October 17, 2008

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

Ron Morrison used to care about the people’s interest

The Committee on Chicano Rights President Herman Baca accurately summed up the ongoing problems in National City in his recent opinion editorial to La Prensa. Baca’s claim that Mayor Ron Morrison and the Council have squandered city funds while they promised they would use the sales tax to increase public safety is exactly on point.

How did National City go from a $20 million annual budget to a $40 million budget in less than ten years? It hasn’t been all for salaries for police and fire department employees. Morrison has spent heavily on consultants, giveaways to developers, and public relations. Consequently, there is no proof that Morrison could ever protect the working class and poor residents of National City from a bigger and bigger tax bill in the future. The current sales tax in National City is the highest in the county, and it will remain so unless the voters choose otherwise in November.

Mayor Morrison was not always a career politician as he is today. He used to campaign for the people’s interests, but he has figured out the one thing that can get him reelected in National City. Morrison knows that if he hitches his pony to the Chamber of Commerce and the city employee groups he can outspend his opponents and win with a small actual vote total.

It has worked well for Morrison, and others, over the years. It has worked well for his supporters as well. In June of 2007, after Morrison was elected Mayor and his sales tax had passed, the NC Chamber of Commerce asked for $70,000 (an increase over previous years’ requests) from the city budget. That is only one example of city budget items that were directly contrary to the claims made to get people to vote for the sales tax.

The cozy relationship between business and city government is nothing new in National City. Previous mayors have had glorious ideas for the city and various members of the Chamber of Commerce have bankrolled them. Today, we have Ron Morrison who took over a thousand campaign dollars from Jim Beauchamp, a property owner who needed Eminent Domain to acquire land to build a high-rise on National City Blvd. This project, fully endorsed by the City Council and Mayor, is now costing the people of National City many dollars in court costs. Lately, this same landlord/developer has pleaded his case in front of the Mayor asking to allow him to build seven story condos among the single-family homes of Old Town. Beauchamp’s group, known as the Smart Growth Coalition, even had the nerve to ask the mayor if they could have their toxic tenants “grandfathered” in until they are ready to retire. The plan seems to be to depress the value of the property owned by the little guys, and then snatch it all up and screw up a neighborhood that they have shown no regard for over the last fifty years. In Old Town, the word is that Morrison doesn’t listen to the people who live there and he has no intention of fixing the problems that were caused when National City zoned the neighborhood industrial. Just rezone it all to residential and fix the problem.

The Morrison tax scheme, promoted with city employees who have benefited from generous salary and pension increases, has saddled the poorest community in the region with added expenses. By the City’s own analysis, 40 % of the 8 million dollars taken in through the sales tax is paid by residents of National City. They claim the cup is half full by stating that 60% is paid by non-residents. I think that the community’s pocketbook is over $3 million dollars lighter, just because they shop in their hometown.

Voters in National City should require the city government to get control of their spending habits over all city departments. Repealing the sales tax could in fact level the playing field with Chula Vista and San Diego, and bring back shoppers who are boycotting the tax. Morrison’s power grab over residents’ lives and pocketbooks must be stopped. Vote YES for the REPEAL— Yes on Prop. M.

Ted Godshalk
Resident of National City

Proposition A stinks – twice over!

Proposition A on the upcoming ballot will result in one of the largest transfers of wealth from poorer people to wealthier people in the history of San Diego. The proposal that every parcel pay $52 to pay for needed wildfire fighting equipment is not only regressive, it is doubly regressive. I have never seen such a double-loser before.

A “regressive” tax is one where poorer people pay a higher percentage of their income for the tax than do wealthier people. For instance, let’s say a man earns $50,000 a year, and a neighbor earns $100,000 a year, yet they both drive about the same amount of mileage every year. They will pay the same amount of dollar “gas tax,” but that amount will be twice the percentage of income for the poorer man than the wealthier one. Why is “percentage of income” important? Because, in effect, all taxes are income taxes. No matter what you call them, a “gas” tax or a “sales” tax or a “cigarette” tax, etc., etc., they all come out of income. (The only real exception are estate taxes, which are paid out of someone’s accumulated wealth.)

A “progressive” tax is one where the wealthier pay not only more dollars in taxes but also a higher percentage of income than a poorer person. The federal and California income taxes are progressive taxes (at least in theory, ignoring loopholes.)

So Proposition A would have everyone pay $52 per parcel per year. That, obviously, is a very regressive tax in the sense that as a percentage of income, a poorer person pays a much higher percentage of income than a wealthier person does.

But what is fascinating about Prop A is that it is a doubly regressive tax. In Chula Vista, as in much of San Diego County, the homes on the eastern edges of the cities are newer, high-priced, wealthier homes. The homes on the western edges are usually much older, smaller, occupied by lower income persons. Yet it is the homes on the eastern edges that have almost a 100% chance of benefiting eventually from this tax to fight wildfires, while the homes on the western edge have almost no probability of ever benefiting from Prop A.

It is obvious that there was no attempt to match who might benefit the most from this program and therefore pay most of the cost. It is always pitiful when there is no attempt to match benefits and costs in the government sector. Too bad.

Peter Watry
Chula Vista

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage