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Richmond votes yes on sales tax measure; California votes yes on sentencing reforms

on November 5, 2014

Measure U, the ballot item to increase the retail sales taxes to 9.5%, passed yesterday with 53.7% of the vote.

46.3% of Richmond residents voted no, leading to a clear win.

Results are still unofficial, as some remaining votes are being counted.

Measure U was touted as providing revenue to pay for general public services such as streets paving, public safety, health and youth programs.

“I think a sales tax is a fair tax because everyone pays for it,” said Ed Martinez, a newly elected City Council member who says he voted yes on the measure.

Community response to Measure U was lackluster leading up to the election, with many public information sessions drawing low numbers of participants.

But many powerful Richmond officials backed it, including City Manager Bill Lindsay.

Another key ballot item, Proposition 47, also passed. The statewide proposition to reduce six types of felony crimes to misdemeanors was approved Tuesday with 65% of voters in favor.

“Prop 47,” as it is called, will downgrade drug possession, grand theft, shoplifting, check forgery, receiving stolen property and writing bad checks to misdemeanors, and is expected to reduce the number of inmates in overcrowded California prisons.

In Richmond, groups favoring Prop 47 were supported by community organizations such as The Safe Return Project, a local organization that assists the formerly incarcerated in returning to work and communities, and by the California Endowment, a statewide philanthropic foundation that led a “Schools not Prisons” campaign.

“People of color are the ones who tend to get the more severe penalties of a felony,” Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles said. “It’s about time we stop investing in prisons and start investing in people.”

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