Public officials and the media are flooding the news with hype on the urgent needs of the Delta as a prelude to the Prop 218 election. Still, vital questions are left unanswered on this new property-related fee that will be imposed throughout Contra Costa County.
1. The Delta is bounded by Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Solano. Is the Delta cleanup shared by counties who equally benefit from these waters? Or is Contra Costa dirtier than others? According to an environmental justice case study:
“Since 1989, there have been 35 major industrial accidents in Contra Costa County, California. This makes it one of the most dangerous places to live in the nation. In fact, between 1989 and 1995, there were over 1,900 different incidents reported in the county, making it the eleventh worst area in the entire United States with regard to toxic accidents” (www.umich.edu/~snre492/sherman.html).
How much of the Delta’s problem was caused by the 2008 Discovery Bay and 2009 Richmond sewage spills or the toxic leaks and gas releases from industries on the rim of our county, which all eventually end up in the water?
2. Contra Costa collects $14 million for stormwater yearly. The clean water fee could possibly increase funds by 50 percent with no promise to build new or repair existing infrastructure. Are we splashing more money for the same purpose to continue the same solutions that apparently have failed despite a $14 million budget? Is there an assurance that the $14 million will not be diverted for other uses such as salary increases and OPEB liabilities as restricted money from the new source comes in?
3. The clean water fee apparently is a parcel tax in disguise. The amount charged will be imposed on the parcel/person as an incident of property ownership. The charade to use the word “fee” rather than “tax” apparently justifies the special election process adopted for the Clean Water Initiative. This fee passes on a majority vote rather than the 2/3 voter approval required to impose a parcel tax.
Additionally, many strategies to sneak through a parcel tax in a stealth election are being utilized – expensive consultant, informational campaign paid by public resources, scare tactics by politicians and media, simple friendly sound bites that “it is only a few dollars” while embarrassing the opposition as cheapskate, scheduling a quick and probable low turnout but expensive election by mail in April despite 2012 being an election year. If Prop 218 is as good as the glossy flyers allege, why engage in deception?
Finally, watch the next election and connect the dots from known industrial offenders to the well-oiled campaign coffers of politicians supporting Prop 218.
Cynthia Ruehlig, Antioch