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Local opinion columnists

Protecting Fairfield with a penny tax

By From page A11 | October 04, 2012

If you’re a Fairfielder, the presidential election isn’t the most immediately consequential vote you’ll cast Nov. 6. That distinction belongs to Measure P, the Protect Fairfield initiative.

The city is in financial crisis primarily because in addition to the Great Recession, Sacramento snatched $44 million from Fairfield over the past three years.

The city responded by cutting 150 jobs, cutting spending and renegotiating employee compensation. We’ve cut millions of dollars. After analyzing the available options, the City Council’s two most fiscally conservative members, John Mraz and Catherine Moy, decided that a tax measure be considered and the council voted to place it on the ballot.

Measure P adds a five-year 1 percent sales tax that will enable Fairfield to remain a viable city. There would be citizen oversight and an annual independent audit to make sure the funds are being collected and used to protect Fairfield.

There are serious consequences if Measure P fails. The city would have to cut up to 17 police officers. Also cut would be crime prevention programs and anti-gang activities. After-school programs and youth sports would fall to the budget ax.

As pointed out in an editorial by Mraz and Moy over the summer, we would have to stop prosecuting some crimes to focus on violent crimes. Imagine a city with fewer cops on the force, no activities to keep young people from joining gangs and prosecutors prosecuting only violent crimes.

Firefighters will need to be cut as well. These cuts will affect emergency response times. When we call 911 with a medical emergency, a fire or a crime in progress, we want as fast a response as possible. Every second counts. But first responders can’t give us the same level of service with drastically fewer resources.

The aquatic complex and the sports center at Allan Witt Park are a great addition to Fairfield. But without new revenue, they’re most likely going under.

The Fairfield Senior Center, with its myriad activities, information, education and meals for active seniors, will likely see its doors shuttered if Measure P fails.

Street and park maintenance will take a hit. Poorly maintained roads affect your vehicles. Not maintaining our parks is both an aesthetic and safety problem.

In addition to residents, regional shoppers at our mall, tourists and people passing through would be contributing to our city’s coffers. All of that money will stay in Fairfield.

I can imagine some opponents think the scenario I’ve outlined here is nothing more than scare tactics. I’m just giving you the facts and I can’t help it if they’re scary. It’s the reality of what will happen if Fairfield can no longer afford to pay these bills.

Folks work hard for their money, so the time to support a tax increase is after you’ve made serious cuts, the alternative would be catastrophic and there’s accountability. We’ve met that test. And the second there’s fiscal shenanigans, I know that Mraz or Moy are going to be on the phone to me screaming in unprintable language about it and I will expose it here.

If there’s only one tax measure you support this November it has to be Measure P to protect Fairfield. Peace.

Kelvin Wade is a writer/author. Reach him at [email protected]

Kelvin Wade

Kelvin Wade


Discussion | 17 comments

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  • Mr. PracticalOctober 04, 2012 - 6:35 am

    Nice job Kelvin. I would much rather pay tax at a local level where there is immediate impact, better oversight and less bureaucratic waste. Homeowners in Fairfield should remember that their property tax bills have gone down significantly and Measure P simply helps the city recover a little of that lost revenue.

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  • jagOctober 04, 2012 - 6:35 am

    This is like me going to my boss and asking for a pay raise right now, Are you kidding me he would say I got a hundred people who will do your job for your pay, NO ON P

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  • MarciOctober 04, 2012 - 7:35 am

    I'd like to know what safeguards are in place so we don't find out next year that the extra revenue was spent to send the city council on a "business" cruise.

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  • DJKOctober 04, 2012 - 7:21 am

    sales taxes are the most fair, across the board tax you can have. Everyone contributes.

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  • CD BrooksOctober 04, 2012 - 7:29 am

    Mr. Wade, you provided good information and something to consider. Jag, you can only do the job if you have the funds to provide for it. DJK, this is a specific tax whereas sales tax is less definitive in distribution. I have often said here I would vote for any increase that promotes PD support. I'd prefer something that provides a fully staffed traffic division and in fact, would pay more to provide that. That is one service that pays back with revenue. If this is the beginning of saving jobs all around and “paving” a road to more security, I will vote for it.

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  • rlw895October 06, 2012 - 11:37 pm

    CD: You mean "special tax" I believe. The problem is a special tax directed at a specified purpose requires a 2/3 majority vote. A general tax, which this is, only requires a simple majority vote. I've never quite understood that, but that's what Prop 13 (the 1978 one) did. As a general tax, the new revenue will go into the city's general fund. I don't think that's a problem, though, because it's the city's general fund that has taken the big hits from Sacramento, the recession, and voter takeaways (remember Prop 218 (the 1996 one) and failure of city Measure Q?). We've always left it up to the City Council to decide how to spend general fund money, and that's the way it will be again. If we don't like how they do it, we always have the right to petition, and if that fails, organize and vote the offenders out of office. It's sad that it wasn't until police and fire became threatened that a new tax became the answer. Measure P will not allow us to avoid cuts to many of the non-safety items Kelvin mentions. Those cuts have already occurred. And few, if any, of the non-safety items will be restored to adequate levels. There just won't be enough new revenue for that. Measure P is more of a "hold the line" measure, not a "bring the city back" measure. We can complain all we want about this particular measure--none are perfect--but if we don't hold the somehow, we will be facing irreversible deterioration. Once a city loses its reputation for quality--hard-earned in our case--it will take a generation to get it back.

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  • CD BrooksOctober 07, 2012 - 7:27 am

    rlw895, thank you for pointing that out! Okay, it aint popular but I would vote for a larger tax hike if that’s what it takes to provide the services we need.

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  • Joe PikeyOctober 07, 2012 - 8:36 am

    "Hold the line measure" is not completely accurate. The city (council) also plan to use the new funds to build up the reserves. And Council has done little to extract budget savings (concessions) from safety, mainly police when they are the largest cost to the General Fund. So much for "Shared Sacrifice". Also after the demise of RDA the city (Council) pulled $1.5 mil out of a "Special Fund" to by a piece of property just to turn it over to a developer for a dollar. What was that fund called? Up until just recently I believe that FF had $60 mil in the Loan Fund and is now down (so they say) to $6 mil. They used some as the one time payment to the state (RDA)& to pay for properties like parking lots including PD's & PD's Inspectors building (the old bank building on Texas), all non-revenue generating RDA properties. They also used some of the Loan Fund to prop up the General Fund of which PD (safelty) is the largest cost. To call this a "General Tax" is a stretch. I like to think that when it comes to "Measure P", it's "P for Police". Remember, the group that gave little to no concesions to help the budget...

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  • Joe PikeyOctober 07, 2012 - 8:42 am

    Sorry "buy" & "safety"... Really should read these BEFORE I let them fly...

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  • CD BrooksOctober 07, 2012 - 8:56 am

    Mornin Joe! We're all guilty and have pretty much agreed our typos are a product of over-passionate resposnes! :)

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  • Oh Mr. Brooks!October 07, 2012 - 9:17 am

    Over-passionate men are one of my guilty pleasures. I just knew you were one of them, strong, confident, over-passionate = yummy!

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  • rlw895October 08, 2012 - 12:55 am

    JoeP: Yes, I missed "...hold the somehow..." when I meant "...hold the line somehow..." We all have to forgive each other's many faults;-). I agree with you about concessions. That will be the toughest sell for Measure P. I'll vote for it anyway because I believe compensation eventually comes into line based on the market, as long as diligent people are on the Council. The Council will have to convince many voters that they are those people. As an aside, keep in mind market conditions can mean up or down. It's down right now, but a day may come when compensation has to go up again to maintain quality of staff. And that day may come at different times for different positions. The City has to be nimble to stay in the game.

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  • George Guynn, JrOctober 05, 2012 - 9:27 am

    Food for thought. This tax hits the poor a lot more than the affuent. Also, one can shop on the internet and bypass a lot of sales tax. Furthermore, if products such as automobiles cost more in Fairfield, why would anyone shop here? Vote No on P.

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  • Rick WoodOctober 06, 2012 - 11:13 pm

    So, George, can you suggest a tax you would support if not a sales tax? I didn't think so.

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  • ABCOctober 11, 2012 - 10:40 pm

    The tax does not effect basic items. If people are so poor that they cannot afford a penny tax increase to better their community, then they are too poor to be buying the items this tax will effect i.e. big screen TVs, iPhones, designer clothes. And the tax goes away after 5 years. That's 5 years to help make Fairfield the great city it can be. Everyone chipping in to make this a better place to live and raise our kids should not be too much to ask. Making the community a better place should not be solely the responsibility of rich people, but should be everyone's goal.

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  • Chive BarnesOctober 09, 2012 - 4:27 pm

    No, the city would not HAVE to cut 17 police. Instead, ALL the police could equally take a pay cut and the numbers could stay the same. But the entitled officers at the top of the pay scale will never agree to that. THEIR pay and sacred benefits are more important to them than public safety or the jobs of low seniority officers. Average people all over Fairfield have to figure out how to make do with less. The city can do the same. It takes a lot of gall to ask low income people to pay more in order to prop up the luxury pay and benefits of city workers when they are struggling with low-wage, no-benefit jobs. A big NO to P.

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  • ABCOctober 11, 2012 - 10:31 pm

    If measure P does not pass, Fairfield will turn into Vallejo. Severely reduced police force, inadequate fire services and little to no community services. The lack of community services and programs combined with the cuts to the police department will result in an increased crime rate. By cutting fire services, te response time will increase resulting in more deaths. The tax does not effect groceries or other basic items. People that come to the Mall will be paying the tax for us. Vote Yes On P. Save our city

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