Published Wednesday, January 31, 2007, by the Contra Costa Times
Road repair tax heads to ballot
LAFAYETTE: Members worry momentum will fade if they wait until 2008
By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times
Lafayette voters will see a road repair measure on the June ballot
One week after a unanimous City Council said the election was too
soon, officials reversed course and agreed to move forward because
road supporters lined up 130 volunteers and $5,000 in 11 days to
launch a campaign. Officials fear momentum will fade if they wait
until the 2008 election.
"The last time we were together, I had major concerns that arose
from lack of organization, no chairs (to lead the campaign), lack
of fundraising and very little time to come together," Mayor Carol
Federighi said Monday. "I am impressed. It's still a risk, but it's
less risky now with your enthusiasm."
Officials will draft ballot language for a $150 parcel tax over 30
years to fix neighborhood streets. Revenue would total $24 million.
The plan is scheduled to reach the council for approval Feb. 12.
The city would spend $125,000 to put the tax bid on the ballot.
Lafayette has 118 neighborhood streets considered "failing" by
industry standards because of potholes and cracks. The city inherited
its roads when it incorporated in 1968, and hasn't had the money to
fix them all, said Steve Falk, city manager.
A 2004 bond measure to fix the streets was defeated.
The decision to try again this June comes one week after all five
council members questioned whether there would be enough time to
amass the volunteers and money to mount a successful campaign. At
supporters' urging, the council gave the group a week to prove June
is still viable.
Supporters hustled to sign up 130 volunteers. Longtime campaign
heads have estimated 100 are needed to canvass the community.
Resident Dan Bosshart and Councilman Don Tatzin stepped up to lead
the campaign. Downtown landowner Greg Woehrle pitched in $5,000.
"The timing is right. You've got momentum now that you might not
have in 13 months," said resident Maeve Pessis.
It was enough to convince the council.
The effort comes even as supporters and officials acknowledge it will
be an uphill battle. A telephone survey of 300 people last month
found 41 percent would pay higher taxes for better roads. That's
fewer than the two-thirds vote required for a parcel tax.
Supporters say a win is possible if they can craft their message
around the issue of fairness. Residents on "failing" streets pay
into the citywide fund to repave major roads where others live. The
community should unite to fix neighborhood streets too, they argue.
A parcel tax will have opponents. Resident James Torres told the
council the parcel tax structure is unfair.
"Why should a modest home on Moraga Road pay the same assessment as
an elegant hilltop home?" Torres said. "We need the money but this
is not the way to go about it."
Apartment complex owners pay more and the tax would be a burden to
those on fixed incomes, he added.
He suggested creating a tiered structure in which the tax paid
depends on the home assessment. His idea is a cross between a parcel
tax and property tax. Lafayette tried a property tax increase in
2004, but the bond faced organized opposition that contributed to
Reach Katherine Tam at 925-943-8163 or ktam@...
[BATN: See also:
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