At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums made a rare appearance, urging the Council to place his parcel tax on the ballot, which they, of course, did. His remarks were mostly about how this is a decision that should be made by the people:
More importantly, let’s have an honest conversation in the City of Oakland. Let residents make that determination, Mr. President, but let them make it on the facts. Let them make it on a proposal that was reasonable, that was responsible, and ultimately, affordable. Let’s have an open conversation. If the residents of Oakland decide they want to reject it, so be it. This is democracy.
I agree with the Mayor, we should have an honest conversation and the voters do deserve the facts. Of course, I’m not entirely certain we have the same idea of what that means. In my world, for example, an honest conversation would mean that you tell people the truth about the tax and let them make an informed decision for themselves. I think most people would agree with my interpretation. Dellums doesn’t appear to, though. He’s running around telling reporters that residents will only have to pay for a few years:
Dellums said the measure would only be in place for four years.
So…the parcel tax (PDF) the Mayor proposed and the Council approved does not, in fact, last only four years. The ordinance has no sunset clause and multiple references to “each subsequent Fiscal Year” after year 3, when the tax reaches $267/parcel. Not only does the tax have no sunset clause, but last week, when Rules Committee was discussing the tax, a representative from the League of Women Voters spoke specifically to urge that the measure include a sunset, and her request, naturally, was ignored. Now we have a permanent tax on the ballot, and the Mayor is running around saying that it will only last four years!
Is Ron Dellums lying about the length of time residents will have to pay this tax in order to improve chances of it passing? Or, more likely, does he himself not even know what it is he’s asking of Oakland residents? Neither option inspires confidence in his leadership. Despite all the ginormous red flags surrounding this issue, I have to confess that I’m currently undecided on whether or not I will support this tax. But the more people try to lie to me about it, the more I’m inclined to oppose it. One can only hope that the conversation gets an awful lot more honest as the campaign heats up this fall.