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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: K supporters in a tizzy over wrong issue

The pumpkin picture of Deb Weeks and Monica Kortz's home is a classic. These two are some of the many City folks doing good work, and getting well paid for doing so. But they're in a tizzy over the wrong issue, and are trying to panic the gullible. Nothing threatens actual workers' jobs. At stake are the Council's political power and some undeseved payments, like to the City manager and City attorney. “Measure K” is an attempt to legitimize a hitherto illegal 8% Utility User’s tax. The Council ignored a 2001 Court decision forcing it to get voter approval. All it did was cut its statute of limitations exposure to a year, to minimize tax rebate requests in case of a lawsuit. Now it plays catch-up with heavy-handed theatrics, achieving a nuttiness of its very own.

The City Manager, Scott Hanin, prepared for battle by getting a 20% raise, just prior to declaring fiscal doom should the tax fail. He now matches the governor’s or San Francisco mayor’s take-home. He’s mobilizing all City resources, possibly illegally – pro-tax mailers paid from City funds, “Save our Services” rallies by City workers at City Hall venues.

El Cerrito’s “Measure K” extends the tax to water and to solar power – even if the meter runs backwards! Anything to up the City’s take. No sunset clause. No cap to reflect soaring energy costs. All calls for discussing financial needs before settling details were ignored. By waiting to coincide with a Council election the tax can pass by simple majority vote, but the City is taking no chances. It mobilized employees’ unions and Council supporters by threatening layoffs, cuts in police and fire services, eliminating the Senior Center, curtailing swimming pool hours The City’s service providers (i.e. Garbage) were strong-armed to contribute. Controversial developers, such as would be builders of an absurd proposed BART parking garage, were forced to give campaign donations. City operations have come to a halt, so managers and employees can distribute door hangers and staff phone banks.

Measure K opponents agree that the City could use more money, but are incensed by the steamrolling. Should Measure K be defeated, they suggest immediately sitting down with with Council and Staff to craft a modified new Measure, to minimize using up reserve funds. Residents will be asked to not request refunds in the interim.

While tax supporters proudly contribute large donations, opposing residents carefully reduce contributions so they don’t have to be reported – few will risk coming to the attention of “City Hall”. But the Tax supporters are running scared in spite of their ten to one financial “war-chest”. To manage the campaign they hired “Hit-piece master” Kevin Reikes, who helped oust popular Councilwoman Kathy Perka two years ago. Her crime? Asking too many questions about where the money goes. With Gina Brusatori forced out by term limits, the last independent voice leaves the Council. In November, El Cerrito will get draconian rule rule by an all powerful Coucil, a satellite of the political machine served by Scott Hanin. But there’s hope. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, the new Council is bound to mess up royally. El Cerrito voters are not dumb, they just pay more attention to global issues than to local ones. President Bush will be lucky to get 10% of El Cerrito’s vote. After we’ve cleaned up Washington, D.C., El Cerrito will be a cinch.

Peter S. Loubal
Run dates: 2004-10-28 - 2004-11-02

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