 million for express lanes, electrification needs about $2 billion and the express bus project is estimated at $36 million.
San Mateo Daily Journal

Ed. Comment: When will other pieces of this financial puzzle fall from heaven?

Not Enough Manna
The Los Altos School District is dusting off plans to make major improvements, modernizing classrooms, creating tech-savvy flexible group spaces, chucking out old portables and installing solar panels at each campus.
There’s just one snag: the district may not have the money to complete a single one of the projects. The high hurdle is quest for land to build a 10th school. Could bond money dry up before the district can pursue projects at its existing schools?
Mt. View Voice

Ed. Comment: This is modern day tale of two cities…..more complex than most people realize. Bottom line: If leaders in endowed communities like Los Altos and Mt. View cannot create world-class education, then who can? Will a rich uncle step up and may them a dime? We hope so.

 

Sharing Manna
Mountain View’s mayor, Lenny Siegel, says it has “too many good jobs” and not enough transit. The solution: Slapping a multimillion-dollar tax on Google, by far the city’s largest employer.  The tax, possibly on the November ballot, could generate $5.4 million annually from Google.
San Francisco Chronicle

Ed. Comment: We hope this is a sharing debate, not a taxation spat. Sharing skills learned in kindergarten pay dividends and we think most Peninsula leaders went on to higher ed in first grade. BTW, we note that Seattle recently approved a “business head tax”

 

$1B Captures Attention

Facebook’s construction in Menlo Park now exceeds $1B demonstrating massive activity at it’s headquarters. “Menlo Park has been our home since 2011,” said John Tenanes, a Facebook VP. “We’ll continue to be responsible corporate citizen as we grow in this community.”

Two projects alone are greater than $600M.  According to local a real estate executive, “Facebook is spending a lot of money……And all that money helps with the tax base, with infrastructure, it bring a lot more employees into Menlo Park.”
San Jose Mercury News

Ed. Comment: Facebook has defined Menlo Park as the stable of a very big horse. We choose the Clydesdale image deliberately. It is pulling transit forward on the Isle of Man. When will Facebook and other employers, large and small, be pulled into Peninsula infrastructure funding?

Listening to Our Readers

Last week a reader spoke up and said, “Who was Pogo?”

We had quoted a faded pundit and confused some of our readers. We intended to provoke thought and fell short. Nevertheless, it is a learning experience for readers and editors.

We apologize for lack of clarity…

 

Introducing Pogo Properly
Pogo said many times, “We have met enemy and he is us!”

Here is Pogo’s wisdom on Earth Day 1971! His advice still rings true for today’s large, unresolved Peninsula issues.

Thank you, Pogo! We hope you make our readers smile.

For the record: Pogo was an American philosopher fathered by cartoonist Walt Kelly. Pogo was read by millions of admiring readers on daily basis.
b. 1948 d. 1975

 

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Editors, Neilson Buchanan and John Guislin, are unpaid, private citizens on the SF Peninsula and have no ties to developers or government organizations.