So at the Council meeting way back in July when the Council voted in favor of putting the police parcel tax (Measure NN) on the November ballot, District 2 Councilmember Pat Kernighan, who supported the tax, said that she would be introducing a proposal in the fall that would allow landlords to pass the cost of the new tax onto their tenants.
Kernighan’s proposal (PDF) will be considered tomorrow at the Community and Economic Development Committee meeting (PDF). In her letter to the City Council, she says:
It is estimated that 60% of Oakland residents are renters and 40% are homeowners. I have heard objections from some homeowners and residential property owners that they feel it is unfair that their neighbors who are renters get to vote to impose the tax, yet do not have to share the cost of it. To address that concern, I am offering this proposal, which is to allow owners of rental properties covered by the Rent Adjustment Ordinance to share half the cost of the Measure N tax with their tenants.
So, to be clear. If Measure NN (PDF) passes, property owners will be paying an extra $275.56 each year on single family homes and $188.26 per year on each unit in multi-unit properties. If the Council approves Kernighan’s pass-through, apartment dwellers in rent-controlled units will be on the hook for $94.13 each year to cover the cost of the 75 extra police officers and 105 extra police service technicians added by the tax.
I think this is only fair. Honestly, I’d be fairly surprised if Measure NN passed, but in general, I think that its healthy for the entire electorate to have some ownership of what they’re voting for. Permanent renters who never expect to have to actually cough up for taxes are a whole lot more likely to check the yes box. And since they never have to write that check, they’re just that much less likely to give a damn about accountability and efficiency in how the money actually gets spent.
My big concern about Kernighan’s proposal is one of public awareness at this late date. The Council won’t pass this until October 21st, only two weeks before the election. Absentee ballots have already gone out and people are already voting. Why couldn’t this have been introduced a month ago? It hardly seems fair to change the rules after the votes are cast. There are renters who have already made their choice on Measure NN under the assumption that they won’t be paying anything. There are property owners who have already made a decision based on a cost that’s actually twice what they’ll end up having to pay. And what kind of public education effort will the City engage in for the two weeks before election day if the pass-through is approved? People deserve to know what they’re voting for.
UPDATE: Kernighan’s proposal did not pass the Committee.