That half-cent transpo sales-tax increase still rising like stink off a dairy lagoon

Submitted: Mar 30, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

  “Our situation here shows how important infrastructure investment is to economic development,” said Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced. He said the effort to complete the expressway must continue. -- Thaddeus Miller, March 3, 2016, Merced Sun-Star

 

A basic standard for professional newswriting and editing is that everything in the story make some kind of minimal sense. This standard used to be applied also to the obligatory quote from the appropriate bigshot. These requirements of the professional newsstory have been known to clash. When they do, they create a momentary blank spot in the minds of readers as they try to follow a narrative of public events.

Consider the quote above from state Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, a current placeholder in the local Zombie Democratic Party apparatus.

 

Before we blame the reporter for including nonsense, we must consider that he was probably commanded to bring back a quote or, worse, the habit of the Bigshot-quote-at-all-costs is the result of educational deformities in journalism school.

It was an unfortunate lapse in journalistic judgment, but one that easily could have been remedied by a brief interpretation of the word "situation."

Part 1 of such an interpretation would concern unemployment. Even using the inadequate official unemployment numbers, Merced County joblessness moves from 10 to 20 percent depending on the season. This is twice the national rate, i.e. Merced's current official rate of unemployment is 12.6 percent while the national official rate is 4.9 percent.

Part 2 might example the actual project contemplated at the example of the great success of the Atwater-Merced Expressway, Ferrari Ranch. This is the conversion of an orchard into "a 3 million-square-foot development that would include retail stores, restaurants, a movie theater, hotel and medical center." In other words an employment hub for retail salespeople, restaurant workers, ticket takers, hotel employees, and medical technicians. The bulk of those jobs are paid at or near minimum wages (plus taxable tips, of course). There may be a few doctors, nurses and physician assistants and business managers drawing middle-class salaries. 

We wouldn't want to forget construction contractors and workers, even if we should have well learned about the bubble economy resulting from the theory that construction is the only form of growth recognized in the state of California.

The core of the "situation" will be the rising price of farmland slated for development along the expressway route. This will not benefit a great many people.

Another aspect of the "situation" is that the elected officials are again asking for a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation spending.

Does this regressive tax that cuts deeper the poorer the taxpayer sufficiently benefit "our situation" to justify itself? This will be the elected officials' fourth attempt to get this "transportation tax" through. This time one of their rationales is UC Merced.

UC Merced has a goal to reach 10,000 students by 2020, and could expand beyond that, so regional leaders are looking to alleviate traffic that could build on that stretch of freeway. -Sun-Star, March 3, 2016

But UC was supposed to mitigate for the traffic it generated.1.

“In the CEQA process for the campus …local jurisdictions indentified approximately $200 million in improvements to local roads, parks and schools that they claimed would be made necessary by the new campus development, and argued that UC was obligated to pay for those improvements under CEQA...-- Badlands Journal, Nov. 7, 2005.

 

So, after a little bit of interpretation, it appears once again that "Our situation" was best described by former state Sen. Pro Tem John Burton, D-SF, as the largest "boondoggle" he'd seen, and by veteran Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters as "nothing but a land deal."  

The stink  -- cultural equivalent of methane from cow manure -- is still rising.

-- blj

3-25-16

Merced Sun-Star

Atwater-Merced Expressway’s first phase complete

$66 million project is first step in multiphase plan

Elected officials touted it as way to improve local economy

Officials also pushing half-cent sales tax to make Merced County a “self-help county”

Thaddeus Miller  

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/local/community/atwater/article68363432.html

Elected officials could have borrowed the catchphrase from the popular 1989 film “Field of Dreams” for Friday’s Atwater-Merced Expressway dedication ceremony, with a slight modification: “If you build it, (dollars) will come.”

Friday’s ceremony marked the completion of the $66 million first phase of the project, north of Merced, as a step toward economic improvements in Merced County, where several more phases are planned.

“Our situation here shows how important infrastructure investment is to economic development,” said Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced. He said the effort to complete the expressway must continue.

The latest part of the project replaced the Buhach Road interchange on Highway 99 and is expected eventually to improve travel between the Castle Commerce Center and UC Merced.

To further those and other transportation efforts, county officials are campaigning to get voters to approve a half-cent sales tax in November. Along with fixing local roads, the tax would give the county a pool of money that could help pull in federal dollars, its supporters have said.

Atwater Mayor Jim Price said the completion of the first phase of the expressway should help the city with its plans for Ferrari Ranch, a 3 million-square-foot development that would include retail stores, restaurants, a movie theater, hotel and medical center.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Merced County Supervisors Daron McDaniel, Diedre Kelsey and Hub Walsh talked about the importance of investing in infrastructure to improve the county’s economic outlook.

The $336 million expressway will eventually connect from Bellevue Road over Highway 99 to Highway 140, officials said. The project will run to Highway 59 and UC Merced, and will widen a section of Highway 99 to six lanes.

The money for the first phase came from a number of sources, including about $7.5 million from the Merced County Association of Governments’ Regional Transportation Impact Fee program. Another $11.9 million came from State Transportation Improvement Program funds. The remaining $46.5 million was funded by leftover bond money from Proposition 1B, a statewide transportation bond approved by voters in 2006.

Highway 99 is important to the regional and state economies, according to Samuel Jordan, deputy district director of program and project management for the state Department of Transportation. He said trucks on the highway in this region carry 2 billion tons of products a year to their destinations.

He also said the highway, which carried 4,000 cars a day in 2009, now supports 57,000 a day. The dramatic spike in traffic is largely attributed to road improvements.

Eventually, the network of roads will carry drivers around Merced, avoiding the stretch of Highway 99 that splits the city. UC Merced has a goal to reach 10,000 students by 2020, and could expand beyond that, so regional leaders are looking to alleviate traffic that could build on that stretch of freeway.

Campus Parkway, which is considered a high priority in the city of Merced, also plays into the plans. In the works for more than 15 years, Merced’s planned four-lane expressway has been billed as vital to UC Merced’s success, as well as a boon for business in town.

Merced Mayor Stan Thurston said the expressway and parkway will probably need the help of the half-cent sales tax to come to fruition.

“Without it, I don’t know if we’ll ever have success linking these two together,” he said.  

Notes:

(1)  11-7-05

Badlands Journal

UC Bobcatflak Special on Measure G

And now, folks, the UC Merced "professional economist" bobcatflak on Measure G.

It's clear we have a desperate state institution just north of Merced, its fraudulent mitigation strategy ($15 million in public funds) in tatters for lack of proper permits and incompetently or corruptly written easements. UC Merced is a political railroad running off its tracks, now reduced to seeking the legitimacy only a glittering new expressway, UC Merced Parkway, to its campus (wherever it ends up) might provide. The Parkway will be at once a visible status symbol of UC political clout and also give faculty, staff and students easier access to the highway leading to Fresno malls. The Parkway is the top priority expenditure for Measure G.

Therefore, on Election Day, UC deployed one of its faculty, a "professional economist" who opined that the Merced Sun-Star editorial policy is just dandy, to argue that Measure G is "voter driven." Only a UC Merced professional economist who claims to study the relationship between growth and politics could possibly be that stupid if, of course, the economist didn't just sign off on a letter composed by UC Merced Bobcatflak Central. This organ of tax-paid propaganda insists on believing that the general public is as dumb as a bunch of UC professors.

As for the Sun-Star, it was long ago correctly identified in these pages as the "UC Merced Daily Bobcat." It is a deeply corrupt newspaper and you should read it with great care and curiosity on any public issue. That care will be rewarded because, without any great analytical strain, you quickly will be able to discern what special interest the Sun-Star is representing in its editorials on any given day. Sun-Star editorial policy reminds the careful reader of a red snooker ball lost in the middle of a game in which all the players are real drunk. In this case, the intoxicant is money and the energy is pure greed. If the public is not careful, it will end up in the corner pocket.

It is truly marvelous how the "professional economist" invokes the Great Depression for his argument. How elegant, how learned! By pure happenstance, a blameless scholar's particular academic interest coincides with the political reality in the neighboring "town," and the "gown" reaches down to offer guidance. Yet, it makes sense in a way. For the first time since the Depression, Americans are spending more than they save or make.

Secondly, there is the Parkway itself, so like typical Third World raod projects that extend grandly beyond the urban centers ... to nowhere. A university is not made by roads or by simpering hacks like this "professional economist."

"A university," as a refugee from Argentina once said, "is easy to destroy but very hard to build."

The community ought to be outraged at this blatant attempt by academic authority to meddle in local politics. Universities are made, slowly, by teaching and research, not as this atrocious boondoggle land deal has been fabricated, by political railroad. The Merced public knows much more about the graft behind this development project known as UC Merced than this insoucant academic seems to know.

In a flyer inserted in the Sun-Star Monday, a grassroots group quoted a letter from UC General Counsel James Holst, to the state Supreme Court, in support of the argument that state agencies should be exempt from traffic, police and fire impacts to communities beyond their property boundaries.

“In the CEQA process for the campus …local jurisdictions indentified approximately $200 million in improvements to local roads, parks and schools that they claimed would be made necessary by the new campus development, and argued that UC was obligated to pay for those improvements under CEQA. UC rejected those demands … in light of its exemption under the California Constitution.” (UC General Counsel James Holst amicus letter to California Supreme Court re. City of Marina et al, Sept. 12, 2003)

The state Supreme Court disagreed with UC.

The Sun-Star insisted the little flyer, on a piece of yellow typing paper, include a statement that it was "paid political advertising." Check your pro-Measure G material -- we are sure you have some lying around you haven't yet thrown out -- and see if you can find any statements on it that it is "paid political advertising." It is just one more in a long list of cheating that surrounds the Measure G campaign.

To repeat: the Merced public knows a lot more about political graft than our PhD author knows.

Join us in the Great Measure G Guessing Game. The reader who comes closest to guessing the amount of money contributed to the Measure G campaign will win fleeting fame for being a better political economist than the UC hack whose propaganda appears below. The range for guessing should be somewhere between the half-million now reported, and whatever developers threw at the end (not reported until after the election) to produce yet more campaign material -- all gloss and no substance.

Vote NO on Measure G
-----------------------------

Nov. 11, 2006
Merced Sun-Star

http://www.mercedsun-star.com/opinion/story/12981553p-13632563c.html
Letters to the editor:
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12981553p-13632563c.html
We can help ourselves.
..SHAWN KANTOR, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, UC Merced...1st letter...As a professional economist who conducts research on how politics affects economic growth, I must admit to being fairly skeptical of politicians' claims that higher taxes are the answer to our fiscal challenges. Yet, in spite of this inherent skepticism, I strongly support Measure G...without becoming a so-called "self-help" county, we will not be eligible for matching state and federal money to improve our local infrastructure...also find appealing about Measure G is that it is voter driven. I was grateful to read Joe Kieta's Nov. 4 opinion column chiding Cathleen Galgiani and Jeff Denham for their categorical opposition to Measure G simply because it represents a tax increase. What makes Measures G, C (in Fresno), T (in Madera), K (in Stanislaus), and K (in San Joaquin) different is that they are citizen-initiated taxes, not taxes imposed on us against our will. Mr. Kieta has it exactly right, "Jeff Denham and Cathleen Galgiani need to start telling us the truth." Without becoming a self-help county and, thus, raising local funds, forget about trying to beat out the heavily populated areas of the state that have already elected to be "self-help." State and federal transportation money will continue to go there, not Merced County, if we fail to pass Measure G. I hope Merced County voters realize this simple reality and vote "yes" on Measure G and cast a vote in favor of the prosperous economic future of our county.

 

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