|Richmond Council Puts
Projects On Ballot
August 6, 1997
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Wednesday, August 6,
RICHMOND Voters will decide in November whether to tax themselves to pay for the seismic retrofit of several public buildings, replacement of three old fire stations and a modern communications system for the police and fire departments.
Despite opposition from some business leaders, a political organization and the head of the Richmond firefighters union, the council voted Monday night to put $23 million worth of projects on the ballot.
With three council members and the mayor up for re-election in November, the issue has become a political hot potato. Potential candidates are concerned about how their respective positions on the tax measure for a variety of public improvements will sit with voters.
Mayor Rosemary Corbin and council members Alex Evans, Tom Butt, John Marquez and Donna Powers voted for the ballot measure. Irma Anderson and Nate Bates voted against it, and Lesa McIntosh and Richard Griffin abstained.
Corbin, Marquez, Anderson and Griffin face re-election. Oddly, the measure won't get support from the city's firefighters, one of its main beneficiaries.
A letter to council members from Henry Hornsby, president of the Richmond Fire Fighters Local 188, said the union's executive board opposed it "as not in the public interest." It also said the union will campaign against it.
Hornsby cited similar appeals came from the Black Men and Women's Committee and the Council of Industries, a business advocacy group, and a lack of public input as reasons for lobbying against the measure.
"We felt there should have been more study on it," Hornsby said. The firefighters also are suspicious about how the money will be spent, he said.
Powers said that the money will dedicated to specific sources.
"I have never supported any raise in taxes," Powers said. "The reason I am supporting this is because this (money) is going where it says it's going."
Powers said she has toured firehouses and heard rank-and-file firefighters complain about buildings falling apart.
Hornsby defended the union leaders' position. "A lot of people say this local is selfish," he said. "This is one time where we have the community's interest in mind."
County Supervisor and former Richmond councilman Jim Rogers asked for council unity.
"I think there's a realization some things need to be done and you can't keep putting things off," Rogers said.
"I'm here to say don't approve this on a divided vote. I think the result would be a poisoning of this issue for years to come."
Rogers and others suggested cutting down the number of projects so there would be wider support.
If the measure is approved, property owners will be taxed based on the size, not value, of their property. It's a smaller version of a similar proposal that failed last year.
The council rejected $60 million in general obligation bonds. That measure included recreational facilities.
On the new measure, council members debated whether to include renovation of the Plunge swimming pool in Point Richmond and an $8 million upgrade of the city's emergency dispatch communications system.
"Part of what we heard was, that's too much,' " Evans said of his vote against the last proposal. "So we went back and reduced."
The new City Hall retrofit is about $3 million instead of $30 million, and the projects are limited to public safety. Rejecting calls for modification, Evans said there's no magic combination of projects that would generate universal support.
Bates thinks the measure will fail.
"Until this city shows the public we have cut the fat, nobody is going to support any kind of tax measure," Bates said.
That is up to the voters, argued Corbin. "We are not voting here tonight to raise anyone's taxes. We are asking for the voters to decide."
McIntosh, who abstained, criticized the project list for not including improvements related to children, such as recreation facilities.