Well, people certainly have strong opinions about Measure D. Honestly, I don’t get it. If you’re seriously concerned about Oakland being better run, or government spending being less wasteful, there are like 10 million things you could spend your time on that would be more helpful. Voting no and screwing Oakland out of $3.6 million isn’t going to help you or anyone else, and it won’t force the Council to be more efficient or put a repeal on the ballot, it will just force them to cut what little you have left in the way of City services.
Anyway, there’s three more measures on the ballot besides D, so let’s take a look at those:
Measure C: This is a 3% surcharge on Oakland’s hotel tax, and would raise the total hotel tax to 14%. Half the revenue would go to the Oakland Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the other half would be split evenly (12.5% of the tax each) between the Oakland Zoo, Oakland Museum, the Chabot Space and Science Center, and the City’s cultural arts programs and festivals.
Oakland’s hotel tax, at 11%, despite what the Measure C ballot argument asserts, is already pretty well in line with nearby cities. The 3% surcharge will make us equal with San Francisco, and higher than Berkeley (12%), Emeryville (12%), San Leandro (10%), and Hayward (8.5%). This tax bothers me.
I think it makes sense for a city that attracts a lot of tourists to have a high hotel tax, and it makes even more sense for some of that tax to go towards supporting the cultural institutions that people come to see. But Oakland? How many people are coming on vacation to Oakland so they can go see the zoo? I mean, I love our zoo, and I love our festivals, and I love the Oakland Museum, and I hear the Chabot Space & Science Center is great, and I want all those institutions to have the support they need. But I’m not convinced that my Mom should be the one paying for them.
When this was being debated at the City Council, the folks from Children’s Fairyland asked repeatedly to be included as a beneficiary of the tax, arguing that they bring just as many people to Oakland as any of the other institutions. The Council decided that including Fairyland would mean the money was being spread around too thin, and left them out.
So…I haven’t decided how I’m going to vote on this one. I don’t mind increasing the hotel tax in theory, although I think this one is kind of high. I’m annoyed that Fairyland, which is just as much (of maybe more) of an Oakland treasure as any of the institutions recieving tax revenue, was not included. And I cringe at the idea of giving any money at all to the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is so wretched and embarrassing for the City. Actually, I think I’ll probably vote no, partly because of the Fairyland thing, and partly because I find it difficult to justify Oakland having one of the highest hotel taxes in the State, but mostly because of the OCVB. If you don’t mind taxing your family when they come visit you to fund a visitor’s guide that looks like it was put together by my little sister, you should probably vote yes on this one.
Measure F: This measure would create a new business type classification in the Municipal Code called “Cannabis business,” and establish a business tax rate for the classification of $18 per $1000 of gross receipts. Right now, Oakland has four marijuana dispensaries that would fall into this classification, and with the new tax rate, they are expected to collectively pay $294,000 more in taxes next year than they would have otherwise.
$18 per $1000 in gross receipts is wicked high compared to Oakland’s other business taxes. The only type of business taxed at a higher rate is firearms dealers, which would pay $24 per $1000 if we had any left in the City, which we don’t. Well, none that pay taxes anyway. The dispensaries are supportive of Measure F, so I can’t see any reason to be against it. Well, I suppose if you really hate marijuana dispensaries, you should vote no on this one, because passage of Measure F will further legitimize their presence in Oakland and make the City so dependent on their taxes that the Council will be more likely to license even more of them. Since I am not against the dispensaries, I will be voting yes.
Measure H: This measure amends the City’s Real Estate Transfer Tax to clarify that the tax applies to corporate mergers and acquisitions. In the past few years, the City attempted to collect around $12 million in transfer tax on some large corporate real estate transfers, but was unable to successfully do so because the municipal code does not currently explicitly say that the tax applies to such transactions. The City sees this as an unintential loophole in the code, which currently reads (PDF) “There is imposes a tax on all transfers by deeds, instruments, writings, or any other document by which any lands, tenements, or other interests in real property located in the city, are is or granted, assigned, trasnferred, or otherwise conveyed to or invested in a trasnferee, or transferees thereof, which shall be levied at a rate of one and one half percent of the value of consideration.”
This measure would change the code so it reads “There is imposed a tax on all transfers by deeds, instruments, writings, or any other document, or changes in control and ownership of legal entities, by which any lands…” This is more than fair. The Chamber of Commerce’s ballot argument against Measure H, which claims that Oakland won’t be able to attract new businesses if corporate aquisitions are forced to pay the same transfer tax as everyone else, is preposterous. Vote yes on Measure H.
Remember, ballots are due by July 21st! Don’t forget to vote.