April 17, 2009


Prop. A: Can Chula Vista afford it?

For the residents of Chula Vista, the question is how much sales tax are you willing to pay? And for how long? Are you willing to pay an extra 1% sales tax for the next ten years? That is the question in a nutshell. We wish we could ask how much you would be willing to pay for fire and police protection but we can’t. The extra revenue generated if Prop. A passes goes into the general budget. Once it is there, it can be spent on anything. So there is a little caveat to these: Do you trust elected officials to spend your money wisely?

To answer the last question first, the answer is: No! You cannot trust politicians to do the right thing when it comes to spending money wisely! We can’t look into a crystal ball and tell the future, but what we can do is take a look at the past and see how politicians have performed.

The deficit that the city faces is one of past city councils, including some sitting members, who for the past decade have been spending more money than the city has been bringing in. In years past, they had been able to handle the deficit by servicing the debt, but sooner or later the deficit spending was going to catch up. The city has a structural problem. To date this council has not addressed the root cause of the problem.

Newly elected council person Pamela Bensoussan spent over a year running for public office. During that time, she never once brought up the issue of raising taxes to solve the budget deficit. Yet at her swearing in as a councilmember, she became an advocate for a tax increase. Bensoussan is so sure that the tax increase will pass she has already started the process of creating a citizen advisory board as dictated in the proposition.

Police and firefighters have already been given guaranteed, across-the-board salary increases for each of the next five years, with or without the sales tax increase, by the city. So the issue of decreased safety services does not seem so relevant anymore.

Can you trust city councilman Rudy Ramirez when his sister is hired at $140,000 a year for part time work with the city’s animal shelter while Ramirez sits on the panel that oversees this operation? Can you trust a city council that pays a city manager $140,000 to go away? Can you trust a Mayor who hires an aide from Alaska and then doesn’t see any problem with him working as a consultant on city time for his former employer in Alaska?

If history is any lesson, then No you can’t trust your city council to do the right thing.

In answering the first two questions, if the city council had asked for a two year tax increase to weather the storm/budget crisis it would have seemed to be a more measured request than a ten year term for a tax increase. A ten year tax increase will do more to drive businesses out of Chula Vista than attract new business.

A short term tax increase to get their house in order to address the structural problems that the city faces would seemingly have made more sense. A ten year term gives city council members carte blanch to continue on as they have in the past.

A one cent sales tax for the upper middle class may not be a big issue, but for the majority of the residents on the west side, the average estimated cost per person per day is 24 cents. That would mean that an average family of four would pay almost a dollar a day, or $350.40 per year to the city’s general fund ($3,504 over ten years). This tax is a big deal. This is enough to drive southwest Chula Vistans to drive to WalMart in Nestor or to Las Americas in San Ysidro. As an anecdotal reference, when gas prices were rising daily, it wasn’t uncommon to drive past a gas station just to get to a Costco station half a mile away to save pennies per gallon.

This past Wednesday, taxpayers across the nation held a tea party to protest government overspending. Perhaps it is time for Chula Vistans to have their own tea party and send a signal to the council representatives that before they raise taxes they should address their root problem of over spending first.

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