|SF Chronicle on Richmond Measure T
October 9, 2008
In case it is not clear by now, incumbents Bates, Marquez and Sandhu, running for re-election, do not support Measure T. They do not want Richmond residents to benefit from an additional $26 million a year to spend on streets, crime prevention, law enforcement and job development.
From the October 9 San Francisco Chronicle:
Richmond tax measure would hit Chevron hard
Thursday, October 9, 2008
(10-08) 19:19 PDT -- The hottest issue on the Richmond ballot next month may not be the City Council election but a measure to levy a huge tax increase that would cost the Chevron refinery an estimated $26.5 million a year - about 440 times more than it now pays the city.
Measure T, a proposed business license fee on manufacturers, would be a windfall for the cash-strapped East Bay city of about 100,000 people that is battling high unemployment and crime with total general fund revenues of $134 million a year.
Supporters of Measure T say the tax represents a "fair share" owed by the corporate giant whose profit last year was $18.7 billion. Opponents call it illegal, discriminatory and damaging to the city's ability to attract and hold businesses and jobs.
"We think it's only fair that large manufacturers like Chevron pay their fair share of running the city," said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a member of the Green Party. "It's only fair that we start turning around the decades of poverty and lack of opportunity."
McLaughlin is a key backer of the citizens petition campaign affiliated with the Richmond Progressive Alliance that put Measure T on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Richmond Chamber of Commerce President Judith Morgan called the measure "a detriment to attracting new business and creating jobs." She said several local firms, not just Chevron, would see fees jump sharply.
The measure, which requires a majority vote to win, is similar to a business-license fee measure placed on the ballot two years ago by the City Council that would have applied not only to manufacturers but also to landlords, and to a modest degree to retailers.
That measure, under which Chevron would have paid an estimated $8 million of the $8.5 million in new revenue, was rejected by 57.7 percent of the voters.
The debate this time is echoed in the City Council race, where 10 candidates are competing for three seats. The council currently has nine members, including the mayor, but will shrink to seven after the election in a change approved by voters four years ago.
McLaughlin has endorsed three candidates who support Measure T and who, if elected, would give the progressive faction a council majority. They are incumbent Tom Butt, educator/business owner Jovanka Beckles and Dr. Jeff Ritterman, the chief of cardiology at Kaiser Permanente's hospital in Richmond.
Also running are three other incumbents - Nat Bates, John Marquez and Harpreet Sandhu - who voted with the council majority, against McLaughlin and Butt, in a controversial 5-4 decision in July to approve an upgrade to the Chevron refinery that critics said would allow processing of heavier and dirtier oil that will pose greater pollution and public health risks.
The council majority and Chevron said the new equipment will improve air quality and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
Crime, jobs and quality of life also are important issues in the council race, which includes teacher/businessman Corky Booze, Costco supervisor Rock Brown, residential developer Navdeep Garcha and marketing manager Chris Tallerico.
The city estimates Chevron's fee under Measure T to be $26.5 million a year, based on the amount of oil processed at the refinery. The city did not identify what other companies, if any, would likely see increased fees under the measure.
The city declined to reveal what Chevron or any other company currently pays in business license fees, and a request to Chevron for the figure was not successful. Chevron spokesman Dean O'Hair said the refinery has about 1,300 workers, meaning it would pay around $60,000 annually under the current formula.
O'Hair also said Measure T would violate state law banning taxes on inventory.
How Richmond's tax measure works
What Measure T would do: Alter the business-license fee formula for each of the city's 55 manufacturing businesses. The current fee includes a base of $268.50 a year, to which is added $53.50 per employee for the first 25 workers and $46 for each additional worker. Measure T provides an alternative fee - 0.25 percent of the value of raw materials used in the manufacturing process. Companies would have to pay the raw materials-based fee if it would be higher than the fee under the current formula.