Page One

Five Measures on June 3 Ballot for Berkeley, Alameda County

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday May 23, 2014 - 04:42:00 PM

Alameda County voters will decide the fate of five ballot measures in the June 3 election.

The biggest issue on the ballot is Measure AA, a countywide measure that would extend a half-cent sales tax that provides funds to help the county's public health system and for community medical services for low-income and uninsured residents.

Voters initially approved the tax in 2004 and it won't expire until 2019 but supporters want to extend it to 2034 because they say it will help keep local hospitals open as well as clinics serving more than 100,000 low-income children and families.

However, critics say that serious problems with the way the money is being used must be addressed before the tax is extended.

A report by a tax oversight committee said 75 percent of the tax, which raises about $125 million annually, goes to the Alameda Health System, a public hospital consortium, but the rest is distributed to other health providers.

The oversight committee said it is hard to monitor the funds because recipients often fail to provide data to prove that their programs are beneficial.

In addition, each of the county's five supervisors can direct the spending of $150,000 annually, a feature that critics allege amounts to a slush fund.

Measure AA needs a two-thirds majority to win. 

In Hayward, Measure C would increase the city's sales tax by a half-cent, to 9.5 percent, to restore and maintain city services and facilities, including firefighting and emergency medical services, improving police protection for neighborhoods and replacing the city's aging library. 

The tax would raise $200 million over 20 years. The biggest project would be spending $60 million to build a new library. 

Supporters, including former Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer, say the measure is needed because "many city facilities have deteriorated after decades of constant use." 

In their ballot argument, proponents said, "The recent great recession has made it impossible to fund needed repairs or replace aging facilities while still maintaining the city services we need." 

But opponent Lawrence Johnson, a Hayward businessman, says the city's statement that the tax is needed because it has more than $500 million in unmet capital needs is an "incredible claim" because it's not supported by any documentation. 

Johnson also asks, "Why is the city proposing a $60 million library that is 50 percent more costly than even the most expensive Bay Area library built within the past decade?" 

The measure needs a simple majority to pass. 

In Fremont, Measure E is a $650 million school bond measure that supporters say is needed to modernize aging campuses by upgrading technology and classrooms, fixing leaking roofs and replacing outdated wiring and aging plumbing. 

The measure would cost property owners a maximum of $59 per $100,000 of assessed home value annually. 

Supporters, including Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison, said the measure "will ensure that each school has the facilities to provide quality science instruction and classroom technology to prepare students for college and careers." 

But opponents allege that only $160 million of the $650 million the bond measure would raise is for urgent and infrastructure needs and the school district shouldn't waste money to fix old buildings. 

The measure needs 55 percent of the vote to be approved. 

In Livermore, Measure G is a tax of $138 per parcel annually for seven years to maintain the quality of public schools. It needs two-thirds of the vote to pass. 

It would extend a tax that was first approved in 2004 and was re-authorized in 2008. 

Supporters say Measure G will provide nearly $4 million in annual funding for Livermore schools, which is 4 percent of the school district's budget and the equivalent of 54 fulltime teachers. 

Proponents said if Measure G fails, every classroom in Livermore will be impacted and teachers will be laid off, class sizes will increase and many instructional programs will be eliminated. 

No ballot argument against Measure G was submitted. It needs a two-thirds majority to pass. 

In Piedmont, Measure H is a $13.5 million school bond measure to upgrade and repair the Piedmont High School's theater, which is heavily used as a classroom, auditorium and performing arts facility for the school district and the community. 

Supporters say the theater is nearly 40 years old and is in need of significant safety and accessibility upgrades and repairs. They say that without significant renovations, the theater may need to close. 

Opponent Alicia Kalamas says in her ballot argument that "it is irresponsible to support the current renovation plan and associated costs at this juncture" and suggests that the school district should look at the cost of a brand new theater. 

Kalamas says, "We feel we are being asked to pay for a new Porsche and getting a rebuilt (Volkswagen)." 

Measure H needs 55 percent of the vote to pass.