Measure A Tax Increase Divides Conservatives, Liberals Alike
The debate over San Diego's measure a will a small boost in the sales tax relieve traffic congestion? A focus on the state proposition that would and restrictions on bilingual education in California. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh it is Thursday, October 6. It is a hot autumn afternoon when I meet City Councilman Todd Gloria was one of the politicians rooting for measure a. Sales tax on the November ballot. Was crafted by the San Diego Association of government which plans transportation across the county. It is the product of over two years of public discussion and attempts to address some of the biggest issues that were raised in the conversations. The poor condition of our roads and highways and the desire for more transportation choices beyond the cars and it is a desire to open space for future generations. Measure A is expected to raise some $18 billion over 40 years. The largest share of that money, about 42%, would go to public transit things like bus lines, more frequent buses and trolleys and a new trolley line from San Ysidro to Kearny Mesa. The next biggest share 24 % goes to local infrastructure. Cities could use that money for a number of things, including potholes, repair sidewalks, bike lanes or maintain beaches. The third largest share at 14% goes to highways. Mix of carpool lanes, general purpose lanes and freeway connectors. Measure a is compromise. It is Republicans that support tax increases. Democrats who are willing to say we will agree to finance some freeway expansion in order to get a massive increase in public transit for our community. Measure a is supported by unions representing carpenters and firefighters. The County taxpayers Association and a number of elected officials. It is opposed by both the Republican and Democratic parties of San Diego County. The electrical workers union and several other progressive and environmental organizations. They should not increase the sales tax for all proposal that does not do anything to really help. David Alvarez represents San Diego. He opposes measure a in part because it does not do enough to advance public transit. There is money for transit in this measure but it is not how much money is there. What this measure does his increases freeway capacity where we get more cars, which means more pollution. I met Alvarez and Barile Logan one of the first projects they would fund is Interstate 5 from the edge of this neighborhood to San Ysidro. Alvarez said people that live in those communities are more likely to use public transit and they suffer disproportionately from living close to freeways. Communities are not just exclusive to Barile Logan they suffer from respiratory issues because of pollution. This initiative was a measure proposes to continue to bring more cars to a lot of those communities that already suffer. He points out that adding lanes to freeways does not relieve conjunction in the long-term. Research shows freeway widening's encourage more people to drive. Pulls showed that freeway funding and local infrastructure repair are among the measures most popular components and it has to win approval from two thirds of voters across the county to become law. Laurier says measure a is not for political people. If it is someone that's tired being late to get to your desk at time -- in time this is your measure. The transportation needs and political meanings are just two diverse for countywide vote. He says if Measure A fails he wants to explore a more localized tax measure that could be better tailored to individual communities. Joining me now in support of measure a is Todd Gloria. Nicole Capretz is founder and Executive Director of the climate action campaign and she is a supporter of no on measure a. In the report we just heard you say if you're tired about being late to work or having to get up earlier, this is the measure for you. But measure a will not reduce current commute times. They say things to really future commute times. Is this measure being sold under false pretenses? We are trying to address challenges that we have today and anticipating in the years ahead because a population. So for folks more sitting in traffic the situation will only get worse if you're not able to find additional resources to address our infrastructure challenges. It is not just about establishing freeway improvement projects but giving commuters choice. They would take public transit. Those are not feasible options because the buses and trolleys don't run in their community or don't come frequently enough. Measure a anticipating trying to address all of those needs in a countywide perspective. Nicole, we heard that David Alvarez is concerned is that its affect on South Bay Freeway density and pollution. What is your main concern? Weast -- we share that concern for sure. I'm part of the coalition and many committee based organizations and departmental organizations. We are very concerned that we are not significantly addressing climate change. Here we have this threat of catastrophic change and unfortunately this measure does not disclose to detecting our future and children's pitcher. Sobel some of the freeway construction happen anyway even if measure a doesn't pass because of the Caltrans funds? That is exactly right. Measure a is about leveraging funds and an environment where they are not providing the funding levels that we need, we have to leverage funds and you guys covered a great story that they were extending the trolley and it is a two billion-dollar project. $1 billion of the is local funds match with federal funds. More transit projects will not necessarily be feasible if you cannot compete. Your listeners need to know that it doesn't counties have measures like ours on the ballot this fall because they know that is not just about local funding but the loss of competitive state and federal funds and going back to your point yes, there are funds that will cover freeway projects but my concern is that the climatologist are real and to not take action now is extremely problematic. The folks on the no side are advocating for doing nothing at this time it towards the urgency that I feel. With the measured South Prairie a number of key projects in the first 15 years we are trying to UP responsive and acknowledge some real needs are here today. Voting know that we can't do anything more for lease four years and that would use critical time that we need. Nicole, looking just at the language in measure a, people might be confused as to why environmentalists are opposed to a measure that does allocate a significant amount of funds towards public transit. It is not about the amount of funding that is allocated it is about the outcomes. The outcome is that will still have a patchwork of transit neck work that will not allow people to get out of the car if they want to get to work. That is a fundamental flaw in our opinion. It is still of Freemason to measure. It is really a status quo this is as usual 1960s era plan. This age of climate chaos and where we are doing everything possible to give people options is not enough to say we can move the needle like an inch. We need to move the needle a mile and for us it is worth the wait to make sure we do it correctly. Of where locking ourselves into a four-year tax we want to make sure that we are creating a meaningful network of transit and communities. We heard how the funds will be allocated. Is in it up to the communities to use that money to reduce the dependence on cars? It is a combination. Just like Gloria said you do have to leverage resources so there will be some funds that will come into the local governments but there is no accountability or how the money spent and notability for us and that is one of our main concerns . This is an institution that no one ever knows exists. No one participates in a public process or understands what kind of transportation system we have are white it's always been a freeway centered plan. If you ask anyone in San Diego nobody would say yes. That is a function of this agency that has run amok on its own just continuing in freeway development. We are seeing wait a minute when you change focus. It is not enough to just give local governments money that have no accountability they don't have to spend anything on public transit or walkable communities. They can spend all their local if a structure dollars on expanding and setting roadways and that is not comfortable. They made the point about the fact that there was a certain amount of compromise that was needed to get this measure passed by Sandag. I'm wondering if you and the people that oppose measure a are not filtering the fact of working out a compromise like this in order to get the kind of money that you need to at least fund some of your goals. Are you trying to get too much? Where different point time where incrementalism is not enough. The compromise that was reached does it take us were need to go or move us forward. We are continuing on the suicide path where we have catastrophic climate change looming and we are building freeways. That doesn't Saint versus a whole paradigm shift the public transportation. We would potentially been okay with local governments getting additional funding but there is no requirements accountability for how this that money. Maybe if a Council member will wait then I will feel confident. He's leaving. There is 18 cities of. We don't have the opportunity to be the watchdog. So from our point of view there is a failure of imagination coming into play here and that we need to stop and slow down and come back to the table into the right thing. I want to ask you both quickly if you would a final question. That is let me start with you, Nicole, you both worked for the action plan how is it that you are in opposite sides of this issue. What does that tell the voters about measure a? It tells voters that there is not consent. He said I just don't think we've had enough meetings of the minds. We need to do better. Of archly we did release a report last year that demonstrated that actually this measure will not get is even close to hitting the climate plan goals. It does not give us enough resources. You are in opposite sides of this issue and you work together to craft the climate action plan, what does that tell voters aboutIt would be under the most extreme circumstances that would part ways with my for Nicole because I do work closely with her and agree with her largely. In this case I don't think that there is a better solution out there. I think this does provide a pathway to make improvements that we need in this community. If you're on the end of the political extreme, you probably won't like this. We have some by mental people from the other side but the listeners I think are in the middle of the political spectrum. They wanted to work and they want the Roach repairs -- road repairs. We have created a plan that matches of what the public has asked of us. I believe a majority of voters will support the measure. I'm working hard I because I want to make sure that there is a funding source that can help us implement the action plan. I think this is a measure. Two I have been speaking with Todd Gloria and Nicole Capretz . Thank you both. Thank you.
Measure A is among the most hotly debated items on the November ballot. The countywide half-cent sales tax increase was crafted over the course of more than two years by the San Diego Association of Governments, the county's transportation planning organization.
The tax increase would fund a range of transportation, infrastructure and open space projects. But while most elected officials and interest groups agree San Diego County should invest more in those areas, neither liberals nor conservatives can agree on whether Measure A is the answer.
The measure is expected to raise about $18.2 billion over its lifespan of 40 years. The largest share of that money — about 42 percent — would go to public transit: new rapid bus lines, more frequent buses and trolleys and the construction of a new "Purple Line" trolley from San Ysidro to Kearny Mesa.
The second largest share — 24 percent — would go to local infrastructure. Cities could use that money for a number of things, including road repair, sidewalks, bike lanes or beach maintenance. The third largest share — 14 percent — would fund highway projects: a mix of carpool lanes, general purpose lanes and freeway connectors.
San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria is among Measure A's biggest supporters. He said it was the result of compromise.
"That is, Republicans who are supporting tax increases, even when it's politically not something they're supposed to do," Gloria said. "Or Democrats who are willing to say, 'You know what, we will agree to finance some freeway expansion in order to get a massive increase in public transit for our community.'"
Joining Gloria in support of Measure A are unions representing carpenters, laborers and firefighters, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and a group of elected officials, both Republican and Democrat.
Opposition to Measure A includes the Republican and Democratic parties of San Diego County, the electrical workers' union and several other progressive and environmental organizations.
San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, who opposes Measure A, acknowledged the greater share of transit funding in Measure A. But he said his opposition to the measure wasn't based on the share of dollars for public transit.
One of the first projects Measure A would fund is an expansion of Interstate 5 from the edge of Barrio Logan, in Alvarez's district, through National City and Chula Vista, ending in San Ysidro. Alvarez said increasing the freeway capacity there would worsen pollution.
"Communities like Barrio Logan, but not just exclusive to Barrio Logan, suffer from respiratory illnesses because of the pollution, the emissions from freeways that are right in middle of these communities," he said. "And this initiative ... proposes to continue to bring more cars to a lot of those communities that already suffer from that."
Alvarez also pointed to research that shows adding lanes to freeways doesn't actually relieve congestion in the long term. Instead it just encourages more people to drive on them.
But polling commissioned by SANDAG suggests freeway funding and local infrastructure repair are among the most popular components of Measure A. Support for the overall measure appeared to be barely within reach of the two-thirds majority it would need to become law.
If Measure A fails, politicians and organizations from both sides of the political spectrum are likely to claim victory. Alvarez said he would then like to explore a more localized tax measure that could better suit the transportation needs and desires of individual communities.