The desperation of MCAG
Last week the Merced County Association of Governments decided to put Measure A, the transportation sales tax defeated in June, back on the ballot in November, despite a poll that indicated it might not do any better then than it did either in June or in 2002. The MCAG, composed of all five supervisors and one elected official for each of the six incorporated cities in the county, in their judgment overrode the poll results, declaring that the November election will draw more voters than the primary did. The Merced Sun-Star opined without attribution that:
Only 24 percent of registered voters in the county -- about 22,500 people -- showed up to the polls, partly because of lackluster statewide issues and little competition among county races.
A much more attractive November ballot that includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters.
Evidently this is the received political wisdom on the upcoming General Election.
Might one suggest an alternative analysis?
Billion-dollar infrastructure bonds might get a few Mercedians out to vote against them, which does not on the surface, seem to favor a local half-cent sales tax increase.
The governor's race, featuring the Hun against the Developer's Democrat, Angelo's Boy in the Capitol, is shaping up to be a real ho-hummer of a race.
Locally, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is running unopposed. Kathleen Galgiani, chief of staff of retiring state Assemblywoman, Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy, appears to have wired her succession to her boss's seat several years ago. The state Senate race, between incumbent Jeff Denham, Knucklehead-Salinas, and Wiley Nickel, Water Plutocrat-Merced, seems to turn on the fascinating political question of who can accurately define an exchange contract.
One can see long lines in front of polling places, stretching into the frosty night this November. The campaigns are so intense we cannot even see paid voter registrars chasing old ladies to their cars, begging for their signatures, whether they are registered to vote or not. Perhaps they are moving too fast for the human eye.
What could be called strength of leadership, if only by scribes paid to write it, from a charitable point of view could be called stubbornness. In fact, it is suspected resubmitting this measure to the voters in November is an act of sheer political desperation, and perhaps an unintended referendum on how much voters like leaders in the pockets of developers, UC, WalMart and the Riverside Motorsports Park -- the only real beneficiaries of this measure.
MCAG has a huge reputation problem on its hands, stemming from our newly acquired exalted political position after having won the Valley-wide sweepstakes for the San Joaquin Valley UC campus.
In the squalid fashion of UC flak, top bobcatflakster Larry Salinas told the Merced City Council last week that UC Merced was the only UC campus in the Central Valley. And here we thought there was a highway, I-80, that passed along the border between the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, not far from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, through a college town called Davis, said to have been the site of a UC campus for nearly a century.
MCAG has been designated by the Hun administration in Sacramento to lead an eight-county San Joaquin Valley program, including eight councils of government working with Modesto-based Great Valley Center, to create a blueprint for growth to override the niceties of public process and state and federal environmental laws and regulations. These transportation COGS and CAGS are political institutions of nebulous land-use authority, which have banded together as the public in their counties have grown politically restive and are more actively resisting at the city and county government level the developer-driven slurbocracy the most immediate consequences of which are rapidly deteriorating air quality as well as other impediments to a decent quality of life.
Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which includes among other jurisdictions, Yolo County, where some say there is another UC campus, is the model for all this fine regional planning to avoid the niceties of law and regulation. Sacramento and nearby Placer counties have vied with Bakersfield for years for the worst air quality north of Los Angeles, and now they are winning the prize. Following these institutions will help you, your children or your parents' chances of being a candidates for a UC Merced study in respiratory disease once it gets that new medical school started.
If the Merced Board of Supervisors and city governments cannot con thier own citizens into voting a half-cent raise in sales tax to create a matching fund to attract Federal Highway Administration funds to build roads, how can they lead the other COGs and CAGs into a dimming, asthmatic future of slurb. If they cannot even con their own voters into making an abundant contribution to local greenhouse gases that will affect the Sierra snow pack, how can they lead other CAGs and COGs in the pockets of CalDevelopment, Inc., our real rulers, into this absurdly unhealthy future?
Oh, well, there are always the county’s new electronic voting machines, if all else fails.
Perhaps, Merced voters can send a message to the Federal Highway Administration that they do not want millions spent on widening Highway 99 so that WalMart can more easily get its 900 diesel trucks a day in and out of its proposed distribution center at the Mission Interchange. Perhaps, Merced voters can inform the FHWA that they are not interested in funding that interchange to provide one blue-and-yellow brick road to UC Merced. Perhaps, the Merced voters can explain to the FHWA that they are also disinterested in funding another blue-and-yellow brick road from Atwater to UC Merced, one which passes by property acquired in 2004 from an inmate of Sandy Mush County Jail by the sheriff who was incarcerating him, the DA who was prosecuting him, their good friend, the president of Ranchwood Homes, and several other prominent local investors.
All new roads and widened highways in Merced mean is more air pollution and more growth. Obviously, for example, a widened Highway 99 would make it more convenient for millions of stock-car racing fans to come to the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park in Atwater, and they would bring their ozone with them and leave it here.
Perhaps, people in Merced are smart enough to understand this and have begun to get irritated that their leaders are so willing to sell them out to any developer with another air-polluting, traffic-increasing, country-destroying project, and are growing more irritated by the day by their leaders ongoing insult to the voters' intelligence.
Yes, we do realize that something like 30 percent of our air pollution is blown over the hill to us from the Bay Area. But, it does not outrage us that we cannot become Fremont. We do have one of the more important agricultural economies in the world. Perhaps we need to work on that a little more than working on becoming the next great slurbocracy in California. And if we find that our elected officials want Growth Above All, maybe we need new elected officials, because this gang is not working for the best interests of its own public.
June 5, 2006
URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT
A flyer against the Merced County Transportation Tax Measure A appeared in the Merced Sun-Star Monday morning. We have included it below and attached it to this message.
We urge you to read and share these flyers with Merced County residents before the Primary Election on Tuesday, June 6.
We should not use a sales tax to raise money for transportation funds to benefit special interests because a sales tax has an unfair impact on lower-income residents. (1) Merced County ranks fifth from the bottom of California’s 58 counties in per capita income. (2)
Sincerely, Central Valley Safe Environment Network
VOTE NO on Measure A Tax
MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!
REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!
In 2002, the Citizens of Merced County VOTED DOWN the Measure M road-improvement tax. Merced County and its cities went right on approving thousands of new homes. This RECKLESS action is destroying hundreds of miles of our existing streets and roads because new development just doesn’t pay for itself.
Facts vs Claims on Measure A Tax
Measure A Claim: "We can be sure one thing won't go to Sacramento ... Every single dime of Measure A funds will stay right here in Merced County"
Fact: The Major funder behind Measure A is the California Alliance for Jobs, a consortium of statewide highway construction contractors and unions. We can be sure this additional sales tax will go here, there, and everywhere, including Sacramento.
Measure A Claim: "The state and federal governments cannot take one dime of Measure A funds"
Fact: Measure A is a matching fund gimmick to attract more than a billion dollars in state and federal highway funds that may arrive and be spent as state and federal government agencies decide. Your potholes are not on their lists. This is a make work scheme for statewide contractors and out- of- town union members.
Measure A Claim: "We're not betting the farm"
Fact: Measure A is certainly betting Merced County farms will be absorbed by urban growth. Even the Measure A “farm picture” appears to be out-of-state. Minnesota, perhaps?
Fact: Fresno County has had a transportation sales tax in place since 1986. Since that time, entire farming districts in Fresno County have been swallowed by urban sprawl. Fresno citizens are paying for development that does not pay for itself.
Fact: Measure A will induce Fresno-level sprawl, Fresno-level air pollution, Fresno-level asthma and Fresno-level political corruption investigations.
Fact: But even Fresno subjected its reauthorized transportation tax plan to public environmental review. Merced leadership wants you to pay the Measure A tax before they begin any public environmental review of the consequences of the sprawl these funds will induce.
Measure A Claim: "Projects include: Ensuring safer routes to school for local children"
Fact: The highest priority project Merced County leaders have is the Yellow Brick Beltway to UC Merced, connected to Highway 99 south of Merced and north of Atwater. There are less than a thousand UC Merced students and they come from all parts of California.
Measure A Claim: “using developer impact fees to supplement Measure A funds so that new growth pays its share of transportation costs”
Fact: Special interests want you to tax yourselves so they won’t have to pay for their impacts on your county. These special interests include: public developers like UC Merced and CalTrans; local, national and international homebuilders; highway construction companies and their unions; the statewide and international aggregate companies mining your rivers and creeks; your elected public officials and their staffs; and the local media.
Measure A Claim: "Citizen oversight: An independent taxpayer watchdog committee and annual third-party audits will ensure that Measure A funds are spent wisely"
Fact: Presently Merced County oversight is by ‘special interest’ only: This conversation between Ranchwood Homes owner and county supervisor Crookham shows how economic development really works in Merced.
Feb. 3, 2006: Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! ..."
Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.
Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.
Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates north 337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central- 1,356 units.
Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.
Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes 420 acres. Del Valle, Gallo Ranchwood, 1,000acres,
Los Banos -, Ranchwood, 932 acres 323 units, Pinn Brothers, 34 units, Court of Fountains, 2.7 acres 95 units, Woodside Homes,
City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,
Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,
Vista Del Lago, 442 units, Weaver Development, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, -1,282 units,
Fahrens Creek North, 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation,
Planada - 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada, Hostetler 1,390 acres.
Felix Torres Migrant Megaplex 127 units, Park Street Estates, 31.8 acres, 200 units.
San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments, 180 acres.
San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.
Santa Nella - 8,250 units - Santa Nella Village west 881 units, 350 acres,
The Parkway, phase III, 146 acres - 138 units, Santa Nella Village, 40.7 acres - 544 units,
San Luis Ranch, phase II - 232 units, 312 acres - 182 acres, Arnaudo 1 &2
Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development - 1,700 units, 3,740 acres.
Winton - 50 units, 17 acres- Gertrude Estates, Mike Raymond, 18 acres - 142 units, Winn Ranch
WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls ….and the list goes on!
What You Can Do:
Vote No on Measure A Tax
Demand to participate in General Plans and community plan update process
Support public statements advocating slow growth or no growth until General Plans and Community Plans are legally compliant.
Paid for by the Committee Against Measure A Tax
Measure A may make return trip to ballot...Chris Collins
Despite a poll conducted this month that says the half-cent sales tax that failed in June will do even worse if it is put up for a vote later this year, Merced County officials decided last week to place it on the November ballot. They say the measure, which would raise $446 million over 30 years to fix roads, will get the required two-thirds vote this time because more people will show up to the polls in November than in June. Measure A's failure...stunned many of its supporters. A much more attractive November ballot includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters. MCAG board members, which includes all five county supervisors and an elected official from each of the six cities in the county, say the county has a one-shot chance at taking advantage of $1 billion that will be set aside for "self-help" counties if voters approve the state bond measures on the November ballot.Sacramento-based Jim Moore Methods...polled 400 county residents earlier this month about the possibility of a November sales tax, concluded that the measure would get only 58 to 66 percent of the vote. "I would not recommend going forward with Measure A again this November," Jim Moore wrote in a letter to Brown. "The survey clearly shows that a November 2008 election date would provide Measure A with the next best chance for passage." If voters reject the measure again in November, it would be the third time a transportation sales tax would fail in Merced County in the last four years.
• $10 million for Phase One of the Campus Parkway
• $85 million to widen Highway 99 to six lanes throughout the county
• $10 million for the Highway 152 bypass in Los Banos
• $8 million to widen Highway 59 from 16th Street to Black Rascal Creek
• $8 million to replace the Highway 140 Bradley overhead
• $6 million for Dos Palos street reconstruction
Wal-Mart project opinions sought...Leslie Albrecht
Concerned about what 450 trucks driving in and out of the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center every day would do to Merced's air quality. The city wants to hear from you Thursday... planners will host two public meetings. The answers will be ready in January 2007, when consulting group EDAW, Inc. is slated to finish the environmental impact report. The City Council approved EDAW's $344,655 consulting contract in May; Wal-Mart will pay for the entire project. Wal-Mart meeting...WHAT: Two public meetings about what should be studied in the environmental impact report for the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center. WHEN: 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday WHO: The afternoon meeting is for state and local government agencies and the public. The evening meeting is for the public. WHERE: City Council chambers, 678 W. 18th St.>/b>