San Carlos Real Estate Agent, San Carlos Realtor UPDATE: San Carlos Measure U Defeated. | The White Oaks Blog
Living in San Carlos November 4, 2009

UPDATE: San Carlos Measure U Defeated.

by Chuck Gillooley

update

In a result that closely matched what the poll on this site predicted, San Carlos Measure U was defeated in yesterday’s election. According to the official San Mateo County vote tracker, the final tally came in as follows:

  • NO:  55.7%
  • YES: 44.3%

For the “semi-official” results of this ballot measure, as well as everything else that was voted on yesterday in San Mateo County, click here:

San Mateo County Election Results

What’s the next step for San Carlos?

That’s obviously the big question.  What’s clear is that the City still faces a budget deficit that needs to be resolved.  How that’s going to happen without the aid of additional sales tax revenue will undoubtedly be the subject of some very interesting discussions at City Hall.

For additional coverage on the election, including commentary by a few of the Council members, click on the article below:

Daily Journal Election Coverage

11/5 UPDATE:  Fallout from the Election.

Several news articles are carrying interviews with City Council on what the next steps are after the defeat of Measure U.  In both articles, layoffs and park closures are forgone conclusions    Read both of these for more information:

San Jose Mercury News: Deeper Cuts are Imminent

Daily Journal: Taxes Fail

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Comments 49
  • According to the San Mateo Daily Journal, Mayor Grassilli’s next steps are ‘figuring out why it failed and the effect on the city’s finances.’

    Mr. Mayor, I’ll save you the trouble and tell you why it failed: your constituents believe that San Carlos has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. I hope you got the message.

    And is anyone else a bit concerned that our Council didn’t even consider the possibility that the Measure might fail and have a plan accordingly? He’s only now going to look at the effect on city finances?

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  • I’d like to find out what the voter turnout was before getting upset. I’d guess that the turnout was very light and favored the conservative, “head stuck in the sand” constituents.

    Unless the city finds a way to reduce present pension costs, get ready for service cuts. If you complain, direct it at Grocott.

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  • I totally agree with Antonia. San Carlos has not been fiscally responsible and now they are paying the price. The coffers are bare because the ones in charge have chosen to increase their salaries and compensation. Is our city manager really worth the $200+K that we pay for him??? Maybe it is time for the leaders of this city to look inward and reevaluate what they have been doing to put us in this situation. Maybe they should look north to their neighbor Belmont, who has saved for a rainy day and is now reaping the benefits of that decision.

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  • Only 5500 votes cast? Therein lies the problem. San Carlos residents will be kicking themselves in the rear for years to come. You see the same attitudes when it comes to passing a special bond measure to help the schools.

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    • Except that Measure B (remember, this past May? For the schools?) was passed with over 66% of the vote.

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  • The only people who have their heads stuck in the sand are the tax proponents who always favor hiking the tax to solve budget problems. Not true when pork barrel spending has gotten out of hand. The red tape is longer than the distance to the moon. If the tax measure however includes a stipulation to assess and fund the current Holly St congestion I’m sure it would have won.

    Hiking sales tax by 5%? Yeah right.

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  • Steve, I think the REAL people with their “head stuck in the sand” are the people who did not vote! I respect everyone who participated. I imagine San Carlos City Council will just put up a new measure increasing taxes on something else. I think the message to is to REDUCE PENSIONS, & MAKE CUTS. Want to make a bet that we will have a new tax to vote on in the next election?

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  • As a way out of this mess, I would favor installing parking meters in San Carlos. If Burlingame does it, why can’t we do the same?

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  • $200K is a comparable salary for a city manager. You need to find another bogeyman.

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    • Perhaps $200K is a fair salary for a city manager. What isn’t fair is the big raises and bonuses that same city manager is paying himself and his senior staff, when he has failed to properly manage the budget, and the city has been operating in the red year after year. What isn’t fair is the sheer number of senior management positions, not to mention the ratio of managers to rank-and-file employees, for a city with the budget San Carlos has. What isn’t fair is that the city hasn’t implemented other cost cutting measures, but instead asks tapped-out taxpayers to give them more money to mismanage.

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  • Wait until CALPERS hits the city with a bill to make up its pension fund losses. Then reality will really hit folks like Grocott et al.
    Shame on the folks who didn’t vote. You could have been the difference.

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  • This is a disappointing but predictable result. When it comes down to it, it’s just too convenient for folks to cling to the following justifications:

    1) “Taxes are bad” — this despite the fact that throughout the peninsula and Bay Area almost every other tax increase was approved by voters, including a sales tax measure in San Mateo

    2) “City salaries and benefits are too high” — why bother doing an actual analysis that compares these costs across other cities when you can just post a list of 10 employees making a lot of money and tell everyone it has to be excess

    3) “Live within your means” — despite the fact that Sacramento has taken a huge chunk of money, San Carlos has revenue challenges with property tax that peer cities don’t have, yet everyone still wants the same level of services of this city.

    Extremely short sighted decision by the voters. It’s disheartening that throughout the Bay Area voters consistently voted to increase taxes to help their fiscally challenged communities, but we did not do so in San Carlos. We want to be considered a top city to live in the Bay Area and we want our housing prices to go up, but sometimes we are unwilling to make pretty minor sacrifices to make it happen.

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    • JJ, I am legitimately wondering, if you disagree with those three points do you therefore believe:

      1) Taxes are good.
      2) Salaries are too low.
      3) We should live beyond our means.

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  • I’m not sure why we must resort to name-calling. OK, my head is in the sand. I agree. Now that we’ve established that, can we discuss something more important?

    The silliest thing about this is that the City could have taken action earlier. Mark Weiss identified $800K in cuts in non-essential services back in May. (This was at that ‘town hall’ meeting where no one was allowed to speak.) But he didn’t make those cuts then because he wanted to ‘let the voters decide.’ OK, well, we decided. But if had made those choices back then then we’d be at least $400K ahead of the game now.

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  • Maybe City Council meetings can be conducted in candelight, thereby saving the city some bucks? Or, why don’t we just renege on our city pension agreement and just give the retirees 50% of what was promised to them? Or, let’s just ask the top ten highest employees to take a 30% pay cut. C’mon people, get real.
    Yes, we really have some blind voters in San Carlos

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  • Robert – sound like some real, good proposals to me. Private companies do it all the time. Let’s put it to the vote!

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  • The folks who just complain about services getting cut perhaps need to understand the following:

    $ coming in cannot be less than $ going out

    so let’s hike the taxes. Whoa! Why not hike taxes for a lot of things we *don’t* need. Why do we need such a large bureaucracy over a city that’s arguably much less daunting than San Mateo to run? And the San Mateo measure was a .25% hike instead of .5%. That certainly made some difference.

    How about having a higher parcel tax? An overwhelming majority agreed with that.

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  • Why can’t we reduce pensions? Every article that I have read states that that is one of the biggest problems facing California.

    I have nothing against city workers, but we can’t continue the insanity of their bloated pensions and overtime.

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  • I think my post is very clear Antonia and doesn’t need to be misrepresented by others.

    Opponents of Measure U complained about no new taxes, yet throughout the Bay Area citizens overwhelmingly recognized that tax increases are sometimes necessary to keep a high quality of life in their communities.

    Opponents of Measure U complained about high salaries and benefits, but no one bothered to actually look at comparable positions across the Bay Area to see what the market rate for those positions are. It’s much easier to just look at absolutes and scream “too high” without actually considering what comparable cities do.

    Opponents of Measure U complained about living outside of our means yet failed to account for a large external factor (Sacramento) that has taken revenues away us and the differences in property tax receipts that San Carlos has vs. other communities.

    The bottom line is that people want to live in a community that has the schools, services, home values, quality of life, etc. of other peninsula towns but for some reason are unwilling to make minimal sacrifices to make it happen.

    And Lex, let’s not kid ourselves. The same people make the same exact arguments regardless of the measure — whether it’s a parcel tax for school, a smaller sales tax increase.

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    • So JJ, just curious, how many of those tax hikes approved in other cities are actually coming out of the wallets of city residents?

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  • $200,000 is the salary level for a vice president at a major corporation. How many VP-level salaries can a city this size sustain?

    San Mateo’s sales tax increased passed, but that was .25%. People in San Carlos obviously thought that a .5% increase was too much.

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    • $200K is NOT the salary level of a VP at a major corp. I should know, since I’m a VP at a large corp and I make far more than that.

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  • With all this discussion, I figured I would try and google city manager salaries in the bay area. I found this link : http://tinyurl.com/y9m929x Source: Berkeley Daily Planet

    I am not sure of how up to date the numbers are but it seems like San Carlos is at (maybe even below) market rate. that combined with all the abuse he seems to get maybe he needs some hazard pay since he can’t seem to make anyone happy.

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  • city hall has mismanaged money for years now and its disappointed to see the same old people running for city council… perhaps san carlos would be wiser to increase the transient occupancy tax like mmmmm…like San Bruno, Brisbane, Burlingame, Millbrae, San Mateo & South San Francisco.. gosh.. those cities are on to something

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  • Hi Fred,

    Thanks for the website. Interesting! The only comment that I would have is that San Carlos has a much smaller population than any of the cities listed (27,718). The next closest is Dublin at 41,840.

    Also, Robert, Congrats on your big paycheck….hope you earn every penny!
    One question: If you make so much money, why are you living here? Atherton is very nice!

    Better yet, why don’t you donate some of your paycheck to San Carlos and make the improvements you would like! I heard the schools are now 1.4 million in the hole… they could use some extra help!

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    • @Fred I already have supported the schools for the last 6 years through donations to the SCEF. Since when does size of paycheck equate where one should live? I even donated some of my paycheck for the Burton Park playground.

      When was the last time you donated anything to the city you live in. All talk and no action.

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  • Robert, Calm down. You will be pleased to know that I have donated to school programs, civic programs, and religious programs…both financially and with hard work and something I find more valuable than money-TIME!

    Look, we just had an election…the voters spoke loud and clear…”More Cuts!”

    If you feel San Carlos voters are so “blind”, …move.

    The median income in San Carlos is $103,000. I can see that if you are making “far more than 200K” you may feel out of touch with the general community and not understand the “no new tax” voters.

    I merely pointed out that Atherton is nice….but hey…that would make you a small fish in a much deeper pond….harder to be a bully, huh?

    Please, don’t tell the rest of us what we need to support.

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  • Hey Robert, I think you meant @Native San Carlos. I just posted about City Manager Salaries.

    On the point of all the city managers listed for larger citys, I thought of that an wondered what Belmont had – since that has been brought up as the “City with all the answers”. Their Assistant City Manager makes $180 so I would imagine, although in a few minute search couldn’t find, that their City Manager makes about what ours does.

    The point of all this is, while the numbers are higher then what a lot of folks make, the San Carlos numbers on the face of it seem in line with the area. Now if we want to pay average or below average salaries for our city employees then that is fine. But I would say we will start getting average or below average employees. Maybe some great employees, just not for long.

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  • I like to look at facts:

    1. The economy is horrible.
    2. Companies are cutting…jobs, pay, perks, etc.

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  • I know quite a few well qualified people who would love the job….even at a substantial pay cut!

    Now is the time to make changes!!

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  • Chuck – Not sure if the general tone of this whole discussion reflects well on San Carlos (whichever side you are on). Any chance we can have the Blog require real names (or something) to hopefully minimize the name calling and raise the level of the discussion.

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    • Hi Fred,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there’s no way to ensure that people are using their real name nor a valid email address to comment on the site, and they probably shouldn’t have to. Up until the discussion on Measure U, virtually all of the discussions that have taken place in the comment area of this site have been constructive and well-behaved. This measure has been a lightning rod for many people in San Carlos, and emotions have been running high on both sides.

      As you’re probably aware, I moderate every comment before it’s entered on the site. I made a conscious decision to let some borderline comments through to capture some of the emotion that was charging this election, but you should know that I indeed blocked some nastier ones that never saw the light of day. Going forward, I plan to more strictly enforce the tone of the discussion on the site. You should be able to state your opinion or engage in a spirited debate without the personal attacks or name calling.

      Your point is well taken…

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  • When it comes to salaries, sure, we should take into account what comparable really means. However, just because a city manager makes $XXX in a given city, does that mean we should pay the same (higher or lower)?

    Every city is different and I assume there are not a wealth of these top-end jobs available, so when someone is job-hunting, they have a finite pool of jobs to choose from and pursue.

    That being said, why, in a dwindling economy, would jobs command a higher salary package? Wouldn’t the pay scale parallel the real estate market?

    Since salaries would obviously take into consideration the cost of living in that location, who would argue that the cost of purchasing a home in San Carlos and surrounding areas has gone down?

    Shouldn’t these salaries be constantly monitored and adjusted when searching for a new employee? Once a salary has reached a certain level, is it not ever reduced?

    The problem is not only salaries as has been clearly shown on this blog. Why, I wonder, are those of us saying “live within your means” being chastised? Is the message to us, “Spend as much as you have to in order to preserve your current standard?

    Downsizing happens everywhere, in every respect. City government and spending should not be immune.

    And if the reason this measure did not pass was voter apathy, what does that say about the 5499 voters that bothered to vote? We voted the wrong way or we did not knock on doors, etc? If you notice, the poll on this blog was pretty close (and probably a few more abstentions actually went out to vote).

    Nobody should be surprised at the outcome and I hope the city government can do what we pay for and come up with a plan that we can stick to. Solutions don’t come easy and that is one reason we are thankfully “only” paying 9.25% sales tax.

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  • I am bothered that so many people are blaming Matt Grocott for the loss of measure u. There is a resident on San Carlos Ave. who posted a sign asking people to call Matt Grocott for services. I also noticed that Laura Tuetschell (a volunteer on the measure u committee) has blamed Matt and asked residents to now call Matt if they want services. Matt Grocott obviously was a strong voice for many residents in our town. I think the reason the city government can’t accomplish much (installation of turf, new tax, etc.) is because they can’t get along as a united team. Four of the city council members need to figure out how to appreciate the perspective of Matt Grocott. I don’t agree with Matt on many things but I greatly admire his courage and how he fights for what he believes in. I know the school district elected officials have spent many hours figuring out how to work well together. One of the school board members has talked about their retreats and the training they have received. I think our city council members need to do the same thing and learn how to appreciate the different perspectives on the council. Until they do that, they will fail at getting the community to follow along with any of their ideas.

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  • Regarding the comments about low voter turnout: We moved to San Carlos earlier this year. I heard about Measure U from the signs on people’s lawns. But we never received anything from the city telling us where to vote. So we didn’t. (Maybe some of the earlier budget cuts affected voter notification materials…? hmmm…)

    Regarding the comments about salaries: I know many people who got no raises this year and who took 5-10% paycuts. I do question why senior managers are giving themselves 7% raises and big bonuses at the same time they threaten to cut police, fire, and parks. That doesn’t make the best impression, I must say.

    Regarding the fact that SC gets less property tax revenue than other cities: if I recall correctly from another discussion on this blog, that’s because years ago SC decided to take a different percentage of Prop 13 money, and is now paying the price for its long-ago short-sightedness. So why do we keep bringing it up now? It’s not news and just makes me think what a bunch of idiots residents were at the time.

    Regarding no more flowers on Laurel Street: This sounds like a perfect thing for local businesses to support. Or for volunteers to take care of.

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  • I agree with Resident. I am offended by that sign on San Carlos avenue but I strongly believe in free speech.
    I just think it is tacky and hitting below the belt!
    That person should have chosen to express themselves in a more constructive and dignified way. The sign is such a turn-off. Makes me wish I voted “no” when I see what type of people supported u.

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  • On the issue of salaries, I read in the San Jose Mercury News that the Parks and Rec commissioner of San Carlos makes 173K a year, plus the sweet govt benefits.

    Without know this person, does this seem reasonable? Does the Parks and Rec commissioner of a 30K person city seem like a high pressure job?.

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  • @new to san carlos

    did you just turn 18? If not you should know that you need to re–register with the COUNTY elections office, so you can get the proper election notifications. You can find a new Voter Registration Card at the post office, city hall, library or even the downtown RWC. Hopefully you can join in on the fun next June 😉

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  • Perhaps if the measure U had been for a 0.25% tax it may have passed. 0.5% for 6 years is a lot of money.

    We all know that sales taxes disproportionately effect those with lower incomes who spend a much larger percent of their income on taxable purchases. Additionally, having a tax rate that is substantially higher than our two neighbors: Belmont and Redwood City, may have led to savvy consumers leaving San Carlos to shop.

    As residents of San Carlos, we live within our means. The city of San Carlos needs to as well. Now is not a time for bonuses and pay raises. Like the rest of us, it’s time for some belt tightening.

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  • Right On Estelle!

    I have said in previous posts that 1/4% hike may have been more palatable to the rest of us IF the city could have showed us that they have made REAL cuts (a task that was clearly theirs when they were asking us to pay more out of our pockets). Instead they try to scare us and intimidate the more trusting souls that armagedon is upon us if we do not pass this tax hike.

    Nearly a week later and the city is still standing, police officers are still working and the lights are on.

    Yes, I am sure there is some hurting going on behind the scenes, but I ask, how hurt is everything and what will be done to alleviate it? This is a question that should have been answered with a solution long ago, instead of this weak attempt to dip into our pockets once again.

    Let’s see how San Mateo does with their 1/4% increase…I don’t think it will raise the revenue they anticipate, but if it does, let that be a lesson to the San Carlos City Hall…don’t be so greedy.

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  • Let’s not kid ourselves here — the people who voted against this would vote the exact same way if it was a 0.25% increase.

    Just look back at the comments on this site against Measure U — it’s all dogma. No new taxes, these guys make too much money, etc. None of these basic arguments against will change until San Carlos either employs less people or convinces the people who work here to accept less than market rates.

    At no point are the arguments against actually economically based — after all, how could it be? Would anyone rationally choose to incur additional gas and/or parking costs to go elsewhere for what amounts to an additional 50 cents per $100 spent?

    It doesn’t make sense…based on the opinions in here it’s abundantly clear that people have an issue with what local government officials make. And while that strikes me as an entirely reasonable topic of discussion, I think it’s critical to have the appropriate data and potential options so informed decisions can be made.

    Michael wants to see what happens in San Mateo…what he really should be asking is what happens here. Those that voted assuming the city clerk was just going to accept to work for 1/2 of market rates will be sorely disappointed when the cuts come from other quality of life service areas that may ultimately drive down property values or force payment for services a lot greater than the marginal cost of this tax.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t waste to cut..I’m sure there is. But I think people are expecting there’s some obvious $2.5 million line item in the budget called “waste” that can be easily identified and eliminated. It’s not that simple…efforts to cut waste will inevitably lead to either positions or services getting cut that collectively add value to our community. And it won’t take much for those incremental costs to outweigh the clearly defined incremental costs of Measure U.

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  • JJ, it seems you are thinking for the rest of us, at least me and Estelle. We have both said in print that we would have considered 1/4% raise in sales tax if the city had shown they had made significant cuts and were still coming up short. So to say it would have made no difference to us and the rest who may share our view is simply false.

    City employees salaries will not be cut in half; that’s just silly. So too is the fear of vital and necessary services being cut to balance the budget. I would hope that our city manager does not make reductions in a careless manner to make a point. I never implied that he was not worthy of his position nor have I said that he is incapable of managing the city. He has thus far not made the necessary and responsible cuts, so now that a tax hike is not a reality, perhaps he will do so.

    Rational and strategic cuts still have to be made and they will be made. There is no other alternative at this time.

    On a positive note, perhaps the San Mateans that don’t want to spend extra at their local Home Depot will spend their dollars at ours. The fact that a neighboring large city has a higher sales tax is now an opportunity for us.

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  • Michael-

    Here’s what poster “Michael” said on the previous “Measure U” post:

    “Just like the parcel tax it is not about the amount coming out of my pocket…it should not be coming out of my pocket.”

    I have no way of knowing if you’re the same Michael or not — if you aren’t, my apologies. If you are, that quote pretty clearly communicates your voting intentions on a 0.25% proposal.

    Regarding the flood of San Mateo customers who will be hitting our Home Depot, let’s do some quick math.
    If gas is $3.00 a gallon and your car gets 30 miles / gallon (generous assumptions), it’ll cost you $0.10 a mile to drive. The average round trip from San Mateo to San Carlos is 10 miles, resulting in a $1.00 in incremental gas costs. With a .25% discount in sales tax, you would have to buy a $400 item to break even, and that’s presuming you don’t value your time at all and would prefer to go to a more inconvenient location to do your shopping.

    The math just doesn’t add up. You have to start talking about big ticket items for the math to work, at which point other considerations (retail price, quality, selection, service etc.) are going to trump the sales tax issue. Again, this decision was not grounded in economic rationale of the impact of a 0.25% sales tax bump vs. a 0.50% sales tax bump. It was grounded in the dogma reflected in the “Michael” quote from the other forum, whether that’s you or not.

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  • Here’s some more dogma.
    JJ, the election is over, the people have spoken. Move on.

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  • Yes “jj” the people have spoken and that should be that. However “JJ”, I still think that the reasons this went down are as valuable as the fact that it did go down.

    Yes, I am the Michael that you quoted. But by saying that it shouldn’t be coming out of our pocket is not saying I will not allow it to come out of my pocket.

    I still don’t think this deficit should be paid by those of us that have been paying, in good faith, what we are asked to pay to keep our budget balanced. But I am also not irrational.

    As I said, IF the city could have shown they had done all they can to make reasonable cuts, we would have no other rational choice than to kick in to keep our city running smoothly. I and many others still think there is more fat to cut and until we are shown that has been done, those of us voting against measure U will still not support additional money out of our pockets.

    I did not move here because of hometown days, the farmers market, the youth center, et al. They may add flavor and “value” to San Carlos, but I think they are not attracting people here in droves; we all chose San Carlos for different reasons.

    Look at Atherton and Hillsborough…what, other than their location and large homes do they, as a community, offer to their residents? Arguing that we need all of these events and programs to continue attracting people and supporting our property values is nebulous at best. I have discovered things as the months and years go by…I did not have a punch list before moving here of things to keep me entertained.

    The phone surveys that were made beforehand to manipulate the constuction of this measure so that it had the best chance of passing were clearly flawed or they did not survey a good sample of voters.

    People in sales at least will understand that a well-planned and supported presentation will result in a successful result. Politicians are inherently salespeople…but are they good salespeople? That remains to be seen.

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  • “jj”-

    I don’t see the harm of people wanting to discuss and debrief an election result the week after the vote. If that offends your sense of propriety surely there must be another discussion elsewhere on the web you can follow.

    Regarding your comment “the people have spoken”, I think part of the problem in this state is that too often the people have spoken without understanding what it is they are speaking about. There is a point where Michael and I agree — look no further than the voters to understand why we have such high taxes in this state and such a fiscal crisis that results in the State taking money from cities and cities trying any revenue measures they can pass.

    It’s the voters who passed Prop 13 and a series of propositions that mandated spending in this state. The result is that it’s nearly impossible for the state to both live within its means and deliver the services it should be — voters unwittingly limited property tax revenue while requiring a series of expenses.

    I’m sure that wasn’t the intent at the time. But that’s precisely why it’s so critical to have this dialogue beyond the couple week build-up before elections — voters are dictating the financial health of our communities without fully understanding the true costs and benefits.

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  • You know I have to ask the question regarding real estate that the city owns and can potentially sell, namely Chilton Park. This area borders Sequia Court and bay View Drive. I recall something coming up about this a year or so ago and it went away quietly.

    If you look on Zillow, the “park” (and I use the term loosely since it is a small hillside that is unlit and not landscaped and offers no real park benefit other than walking a dog or a gathering place for kids drinking and smoking) it shows that it is divided into 7 parcels. It completes Sequoia Court with r culdesac lots and adds 2 additional lots to Bay View Drive.

    My guess is those lots could easily bring $700-$800,000 EACH.

    Why do we need to hold onto them when they can be sold and more than solve the current deficit situation, PLUS generate much needed property tax revenue??

    I think the only true opponents would be the residents on Sequoia Court.

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  • Repeatedly dismissing U opponents’ arguments as “dogma” and arrogantly claiming that these voters are ignorant of the issue does not stike me as a desire to “discuss and debrief an election result.”

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