Richmond to spend $15,000 on information campaign for sales tax hike
on September 24, 2014
The Richmond City Council on Tuesday authorized City Manager Bill Lindsay to spend up to $15,000 on mailing information to Richmond voters about Measure U, the half-cent sales tax measure voters will decide in November.
The council voted 6-1 to authorize the information campaign. Councilman Corky Booze dissented and said he would campaign against the tax.
If Measure U passes, it will hike Richmond’s sales tax from 9 percent to 9.5 percent, among the highest in the Bay Area, and generate an estimated $7.5 million in its first year. City leaders say they need the new tax to fix the city’s craggy streets, and fund other city services such as public safety, health and wellness and youth programs. A city report earlier this year revealed that many of the city’s streets are in poor condition, and the city’s ongoing fiscal deficit means the problem will probably get worse without a new funding stream.
City leaders say the tax is vital, and want to get the jump on explaining the issue to voters.
“It’s an early investment to get to public the information they need,” Councilman Jim Rogers said of the mailing campaign. “The thing is about (local television station) KCRT, and this meeting and public meetings, that’s all great, but the reality is they impact a very small number of people.”
The city will send out three mailers to voters before Nov. 4, with the first coming as early as next week, Lindsay said. Flyers and postcards will be printed in the city’s own copy center. The $15,000 will cover postage costs.
“I think the first one will be about the general nature of the tax and the tax burden, how much it costs the average resident,” Lindsay said. “Second one would be about the street maintenance and about how we can get more money into street maintenance. And the third one will be about recreation programs, youth development and library programs.”
Booze said the new tax will make the city less business-friendly, would likely be used to subsidize the city’s budget deficit and has no sunset clause.
City Attorney Bruce Reed Goodmiller wrote in an email that it is legal to use tax dollars to inform the public about an upcoming ballot measure.
“Public resources may be used in connection with a city-sponsored ballot measure for informational purposes, just not for advocacy,” Goodmiller wrote.
Lindsay assured that the city will not cross the line from impartial information to advocacy.
“We will review the flyers we prepare with the city attorney’s office before they are mailed out,” Lindsay said. City Council members will also review the flyer drafts and provide comments, he said.
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