The San Francisco Bay is a precious resource and the entire area is enhanced by it. Of course, we must work to preserve it. That said, I hate the idea of a regional government agency claiming our tax dollars without local representation. I would like to see restoration done another way.
In June, the Clean and Healthy Bay Ballot Measure will be on the ballot. Measure AA is brought forward by the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority. It puts a special parcel tax of $12 per year for 20 years up for a nine-county vote.
The authority is a regional government agency created by the state Legislature in 2008. The mission is to raise money and allocate resources “for the restoration, enhancement, protection, and enjoyment of wetlands and wildlife habitat in the San Francisco Bay and along its shoreline.”
For example, funds could be used to reduce trash and toxins, improve water quality or protect communities from floods.
The authority proposes to raise money by charging a $12 tax on every parcel in the Bay Area.
This tax applies equally to a single, one-story home in Marin, a 10-story building of luxury condos in San Francisco, and the corporate campuses of Facebook or Google in Silicon Valley.
At the modest rate of $12, you wouldn’t pay much, but you’d pay the same as Apple and Chevron. This is unfair.
Like any other tax, Measure AA needs 67 percent voter approval to pass. What’s different — indeed historic — about Measure AA is that it would be the first regionwide tax in the Bay Area. Regardless of voters’ wishes in any one county, the regional vote will prevail. Local input and control is diminished. That’s a problem.
Another problem is the way the tax would be collected and distributed.
The tax is estimated to generate $25 million per year, eventually totaling $500 million over 20 years. County tax collectors would collect the funds and send them to the authority to dole out.
The authority is governed by a seven-member board appointed by the executive board of the Association of Bay Area Governments, an agency in danger of being swallowed up by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
This board doesn’t have representation from each county, and Marin is one county without a representative. Like MTC, none of these board members, who will pick the projects, are elected by a direct vote of the people.
Over Measure AA’s 20-year duration, half the funds ($250 million) would be allocated geographically based on population data from the 2010 census. The North Bay, which includes Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano, would get the smallest piece of the pie at 9 percent or roughly $22.5 million. That boils down to a paltry $1.1 million per year.
In effect, we become the cash cow for the East Bay, which gets 18 percent. The South Bay gets 12 percent and the West Bay gets 11 percent. The other $250 million would fund projects prioritized for “their positive impact on the Bay.”
This sounds like a slush fund catering to special interests, with decisions made behind closed doors.