Categorized under: Reflections

Shared Constants

Recently, I had the pleasure and honor of participating on a panel as part of a middle manager career development academy. The role of the panel was to answer any and all questions from the participants; and questions centered around career paths, life choices, impacting events, and so on. There were three of us on the panel, each coming to our current position through very different career paths and each being in much different stages in our careers. This is my second time participating in such a group conversation for an academy class, and it is always a great experience…and a thought provoking one.

What continues to strike me as life and career questions get asked and answered, is that two things remain constant for all of us, no matter what we do or how our persona is evolving: “Life is” and “people are.” Sounds trite, right? A bit cryptic and overly simplistic, maybe? Perhaps, but for me they remain inescapable constants, things completely outside our control, with which all of us must deal from birth to death.

If we are alive, life happens to us and around us, and only stops at death. Life is not necessarily even keeled, predictable, or fair, and generally remains outside of our control as individuals. Therefore, we have to cope with it, because it is the very vehicle on which our own being must depend, and which keeps us moving forward and experiencing ourselves. It is….Life. To not cope, to rail against it, is to create unresolvable angst and pain, which leads inevitably to death.

People are all around us and make up a large part of our environments and our lives. Some people are good, others bad. Some help us grow and some scare us and hurt us. Some love us and others don’t. Some make no impact at all. Some we know as part of our lives and many, many others we don’t. People are inescapable because even if you found your own deserted part of earth with no other people, someone somewhere is doing something to affect your environment – good or bad. And, of course, those of us in public service have made a choice to be involved with and to serve people as a chosen part of our own ethos.

So, what’s the point of all this? Many of the group questions to the panel came down to how do you respond when this life action happens or that person creates an obstacle or opportunity? The questions and the answers constantly underscored my firm belief that we need to come to terms with both of the above mentioned uncontrollable constants and move on with our own lives. Accepting those constants, we need to decide what kind of human being we will be and how we will raise our families and contribute (or not) to the world. We make choices about things we can control and we develop the very best skills and perspectives we can to meet life head on, open our lives to the good people, and protect ourselves and loved ones from the others. We learn all we can about alternatives and options so we can make informed choices when life and people hand us an opportunity or throw us an obstacle.

Bottomline: Lamenting the last unexpected event life has thrown our way or wallowing in anger when people are rude, hurtful, or just plain stupid leads us nowhere. Accept the constants, prepare ourselves for the opportunities, and figure out through our own choices and actions how we live the life we want with the people we love. Leave the world, if not a better place, at least unharmed by our short time here. It is so simple…and yet so complicated.

The Faltering Republic

Recently, the Silicon Valley Business Journal  had an informal poll as follows: “California has more than 100 possible ballot questions this year. Does the bar need to be raised?”  57% of the respondents said “yes”. However, many of the folks making extended comments strongly supported government by initiative believing it was the ultimate expression of democracy, which they firmly stated was our form of government.   

It would appear that these respondents, along with many others in California, have forgotten that the United States of America is a republic, and not a democracy; and by extension, so are our respective state governments. Our founding forefathers carefully and with great deliberation made that choice as they crafted our constitution. The various mechanisms for selecting representatives established by the Constitution were clearly intended to produce a republic, not a democracy. This is evident not only in the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance, but in the Constitution itself, which declares that “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government” (Article IV, Section 4).

What’s the difference?  Simply put, a democracy is a form of government in which the people decide policy matters directly–through town hall meetings or by voting on ballot initiatives and referendums. A republic, on the other hand, is a system in which the people choose representatives who, in turn, make policy decisions on their behalf. (http://thisnation.com ).

Writing of the merits of a representative form of government, James Madison observed that one of the most important differences between a democracy and a republic is “the delegation of the government [in a republic] to a small number of citizens elected by the rest.” The primary effect of such a scheme, Madison continued, was to “. . . refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations…” (Federalist No. 10). (http://thisnation.com/question/011.html )

Here in California, our budget and the very health of our state government are being held hostage to individual self-interests and extreme partisan politics. No one dare go contrary to either if they value their political careers. The values and views of their constituents are pushed into the background. Legislation is developed not to solve real problems or to enact responsible public policy; but rather, as a token of gamesmanship and a maneuver to position the party. The common good and duty are forgotten; wisdom and patriotism as envisioned by Madison and his colleagues are displaced by a herd mentality and the real or perceived need “to get along” with party leaders. 

In its place, desperate voters construct ballot initiatives that reflect all kinds of views, needs, or issues. Voters feel estranged and so take government into their own hands. Voters watch in frustration as the fringe elements in both parties drive candidate selection or development of legislation, thereby alienating even more of the voting populous.

The voters in the middle of the bell curve – the majority – believe they have been abandoned by their representatives, so they struggle to bring good government through initiative. However, the nearly 100 ballot initiatives currently vying for a position on the California November ballot are beyond any reasonable expectation that voters could sort through the pros, cons, inter-relationships, and impacts of each initiative to cast an informed vote.  We must return to the representative form of government envisioned by our forefathers: where and how will we find those we can believe in to represent us?

Threat to Local Control: The Way Back

I posted recently regarding the threat to local control mounting from the Governor and State Legislature. It seems apparent that much of this is coming in retribution for cities throughout California banding together with voters to pass Proposition 22 in 2010: http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/California_Proposition_22,_Ban_on_State_Borrowing_from_Local_Governments_(2010) This proposition was supposed to prevent the State from diverting any more local revenue to state coffers: “Keep Local Revenue Local”. While it did that, it also raised the political ire of the Governor and the Legislators to wit they responded with the intended elimination of redevelopment in California, along with a spate of other bills intended to eradicate cities and local control of anything.

According to many elected folks in Sacramento looking to put a positive spin on the situation, many of the current bills coming off the Governor’s desk were theoretically authored because they shared the statewide dismay at what happened in the City of Bell, City of Vernon, and a few other cities where local officials ran amuck or failed miserably in their responsibilities as stewards of their communities’ resources.  Reaction to these obvious violations of ethics and the public trust is understandable. The situations in these few cities warrant immediate attention and correction.

Both the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) have stepped up to assist the new City Council in Bell. Ethical, competent, and experienced City Managers have stepped up to offer pro bono assistance to the Council until Bell can get back on their feet. The IPCA provided Council a list of highly qualified, retired Police Chiefs from which to choose a new Interim Chief; which they did just recently. And, these folks have helped identify strong, talented, and ethical candidates for other executive positions in the City of Bell.

This is how the issues get proactively and positively addressed when there is an identified problem in a California city. It is far more productive and responsive than attacking the remaining 481 cities simultaneously and painting them with a broad stroke of the same brush. Far more productive than passing poorly crafted legislation for the “feel good” factor rather than providing real, thoughtful solutions. And much more efficient and effective than taking away authority and responsibility from local government where most services are delivered and pushing them upward to a distant, beleaguered, financially challenged, and under-resourced State government.

There are far more pressing issues lying at the doorstep of State government; issues that affect all governmental entities in the state. The most egregious and glaring issue is that of the equitable and logical allocation of statewide revenue. There is very little disagreement that the public finance mechanisms in California are broken; or that to restructure the flow of revenue in the state is an enormous and almost overwhelming endeavor; or that accomplishing this daunting task is absolutely essential to the long-term financial health of government in California and cannot be accomplished without State leadership.

So where is that leadership? Where is the Governor with his campaign promise to return revenues to the local level closest to the service delivery point? Where is the State Legislature, other than engaging in severe partisanship and one-upmanship that has Sacramento in gridlock, and which is pitting cities against counties and both against school districts?

Isn’t it past time that all of us in public service, elected or appointed, remember who we work for; to turn our talents and expertise to improving our cities and school districts and protecting the quality of life for voters, taxpayers, and all others living in our communities? It is way past time to set aside partisanship, payback, special interest protections, petty behaviors, and any other obstacle to doing the people’s business effectively, efficiently, and cooperatively for the health and safety of our communities.

Threat to Local Control: Why?

Most everyone associated with local government agrees in one way or another that local government, primarily cities, delivers services to residents most effectively and efficiently. Cities and city-like communities are the most accessible form of government within the United States. Residents of these entities can attend meetings of their local elected representatives right in their community. Their elected representatives live in the community they were elected to serve, shop at the local grocery store, belong to the local service clubs, and even utilize many of the services they approve. 

 Similarly, folks who study government or even think about it a bit, generally identify state government as being remote, disassociated from those they serve, and unaware of and/or insensitive to local needs and service priorities. In California it is much worse: the Governor fights with the Legislature. The respective administrative branches of the state government (Governor, Treasurer, Attorney General, and Controller) are often engaged in confrontational behavior. The two houses of the Legislature disagree and often act in redundant and inefficient ways. And, the two political parties cannot find any common ground at any level.

 Most local governments act with transparency in adherence to the “Brown Act”. Meetings are held at a time and place most convenient to the population being governed; and are noticed in a timely and transparent manner. Cities are required to approve a balanced budget by a specified time each calendar year or suffer stiff penalties. State government, on the other hand, works behind closed doors, develops and passes legislation with no notice and often in the literal dark of night. The Legislature and the Governor fail to adopt any budget at all, leaving government workers without salaries, critical programs without supplies and needed resources, and constituents without vital, even life-saving services awash in uncertainty and fear.

 With the above in mind, the current intrusion into and usurping of local control by all elements of State government is mind-blowing. The same state governance structure that can’t pass a balanced budget and refuses to operate with transparency and in an inclusive manner is now going to have greater say over how local government conducts business: interaction with their respective bargaining groups (Assembly Bill 646); contracting with their executive employees (Assembly Bill 1344) ; determining prudent fiscal actions to protect the local budget (Assembly Bill 438 and Assembly Bill 506 ); and financial transparency (Assembly Bill 1344 ). One would hope the folks responsible for state government would spend more time getting their own house in order before interfering in the duties and responsibilities of others at the local level.

 When campaigning for Governor, Jerry Brown campaigned on (1) simplifying layers of government, (2) returning control to local government – closest to the people, and (3) balancing the State budget. Clearly, the bills identified above are not designed to allow local elected and appointed officials the ability to make decisions in the best interests of their communities and their organizations.  As evidenced by the above and many other recent state actions, both he and the State Legislature appear headed mindlessly in the opposite direction. One can only ask “why?” What might be the motivation?

Categorized under: Good Government, Reflections

Government Accountability

Much is written about government accountability. The recent blog posting from John O’Leary – Governing Magazine is one of the better perspectives presented on the topic.

 When we talk about accountability in government we often go in one of two directions, sometimes at the same time: government should run like a business and/or government needs to improve accountability and measure outputs. Often, neither has anything to do with government being effective, efficient, or providing value-added to our taxpayers.

 Government is not a private sector business – never has been, never will be – and I don’t think rational folks want it to be. Government is a service organization that is people/staff intensive designed to provide services, regulate activities, and enforce rules and laws – all in an excruciatingly transparent, service-based environment. At its core, government protects health and safety and supports and enhances quality of life: everything else is an add-on. And, it does so with constant input and expression of opinion from those who provide the monetary resources for government to exist – taxpayers, both residential and business-based.

 The current environment of government in California is painful. As elected leaders at the State level fail to conduct responsible business such as producing a balanced budget; as resources become more limited for everyone, government and taxpayers alike, and place strain on businesses and households; as appointed officials continue to violate their duties and responsibilities and sully the proud profession of public service; as all these things converge, folks become suspicious of “government”. They want more out of their government for less. They challenge each decision, examine each expenditure, and question the value of each government action.

 Government must be efficient and effective. It must provide the services desired by the taxpayers, and demonstrate value for the revenue dollars spent. It must be responsive to its communities and neighborhoods, while balancing the allocation of resources according to the guiding policies adopted by its governing body. It must guard the financial health of the agency while maintaining an energetic, motivated workforce. It must strive for innovation, anticipate change, and maintain core values. It must be steadfast and reliable during physical challenges such as disasters, remain flexible and adaptive during economic adversity, and express innovation and action when opportunity presents itself.

 So if government is to be accountable for all this, how is that accountability measured? In my opinion it is not by primarily counting things or capturing data points. Rather it is mostly measured in the satisfaction of residents and businesses with the quality of their environments and the level of services received. It is having tax payers believe they are getting value added for tax dollar paid. It is in the faces and the voices of visitors to City Hall who enjoy being in their place of government, who don’t look at it as a chore to be avoided, and who greet employees and each other with openness.    

 It is the government being acknowledged as a tough but fair regulator by those seeking permits and variances; and, being recognized as a consistent and compassionate enforcer by those who advertently or inadvertently violate the rules and the laws. It is City Hall being viewed as a place where wrongs can be righted, people listen and respond, a safe harbor – if only to catch one’s breath; and all are treated with dignity and respect. It is having employees who view that agency as a great place to work, and who pull together during adversity and celebrate joyously together in success.

 None of the above is easily measured in the traditional business manner, but all of it signals accountability and can be used as a test of a job well done…or not.

Categorized under: Good Government, Hot Topics

Past Time for State Finance Reform

The Governor’s Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2012 (2011-12) was released on January 10, 2011. According to the Governor’s transmittal letter to the Legislature, he believes this budget “…proposes a far-reaching realignment of government functions by restoring to local government authority to make decisions that are best made closer to the people, not in Sacramento…”

While the message is admirable and the intended actions long overdue, they fall far short of restoring local control or fixing what is wrong in delivery of government services in California. What is required is to completely realign service delivery among levels of government and to restructure revenue and finance mechanisms to support the realignment. Certainly the Governor’s consistent message that services are best and most efficiently delivered at the local level is one we support. However, despite what he describes in his budget message, there has been no substantive proposals to really restructure the revenue flow.

Currently, from a 30,000-foot level, there are three main sources of revenue for the State’s General Fund: property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes. These are supplemented by Vehicle License Fees and other fees; and there are other sources of revenue that support State services such as transportation fees and gas tax, but which are restricted to special uses and cannot be used for general purpose government.

On the other side of the coin, property taxes and sales taxes are also the main support of general purpose local government: county, municipal, special districts, and education. These “core” taxes are supplemented by certain local taxes like Utility Users Tax or special, locally passed quarter or half cent sales taxes, some of which are available for general purpose government and some of which are restricted for such things as transportation. (For in-depth information on California government financing, refer to www.californiacityfinance.com.)  

The laws governing the development, levying, and allocation of most taxes, and especially Property Tax and Sales Tax, are archaic. There remains little or no connection between the authority to levy the tax and the responsibility for delivering the services the tax supports; and no logic supporting the allocation among levels of government. Both the connection and the logic have been broken and lost over the years, warped by the tinkering, stirring, and confusion created by the State legislature and California voters.  

It is way past time to make the necessary (and likely painful) corrections to the entire system: service realignment and revenue allocation – both must happen simultaneously. There will be winners and losers among same-level governments such as cities, and between layers of governments such as the state, counties, and cities. But if intelligent people put their collective heads together in a shared desire to fix the system in the best interests of the people of the State of California rather than out of self-interest or blind political alliance, it can be done. It must be done if we are to survive as a state, and regain our position of leadership within the union. 

There are many other sources out there to provide varying points of view and a myriad  of ideas. Simply pick your search engine and search on “California budget reform”, “California State finances”. or anything similar. There are good ideas, bad ideas, ill-informed ones, and thoughtful one. Whatever your political or social philosophy, read, get informed, think – and let’s all come together in a real and timely solution for the sake of the people we serve. 

Neither the City of Hayward or I have any opinion about, support for, nor opposition to the following. These links are simply provided as a means to continue your reading and spark the conversation: http://www.californiacityfinance.com, http://www.cbp.org/, http://www.cafwd.org/, http://www.lao.ca.gov/laoapp/main.aspx, http://www.cacities.org,  http://www.calbuzz.com/2010/12/the-calbuzz-plan-for-budget-reform-and-world-peace/, and http://alumni.berkeley.edu/news/california-magazine/fall-2010-have-we-got-issues/propping-californias-budget.  

Categorized under: Hot Topics

Governor’s Budget and Redevelopment

 The Governor’s Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2012 (2011-12) was released on January 10, 2011. According to the Governor’s transmittal letter to the Legislature, he believes this budget “…proposes a far-reaching realignment of government functions by restoring to local government authority to make decisions that are best made closer to the people, not in Sacramento…envisions reorganizing state government to make it more efficient and save scarce tax dollars by consolidating or eliminating functions…focuses on the core functions of government and maintains essential services…[and] will make California government more transparent, efficient and responsive to the people.” He goes on to say that maintenance of essential services “…is…[most]…important…in our public schools, which have taken big cuts in recent years.”

While the message is admirable and the intended actions long overdue, they aren’t reflected in the reality of the budget itself. One of the ways Governor Brown intends to “restore local government authority” is to eliminate redevelopment across the State. The two concepts – restoring local control and eliminating redevelopment – are contradictory.

Redevelopment is one of the few remaining mechanisms by which property taxes paid by local property owners actually stay in our community; they are not first sent to the State and then a small percentage redistributed back to local municipal government. Tax Increment (TI), that amount of property taxes that increase as a direct result of the increased value from redevelopment projects in a designated area, accrue 100% back to local government, and are shared by the city, the school district, and other special districts, such as the Hayward Area Recreational District (HARD). No part of TI goes back to Sate government.

Under current law, property taxes are collected by local County government and distributed according to a complex and convoluted formula and set of laws. That distribution includes the majority beneficiary…state government. The local, municipal share varies with each city throughout California. Here in Hayward, our local city government gets 16% of every dollar paid in property taxes by property owners within the city limits. With TI, 100% of TI stays local, under the authority of local elected officials: City Council, Hayward Unified School District Board of Trustees, and the HARD Board of Directors.

So why the conflicting message from the Governor? There may be one or more reasons: financial, political, gamesmanship, or even ignorance. Whatever the Governor’s motivation, the elimination of redevelopment in California will have devastating effects on local government…certainly on the community of Hayward.

Using redevelopment funds and the associated program, the Hayward Redevelopment Agency, which is directly governed by the City Council sitting as the Agency Board of Directors, has built one of the first Transit Oriented Developments and has a second in progress, brought a renaissance to the Downtown Area, built a new school and adjacent multi-purpose park in the Burbank Area (Lower B Street), cleaned contaminated parcels and put them back into productive use, built award-winning affordable housing in the city, and generally removed blighted and rotting structures from prime land so that it could be productively and profitably reused. Redevelopment is responsible for providing some of the only existing construction jobs currently available in many locations throughout the state.

The Governor’s stated intent of realigning government functions, making government more efficient and effective, and restoring local control over your tax dollars is welcome and necessary for responsive governance; and his quest for transparency is consistent with our own values here in Hayward. However, the proposal to eliminate Redevelopment within an impossibly short timeframe is unfeasible, feels like desperate, reflexive, and chaotic decision-making; and appears to smack a bit of political retribution. At best, it is a ruse to funnel tax dollars to K-12 education without being transparent about his intention.

Categorized under: Reflections

Perceptions and New Discoveries

It’s strange sometimes how we let our perceptions and assumptions dictate our behavior and choices, even when it is against our own best interests. This happens in all areas of life from the simple to the complex, and often prevents us from getting the most out of our lives and the world around us.

This was recently brought home to me…again…in a very simple, mundane manner: grocery shopping. I normally shop at a brand name grocery in an unincorporated area of our county. It’s “the place” to shop; it’s “safe”; it’s “got everything”.

Over the Holidays, I went there as usual; fought my way around the limited parking area (circling several times) to finally find a spot; and muscled my way through the crowded aisles. With disappointment, I found they were out of stock on some essentials, product quality on what was there was not up to my expectations, and check-out lines were long.

In a quest to find my usual products needed for the Holiday dinner, I grudgingly went to another store of the same chain in a neighboring city. Parking was great, shelves were well-stocked, product selection and quality were much better than the other store, and no one was pushing me about in the aisles.  The store was recently renovated, clean, and inviting.

When I assessed the situation, I realized that this second store was just as close and convenient as my usual store…I just needed to head in a slightly different direction. It was certainly as “safe”, located in a well-maintained mini-mall with a clean, spacious parking lot. So why hadn’t I gone there in the first place? Because it was located in a city with a reputation for being “less than” the unincorporated area, I assumed limited product selection and lower quality. I assumed an inferior shopping experience and by doing so, did not discover this much improved environment until pushed by necessity. My new destination grocery store!

We don’t question our perceptions and pre-conceived notions enough. We let them keep us contained and allow them to reinforce our suspicion of the unknown. We like the comfort of knowing where we are and what to expect. Imagine if the scientists who led us to the moon and into frontline bioscience did not challenge their perceptions and assumptions; weren’t interested in experiencing the unknown and satisfying their curiosity!

Think about the limits we unintentionally put on ourselves and on our children when we prevent us or them from exploring a new idea, visiting a different place, or experiencing a new interest.  For the sake of progress and opening new doors for our children, we must become the explorers in our own worlds. Expand! Experience! Enjoy the excitement of discovery!

Categorized under: Reflections

Choices

Life is a series of choices. The pattern of our life is composed of the choices we make and their results. I am not only talking about “big” choices that at the point they are made alter one’s path in life. I am talking about those and the myriad of “little” choices we make every day.

 It is the compilation of the little choices that reflects our values and our character: what we choose to eat every day; how and with whom we choose to spend our precious free time; when we choose family over work and vice versa.; when we stop to assist a stranger…and when we don’t; whether we go to the ballgame with friends or to our kid’s elementary school program; and on and on. The fundamental necessity for even having choices, large or small, is knowledge that choices exist and being able to recognize their viability at a relevant moment in time.

 So if choices make up the fabric of our lives, and we have a goal of improving and strengthen our lives as a whole, having knowledge of what choices exist becomes fundamental to each of us. Therein exists the awful vacuum created for our youngsters by the current economic environment.

 As school districts make their own choices about what remains after cost-cutting, students are deprived of choices…and knowledge of choices. Cuts take away music, art, drama, athletics, interest clubs, alternative classes, and field trips: all things that bring exposure to students and open up the choices available to them as they head out into life. One cannot choose among alternatives if one does not know the choice exists.

 If the quality and success of our lives depends on the choices we make or the opportunities available to us, it is illogical to expect young folks to make “better choices” and take more positive paths if they have no idea the choice or the opportunity even exists.  Using another analogy from sports – visualization is critical to success. If you can’t visualize yourself doing it, you can’t do it. That applies to jumping high, hitting a ball, running fast…or going to college.

 Therefore, the awareness of choice, the exposure to opportunity, and helping a youngster to visualize is all left to families and the larger community out of self-preservation.  We cannot raise our family’s economic well-being or improve the quality of life in our communities if our young people cannot grow and flourish and have good choices in their lives. Think about it. It is an awesome responsibility and one we are, as a community, struggling to meet.

Categorized under: Good Government

Election Impact on Local Government

Election results are in for most of the California State propositions, two of which have potentially great impact on local government’s ability to manage our own affairs.

Proposition 22, with the slogan of “Keep Local Revenue Local”, helps prevent the State from arbitrarily taking revenue from cities and redevelopment agencies as they have done in the past. This will help cities conduct financial planning with greater certainty and stability, and assure that revenue collected in Hayward for local government and services stays within our city to serve our residents, businesses, and property owners. This is a good thing!

Proposition 26 is an entirely different matter and runs counter to Proposition 22. Proposition 26 was also approved by the voters, but in this case, winning is not in the best interests of local government. One only need look at the primary contributors and the amounts they gave to support the proposition to become suspicious, and recognize that Proposition 26 opponents were outspent three to one:

Oil & Gas $5,193,500
Pro-Business $3,977,323   
Food & Beverage $2,601,500
Tobacco $2,250,000
Alcohol Producers $2,106,063

 Disagreement has emerged in the past years regarding differences between regulatory fees and taxes, but the California Supreme Court has upheld the use of regulatory fees for mitigation of adverse consequences to the public due to business activities. Proposition 26 challenges that perspective and defines many regulatory fees as taxes going forward. Proposition 26 once again modifies the State Constitution rather than addressing the matter legislatively: amends Section 3 of Articles XIII A and Section 1 of Article XIII C of the California State Constitution.

Proposition 26 further erodes the ability of local elected officials to identify costs to local government and assess fees to the generators of those costs to pay for them. Generally, the types of fees and charges that would become taxes under the measure are ones that government imposes to address health, environmental, or other societal or economic concerns. This is because these fees pay for many services that benefit the public broadly, rather than providing services directly to the fee payer.

For instance, fees that are currently imposed on generators of hazardous waste to assist in paying for clean-up efforts if those same hazardous wastes are inappropriately dumped or released into the environment by an accident would become taxes in the future and require a two-thirds vote of the local electorate to approve them. They would no longer be available to local elected officials (our City Council) as a prudent fiscal protection and/or insurance for the community to be used in case of emergency clean-up need.

So what drove Proposition 26 to victory? In my opinion, voters responded to the gridlock in the State Legislature, to the inability of the State to approve a balanced budget on time, and to the State’s smoke-and-mirrors approach to moving revenue from one pot to the other: local government was collateral damage.

Proposition 26 will surely be tested in the courts and we may not know for some time exactly what part of it will stand to the legal challenge. It is yet another argument in favor of ballot initiatives being legally vetted BEFORE getting on the ballot, but that is a topic for another day.

In the meantime, we have greater local financial certainty with the approval of Proposition 22. And, we have greater local revenue uncertainty with the approval of Proposition 26 and its assumed-to-be long trail through the court system.