The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Every year the San Jose Mercury News, like all newspapers, sees fit to hector us daily with their recommendations for how the citizenry should vote. I have never understood why newspapers claim endorsements as their prerogative. My dentist is a smart guy, but I would feel strange if I received the following in the mail:

Nov. 11

Prophylaxis/cleaning: $80
X-rays: $40
Covered by Insurance: $96
Due from patient: $24

Vote YES on G, H, 48, 49
Vote NO on 51, 52

The Merc is predictably liberal, especially when it comes to taxing and spending. In fact they are so predictable that they ran an editorial shrugging off this criticism. My comments are interspersed in italics.

Our endorsements are one more tool for voters

Anything can be a tool, so this is a cop-out. My self-indulgent blog posts on bridge and Civilization III are a tool for Guy from; he can pick other hobbies that don't attract weirdos like me.

I received a letter to the editor the other day, advising readers waiting in ``wild anticipation'' of Mercury News election recommendations that they needn't wait in suspense. Of course we'd support only Democrats, and of course we'd support every tax-and-spend measure on the ballot.

Of course, the writer also didn't include his name, which is why the letter won't be printed. For all I know, the message could have been from Saddam Hussein.

I hear Saddam also calls up Blair and asks if he has Prince Albert in a can.

Still, I take to heart the writer's concern because I know it's shared by others who have been courteous enough to identify themselves. The writer mocks our ``in-depth interviews'' and ``exhaustive research'' and implies that all we do is find the big D for Democrat and without thinking endorse the person, or we find that tax measure and again, without thinking, endorse it.


We do not always support tax measures, though we do think too many of our schools are in terrible shape and for the most part deserve taxpayer support to make them safe, modern and conducive to learning. We believe that as we invest in our homes, we also need to invest in our state and our community, through our government.

Editorial boards, in the tradition of American journalism...

Sorry, nausea overload. You can read the rest if you want. I note that the Sun, in the tradition of British journalism, runs pictures of topless women. Tradition is a wonderful thing.

I looked at all the ballot measure recommendations on the opinion website. Imagine my surprise when I found that the Merc endorsed every proposal to raise taxes. The only tax-related ballot measures they opposed were ones that earmarked existing taxes for directed spending.

Here are excerpts from the endorsements, with my comments in italics.

Measure BB: Yes

The measure would impose a property tax increase ($7.80 per $100,000 of assessed property value over 40 years) to raise $1.05 billion to strengthen BART against the region's next major earthquake.

The BART board considered a fare increase to pay for the work, but existing farebox revenue is needed for such things as continuing maintenance, car renovations and other system improvements.

Oh, well okay then. I considered spending money to buy a new car, but existing money in my bank account is needed for utilities, travel, and tournament entry fees. So someone else will have to pay for it.

Santa Cruz Measure P: No

(Would repeal a 7 percent tax levied on utilities)

If Measure P passes, the city manager predicts that Santa Cruz would be forced to immediately close the Civic Auditorium, the Harvey West Pool, the Beach Flats Community Center, the Teen Center and other facilities. It might have to cut maintenance of all city parks in half, downtown maintenance by 20 percent and maintenance of sidewalks by three-quarters. It would likely have to cut operations at Louden Nelson Community Center, as well as tree maintenance and lifeguard services in half. It would have to eliminate youth recreation programs and park ranger services in its 1,970 acres of open space. And it would have to trim already tight police and fire budgets.

As long as surfer dude statue is still standing, what else does Santa Cruz need?

Measure P could also force the city to cut as many as 100 staff positions, out of a total of 466. Other programs likely headed for the chopping block would include the Citizens' Police Review Board and the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women.

Areas with low crime: Do not have "Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women", or men, or cows.

Areas with high crime like Santa Cruz: A commission in every pot (excuse me, in every medical marijuana).

East Palo Alto: No on I and J and yes on H

Measure I on the Nov. 5 ballot would set aside 10 percent of the hotel tax money, about $200,000 a year, for services for families and children. Measure J would set aside the same amount for affordable housing.

Like taxes in more than 150 California cities, East Palo Alto's tax on electricity, gas, phones and water pays for essential city services. It generates about $1 million a year. Measure H calls for the tax to end in 2006, by which time other sources of revenue will be available replace it. The measure also extends the tax to cell phone usage.

These measures aren't regressive in any way.

Measure H will protect the city from lawsuits and end the current utility tax in four years. It's a sensible measure. Vote yes.

How much you wanna bet that in 2006, the Merc claims that eliminating this tax would cause the city to shut down?


Cambrian School District: Yes on Measure G

(Raise $21 million for school maintenance.)


Los Altos: Yes on Measure H

(Raise the existing parcel tax from $264 to $597 for all property owners.

... Residents assume that because the city is affluent, the schools have plenty of money for frills. Perhaps that's why turnout was so low in April when a parcel tax measure was on the ballot.


When the parcel tax measure was defeated by just 200 votes, residents were stunned. When the district then announced $4 million in cuts, including teacher layoffs, larger classes and fewer extra programs, they were incensed.

That seems unlikely, since they voted against the measure in the first place.

On Nov. 5, voters will get another chance to show support for their schools.

Or they will get a chance to make baby Jesus cry.


Gilroy: Yes on Measure I

(would cost homeowners $57 per $100,000 assessed value.)

SCHOOL officials and parents in Gilroy had to regroup after voters narrowly defeated a bond measure in March.

Helping them wipe their tears away was li'l baby Jesus!

A task force was formed to reach out to the community.

Yeah, reaching out to their wallets.

There were public meetings and surveys. Every item on the renovations list was scrutinized and a new project list was drafted.

"This time, strike the classes where we teach how to make garlic-flavored ice cream."

This time only the most essential items are proposed. The most significant addition to the project list is a second high school.

"How could we save money this time around? I know! We'll propose building an entirely new campus!"

The district definitely needs this money. The 40-year-old buildings have leaky roofs and aging wiring. The campuses are overcrowded. The science labs are out of date.

What is this trash? This is pre-college science. Acids and bases. Gravity. Dissections of small, dead, smelly, cheap animals. How does this go out of date? Was a new element discovered? Does Gilroy High possess a cyclotron?

This is an excellent time to pass a bond measure. Interest rates are low and state matching funds will make local dollars go further.

And it's a recession. Raise your taxes now! Beat the rush!


San Jose: Yes on Measure F

(increase the hotel tax from 10 percent to 14 percent, to be used to expand the San Jose Convention Center. By the way, San Jose has so little history that the convention center is named after a recent mayor.)

... this one should be the easiest to support. That's because:

The tax is being paid by hotel guests, not city residents.

Beautiful sentiment. Let's have a tax on journalists.

The levy supports the arts as well as providing for the convention center. The expansion, by increasing the number of city visitors, will provide more business for museums and arts events, and will increase the Transient Occupancy Tax revenue earmarked for the arts.

The expansion, by increasing the number of city visitors, will provide more business for hookers. Vote yes on Measure F for hotter clothes and bigger tits!

Expanding the center will provide thousands of jobs, not only during construction but also to operate it. As retail and hotel expansion occurs, more workers will be needed.

What do we call that sort of economic theory? Oh yes, "Keynesianism." And, "discredited."

I mean, have these people ever heard of reductio ad absurdum? Why not provide jobs for every single person in the state of California?

An expanded center will be more useful should a disaster shelter be needed during an earthquake or flood.

Earthquake! Flood! Jump in your cars and drive five or ten miles on low-lying freeways to the convention center!


Palo Alto: Yes on Measure D

$28 a year per $100,000 assessed valuation (that's a LOT of money in Palo Alto, where new home sales probably average over a million dollars)

Measure D would provide $40.5 million to replace the library and community center at Mitchell Park, in the fastest growing part of the city. When the library opened in the late 1950s, it was just a small branch. Today, it is the most used library in town, crowded with teens doing homework, seniors using the Internet and parents and toddlers sharing story time.

"Honey, where can I tell Felicity a story? Dear, please go to the library." "We don't have any room in our home."

The adjacent community center is in constant demand for public meetings and recreation programs. The new complex would include a homework center and space for computers, children's materials, recreation and meetings.

"Dad, where can I do my homework?" "Go to the library, there's no space in this house. I only paid $1.8 million for it!"


No on Prop. 51

(take 30 percent of the money collected from the sales tax on motor vehicles and move it to a variety of transit projects)


Yes on A and B

(Earmark Santa Clara County tax money for road improvements.)


No on Prop. 49

(It increases state spending for before- and after-school programs from $121.6 million this year to a maximum of $550 million in 2004-05 and every year thereafter.)

Do you really think the Mercury News is going to endorse a ballot proposal pushed by Arnold Schwarzenegger?!


Yes on Prop. 48


We only wish it could raise your taxes!



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