A report from Wonderland …

obiwan attends the Walnut Creek City Council Candidates Forum

Friday morning I attended the Walnut Creek City Council Candidates Forum.  I have to say up front that I’m not even mildly enthusiastic about any of the candidates.  All are too pro-growth and pro-development for my tastes.  But, of course, the forum was put on by the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce, so there may have been a bit of playing to the audience.  The Chamber equates growth and development with more profits for their businesses.  Traffic impacts, excess demands for City services, and the loss of community character caused by rampant commercialization and urbanization aren’t their concerns.

But even understanding the setting, there were times when I wondered if I had accidentally gone to the wrong place and ended up at a Tea Party convention.  This was particularly evident when Mr. Grove and Mr. Wedel were speaking.  Both expressed vehement opposition to any mention of increased taxes … whether it be a half cent sales tax, a library tax, or establishment of a Community Facilities District to recover the City’s costs of services to new high-density multi-family development.

I don’t like paying taxes any more than the next guy.  But I feel that things have gotten to the point were nothing should be taken off the table.  And none of the taxes mentioned above seem TOTALLY onerous …

Yes, raising the sales tax would increase the cost of living for all of us.  What else is new?  But it’s only a small bite out of our wallets or purses.  And it shouldn’t drive any business out of town.  For anything other than a major purchase, the gas it would take to drive elsewhere is going to be more than the tax.  And for major purchases, like an automobile, other places you might go, like Concord, Antioch or Alameda County have already implemented the higher tax.

When it comes to the libraries, I suppose that we can pass another tax measure to keep them fully operational, shorten the hours and enjoy our downtown monument-to-excess from the outside only, or close the Ygnacio branch and divert those resources to our downtown monument-to-excess.  The voters will sort that out.  Yes, there is a real concern that the more the City steps up, the more the County will step back from funding what is supposed to be a county-wide service.  So, what else is new?

And while Mr. Grove concedes that high-density multi-family development consumes a disproportionate share of police services, neither he nor Mr. Wedel would consider establishing a Community Facilities District to recover those costs.  That would be a TAX!!!  A number of studies have shown that the property tax and sales tax revenue generated by multi-family development don’t cover the costs to the City of providing services to those new residents.  So if taxes aren’t raised somehow, services will just end up being cut for all the rest of us.  Personally, I’m in favor of taxing the other guy.

Is there waste in City government?  I’m sure there’s some.  (I consider the Economic Development Director a waste, but the Chamber probably wouldn’t agree.)  Can we adjust fees and improve the rate of recovery for some City services?  Probably.  But the City has been tinkering around the edges with these kinds of solutions for several years now and the hole just keeps getting deeper. 

We can’t just say no to taxes.  This is Walnut Creek, not Wonderland.


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Julie Jepsen-Grant September 17, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I still love your artwork, Obiwan, but I have to disagree with you on this. I also attended this event at Scott's last friday. Until priorities are set, No New Taxes. I read in the CCTimes that $330,000 of our tax payer dollars was spent to set up the new coffee shop at the DT library. I don't need another $44.00 parcel tax added to my property tax bill, thank you.
michael frederick September 17, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Julie and Obiwan, Here's my perspective. Having two guys show up with red ties to battle two people in blue is the state of politics -- both sides are mostly irrelevant. The big difference is that the folks in blue, in this case, are part of an orchestrated effort to restrict everyone else's participation. I think there is merit to building around transportation. I also believe in maintaining ambiance. There are competing forces that need to be weighed, as with the taxes you mention and many other things. Landing generic rhetoric onto this landscape, like a spaceship from Hell, is designed to preclude such thought. It isn't necessary for me to agree with you, WCPA, Hambrick, Wedel, Miller, or anyone else all of the time. That isn't necessary to promote candidates who result in all of the above's ability to participate more. Yes, Julie, we spent $330,000 to secure $1250 / month rent! Yes, Obiwan, presenting oneself as a Tea Party candidate for City Council is simply confusing. However, my focus is on supporting those who -- no matter how goofy -- are NOT part of an incumbent blob of special interest. Thereby, we further gov't. accountability and public participation. Loella Haskew promotes herself as an "independent thinker." Her primary endorsers: Regalia, Abrams, Hicks, Rainey, and Skrel ... A Council notorious for 5-0 votes. Do they like her because she's independent, or because she isn't? That's THE issue with Haskew and BRE Simmons.
obiwan September 17, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Julie - I'm sorry that I didn't get to meet you in person on Friday.


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