Why “Measure S” in San Carlos is not a slam-dunk…
October 28, 2008
I try to avoid political commentary on this blog, simply because there are already hundreds of political blogs out there that cover the popular political topics quite sufficiently, and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a political expert. But here I am chiming in on Measure S, aka the “San Carlos School District Excellence in Education Act of 2008,” but not because of the merits or deficiencies of the Measure. I wanted to highlight some unique challenges I think this Measure will face come Election Day.
Between the direct mail pieces, door hangers, and their Yes On S website, the supporters of Measure S have done a marvelous job getting the word out to the public. If there is any organized opposition to this measure, I sure haven't seen it. So with such a worthy cause at stake, and with so many people backing it, it should be a “slam-dunk” come Election Day, right? After all, it's only about $7 more per month than we're already paying for Measure D (the previous school funding measure.)
Not so fast…
When I first read the outline of Measure S, I was struck by its similarity to another recent ballot measure that looked like a slam-dunk, but ultimately just got slammed: The San Carlos Fire Parcel Assessment of 2006. If you recall, homeowners were asked to pony up an additional $99/year to avoid layoffs, equipment reductions, and possibly station shutdowns. Considering that the Fire Department is the first responder to virtually ALL medical emergencies, this seemed like a no-brainer. Whether you're young or old, having a fully-staffed station with a paramedic on call just around the corner is definitely peace of mind. But this Measure failed miserably just two years ago, and the similarities between this Measure and Measure S are too many to ignore.
The lessons learned from the failure of the Fire Parcel Tax should serve as the 3 biggest challenges facing Measure S:
- The Economy. We're in far worse shape today than we were two years ago when the Fire Parcel Tax was decided. Even though it's “only” $75 per year (or $7/month) more than the $109 that homeowners are currently paying annually under Measure D, the idea of increased taxation is a tough sell when many are struggling to get by. Short-term fear often clouds long-term rationality.
- Not everyone in San Carlos has school-age children. Unlike the Fire Parcel where everyone is impacted by reduced fire service, Measure S is far more important to those families with school age children, which is still very much a minority of the population in San Carlos. The Measure is includes a “Senior Citizen Exemption” which was a very smart thing to do, but the success of this Measure lies in getting the YES vote from those families who aren't involved in the public school system.
- 2/3 Majority Required. Although I think this election will see record turn-out, voter apathy will be an enemy for this Measure. People will typically take the time to vote when they are either a) passionately for, or b) passionately against something on the ballot. This isn't a “don't care” Measure — if people don't want to pay the additional $75/year, you can bet they'll vote against it. Getting a simple 50% majority is tough enough — corralling the required 2/3 will be a big challenge.
For the record, we have 3 children in the public school system here, and I firmly believe the additional funding that has been provided to the schools has made a tangible and positive impact on their education. I am also a board member of the Sequoia High School Education Foundation, so I know how first-hand how much our schools rely on additional public funding.
So for the first time in many years, I believe this will be an election where EVERY vote counts, regardless of whether it's for Measure S or the Presidential nomination. Consequently, it's vital to avoid the “Chris Daughtry Syndrome,” for those of you who watch American Idol. This guy was easily the top talent of his respective season, but his voting fans got complacent since they figured victory was “in the bag.” Needless to say, he didn't even make the finals. A lame analogy? Not really — stats show that more people vote in American Idol than will vote in a presidential election.
So this year whatever your cause happens to be, GET OUT AND VOTE!!!! And now, I'm putting the soap-box away….