Opinion: City of Concord misled voters on Measure V

By Tobias M. Lester

The City of Concord illegally used public funds to campaign for its Measure V permanent sales tax increase in the November election. The City sent three mailers to voters that promoted Measure V.
I have filed a complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The FPPC recently fined BART and Los Angeles County for similar illegal advocacy favoring ballot measures.
I successfully sued the Concord City Council and City Manager Valerie Barone in August because they misled voters. They tried to keep the tax “increase” word out of the Measure V ballot question and to exploit COVID by telling voters falsely that the City would spend money on “medical” expenses. Contra Costa County Superior Court agreed with me and ordered the City to place the word “increasing” in the ballot question and take “medical” out.
The City makes it seem as if Measure Q since 2010 and Measure V in 2020 fund only popular City programs. This is a deliberate illusion. The reality is that Concord is deeply in debt, due to many years of selfish decisions by the cabal of special interests that controls City Hall. Concord’s 2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (page 23) admits that the City is burdened with nearly a quarter-billion dollars ($237 million) of employee retirement debt. Measure V is the City’s “bailout” scheme.
In 2010, voters were assured that Measure Q’s half-percent sales tax was “temporary,” lasting just five years. In 2014, the City persuaded voters to extend the “temporary” tax until 2025. The City immediately took out a $22 million loan, pledging to Wall Street that the “temporary” tax would remain in place.
The Measure V one-percent sales tax is permanent, unless voters gather thousands of signatures within a short period of time in order to force another election. Measure V could last forever because the City again likely would borrow huge loans against the future revenue stream. The City certainly would undermine any effort to repeal the tax by claiming that the City can’t break its contracts with Wall Street.
City Hall powerhouses, including the Concord Police Association and Councilmembers Dominic Aliano and Edi Birsan, financed the Yes on V campaign, which issued a blatantly false mailer. “None of the money raised will be spent on city administrator salaries” was a ludicrous claim because Measure V contains no such guarantee. “No on Measure V means: We cannot maintain or repair roads … We cannot keep Concord stable and safe; crime is likely to rise” was outright propaganda. Existing gas and sales taxes already fund roadwork. Concord will not become a “Mad Max” wasteland if Measure V fails.
The City’s thirst for new taxes is insatiable. Even before the COVID crisis, the City’s Sacramento lobbyist drafted special legislation so that Concord can exceed the statewide sales tax limit. Colluding with legislators Tim Grayson and Steve Glazer, the City was successful in enacting SB 1349, which could enable another Concord sales tax increase in 2022 or 2024. Watch your wallet!
Tobias M. Lester is a Concord resident.

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