Two weeks ago, if you were to ask even some of the most well-informed people in San Diego how they were voting on Proposition A, it wouldn’t have been odd for them to look back at you with a blank stare.

What was Proposition A again?

Well, it’s the parcel tax that would charge about $52 per year for property owners in the county. The money would be used to fund firefighting efforts and perhaps construct a region-wide fire department.

I know, it’s a totally futuristic thing.

And, of course, in true San Diego fashion, despite the fact that the county has ignited in conflagration two times in the last five years, it does not look like any major steps will be taken to address the county’s absurd lack of means to fight fires.

Unlike the TransNet half-cent sales tax measure passed in 2004, Proposition A’s support is meager. It was supposed to be the region’s collective response to the horrible fires we witnessed last year. Remember that ridiculous show we watched last year when the mayor was giving his State of the City speech and he had that heartwarming interruption in the middle of it with County Supervisor Ron Roberts?

They promised cooperation and leadership — an arrangement where, once and for all, we’ll figure some things out for the county. Remember that?

Yeah, total joke.

Proposition A is an after-thought. Nobody’s serious about it. There’s no real campaign. The mayor remembers to mention it in the middle of speeches or at the end of his presentations.

Will Carless picked up on that last week and wrote a great story about how, in contrast to four years ago when the county united to pass a tax to build more roads, almost nothing is happening to pass this fire measure.

Carless’ nut graf:

They said the reluctance by officials to embrace the proposition is also intrinsically tied to the unpopularity of the man widely considered its creator: County Supervisor Ron Roberts. Roberts has alienated his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, who only reluctantly approved putting the proposition on the ballot, the officials said, and his stewardship of the proposition, and other fire-related issues, has irked many within the local firefighting community.

The result is what Bill Metcalf, fire chief for the North County Fire Protection District in Fallbrook, called a “deafening silence” from local elected officials and fire agencies on Proposition A. With three weeks to go to the election, apart from the brief statements from Sanders and Cox, there have been no public events organized to push the measure. One of the key proponents of the measure says he’s met with blank stares when he mentions Proposition A to voters, and the campaign just began sending out mailers last week.

Amita Sharma did a great report on it Friday morning. It’s worth a listen but there are three quotes from it worth highlighting in particular.

One was from UCSD’s Steve Erie.

“I think from the beginning that this was a cover-your-posterior proposal — i.e. that the campaign in favor of it would be pro forma at best,” Erie said.

And then the one from Richard Rider, the guy who opposes all tax increases. We’re not even making him work hard this time.

“The other side does not have their heart in it,” Rider told Sharma.

And who’s fault is this? Well, Sharma’s last quote from Roberts himself tells us quite a bit. She asked him what would happen if Proposition A loses.

“I’ll be hoping beyond hope that we don’t see something disastrous over the next couple of years that would be the day I would wake up and feel San Diego you ought to be ashamed,” Roberts said to Sharma.

Nice. So we either do what Roberts wants or we want to burn down the county.

Is this sort of shame-on-you campaign persuading the candidates running for City Council?

To continue on my effort to get them all on the record about the propositions, I asked them.

Both Marti Emerald and April Boling in District 7 are against Proposition A. Emerald said the region already gets Proposition 172 dollars and the county wastes them on the district attorney and sheriff. If they used that money better, they could form a countywide department.

Boling said she has a singular focus:

“My first priority is to pay down the debt,” she said.

Todd Gloria, in District 3? He opposes Proposition A.

Stephen Whitburn, Gloria’s rival, supports it.

Sherri Lightner, in District 1, opposes the parcel tax. She said the fee would hurt property owners, particularly condominium owners she was talking to.

And her opponent, Phil Thalheimer? It seems he’s fully uninterested in this discussion. We’ll go ahead and say he’s for the tax. Maybe that will get him to call me back.


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