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We’re told repeatedly in San Diego by politicians and their advisors how much San Diegans hate taxes and how difficult it is to get an increase past voters.

Let’s study Proposition A to see how that holds up. The proposition, which would’ve levied a $52-a-year parcel tax for firefighting, grabbed 63.2 percent of the vote, falling just short of the two-thirds threshold needed to pass.

So it failed. But consider this: There was barely a campaign put out by supporters of the proposition, principally Supervisor Ron Roberts and Mayor Jerry Sanders. They hardly raised any money and barely did any campaigning, as my colleague Will Carless deftly pointed out in this story. Sanders mentioned his support for the proposition at the tail end of his typically luncheon routine; local firefighter unions didn’t even get behind it.

That led to the suspicion that the politicians were just putting it on the ballot so they could say they actually tried to get a firefighting tax passed, without actually having to have tax increase on their records.

It was probably the most inconspicuous measure on the ballot, considering its potential impacts and high-profile fathers.

And despite all of that, the tax increase actually came pretty close to passing the two-thirds threshold.

Carless compared the lackluster campaign to that of TransNet, a 2004 tax increase that went to transportation needs:

TransNet was supported enthusiastically by politicians around the county, who used their influence to promote the proposition in public and at press conferences. The campaign distributed mailers, held public events and hired a cadre of political consultants and public relations experts to sell the measure to the public. In the end, despite the impressive campaign, that measure squeaked through with 67 percent of the vote.

It’s likely that the amount of support Prop. A garnered was rooted in the fresh memory of last year’s wildfires, but imagine if Prop. A’s authors actually put a campaign behind it.


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