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It just got a lot easier to raise taxes in California.
Now, if a group of citizens gather signatures to put a tax increase on the ballot for a specific purpose – something like building a football stadium, a convention center, or a bunch of low-income housing – it will only require approval of a simple majority of voters.
That means leaders have a significantly easier path to raise taxes, if they let private groups write the measure and pay for the signature-gathering effort.
The shift is the result of a ruling from the California Supreme Court released Monday. Scott Lewis broke down what the shift means for San Diego, where officials have a large and growing wish list for new stuff, and now a much easier way to pay for it.
A coalition of progressive and union-backed groups has already discussed putting up a ballot measure in 2018 to fund homelessness solutions and low-income housing. The San Diego Association of Governments is staring at a $17 billion budget shortfall from a tax hike passed in 2004, and watched a tax hike last year fall short of the two-thirds threshold. The mayor failed this summer to get the City Council to approve a tax hike to fund a Convention Center expansion, which would have needed two-thirds approval. Who knows what else regional leaders might be interested in now that the political lift is so much lighter.
But the party might be short-lived.
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told Lewis that he’s going to start putting together a ballot initiative to close the loophole that makes it easier to raise taxes by a ballot initiative — a loophole that was itself introduced by a ballot initiative.
San Diego Taking Another Crack at a Blueprint for Barrio Logan
City planners are trying once again to write a new community plan for Barrio Logan, reports the Union-Tribune. They’re hoping to allow for new development while also separating residential areas from industrial activities that may be harmful to people’s health.
In late 2013, a Democratic City Council approved a new community plan for Barrio Logan, the working class, predominantly Latino neighborhood that’s been bisected by a freeway and where homes are often immediately next door to industrial businesses.
The new plan would have implemented new zoning requirements separating homes from harmful activities. It also would have built a commercial area between the residences to the north of the community and the heavily industrial shipbuilding activities on the waterfront.
But after it passed, the shipbuilding industry – backed by then-Councilman Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the rest of the city’s business community – overturned the decision by collecting enough signatures to force it to the ballot, where it was defeated by voters.
The industry argued the plan represented a slippery slope – first, it would change the zoning on industrial businesses in the community. Next, they feared, shipbuilding operations would be pushed off the waterfront.
Now, city planners, residents and industry will see if they can have better luck striking a compromise this time around.
In Other News
• A federal official jumped the gun when he said Mexico was to blame for a sewage spill into the Tijuana River channel earlier this month. He told the Union-Tribune Monday that after further review, the U.S. was to blame. (Union-Tribune)
• A heat wave facing San Diego is causing 58 schools that don’t have air conditioning in at least 80 percent of their classrooms to institute half days. (NBC San Diego)
• A group in City Heights is now collecting signatures in hopes of asking the city to implement rent control. It’s not a citizens’ initiative, just a petition. The group had its first meeting last week, which drew four members. (San Diego Reader)
• San Diego County disputed a June grand jury report that found it didn’t have adequate data to track whether its foster care system was successful. (Union-Tribune)
• Officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seized smallpox vaccines that a San Diego stem cell company was using as part of risky treatments. (KPBS)
• San Diego received just 12 refugees last month, the lowest number in a decade, according to new State Department data reported by the Union-Tribune. The number shows the astounding drop in refugee resettlements here under the Trump administration, after the county received 256 refugees last July. (Union Tribune)
• Despite arrivals of new refugees slowing to a trickle, there are still thousands of resettled refugee families in San Diego. inewsource is out with part two in its series looking at the trauma refugee students face during their transition, and how San Diego schools deal with it.
• A cliché that lots of people seem to think is a clever joke is to describe your congressman as, “an asshole – but our asshole.” Well, the tired turn of phrase got a bit of a twist this weekend when Rep. Duncan Hunter used it to defend President Donald Trump. Speaking to a group of Republicans, Hunter said “he’s an asshole, but he’s our asshole.” (Union-Tribune)
• The largest hepatitis A outbreak in California in two decades, which has now killed 14 people in San Diego County and is especially threatening the region’s massive and growing homeless population, is now international news. The Guardian covered the deadly outbreak, and the lethargic response from the county and city as it’s unfolded.
• San Diego’s public transportation system is up for an award! The transit and cycling advocacy website StreetsBlog is conducting a Sweet 16-style tournament for the worst bus stations in the country, and one bus stop in Mission Valley is in the field. The stop, which looks pretty dangerous, uninviting and impractical, is facing off with a bus stop in Commerce City in the first round. It was leading comfortably as of press time, and if it advances will have a tough second round match-up from the plucky bus system in Seattle or a Fremont stop that would be coming off an impressive upset.