Our first priority is continued progress on our roads. With the support of so many who have worked so hard on our roads measures, we have approved funding Phases I-III of the Road and Drainage Repair Plan and have Phases IV-V to finish. I will put in the same hard work into approving and funding the remaining two phases that have been put into Phases I-III.
Retain Downtown Charm While Offering More
Downtown deserves our attention. The fact that Orinda has the second lowest per capita sales tax revenue in Contra Costa County (only Oakley is lower) is an objective signal that we are falling short of providing significant opportunity to our residents to stay in Orinda to shop, dine and utilize services from local businesses. Respected members of our community have pointed to my skills as an active listener and objective thinker to bring a balanced approach to improve amenities and opportunities to shop and dine in Orinda while retaining our downtown charm. Supporting initiatives like expanded access to, and visibility of, our treasured San Pablo Creek is part of such a balanced approach.
Public Safety and Youth
I bring a close eye to budgets honed during nearly a decade as a news reporter and refined as a parks commissioner and community board member. Keeping Orinda on track financially is key to assuring sufficient funds to continue and to enhance important programs like public safety cameras and increasing their effectiveness and safety surrounding their use. Working collaboratively with our school districts and fire district also will assure that our funds are spent in the wisest and most effective way possible.
Voter Requested Information
Members of the public have asked for my position on the following issues:
- MEASURE X
Measure X. Measure X proposes a one-half cent sales tax increase that would run for 30 years in order to raise $2.87 billion for transportation projects in Contra Costa County including more BART cars for more frequent BART service in Contra Costa County, better bus service and road repairs, including local city road repairs. This will bring sales tax in most parts of Contra Costa County to between 8.75 percent and 9.75 percent (and 10.25 percent in El Cerrito).
I am fiscally conservative and therefore consider this tax very carefully. Our overall sales tax is high. However, I ultimately support Measure X because of the lack of other feasible options to help Orindans get to work and home faster to spend more time with their families.
Our BART riders are experiencing ever-more crowded BART cars if they are even able to find a parking place at BART. The increased train cars and service will both help relieve overcrowding and speed transit times. Additionally, the increased bus service can, if done properly, assist more Orindans to use bus transit to BART to avoid parking at BART or struggling to find a parking space. This should, in turn, increase the number of parking spaces ultimately available at BART and reduce vehicle trips. This means fewer drivers on the road and in turn, quicker commutes for everyone and fewer road repairs – and money to make some of those road repairs that are necessary. I accordingly, feel it my duty to make the sacrifices necessary to stomach this additional sales tax.
As a City Council person, my duty will be to work with regional leaders to assure that Orinda’s fair share of this money is spent on projects that benefit Orindans. The San Francisco Chronicle and the East Bay Times both endorse Measure X.
- MEASURE RR
Measure RR raises even tougher questions than Measure X. Measure RR would authorize BART to sell bonds to raise up to $3.5 billion to upgrade tracks, tunnels and train control systems. BART expects to issue the bonds in ten series meaning that the effect on property taxes will vary according to estimates from about $2 per $100,000 of assessed value in 2017-2018 ($20 for a household with a home assessed at $1 million) to a high in 2035-2036 of about $17.50 per $100,00 of assessed value, meaning about $175 per year for a household whose home is assessed at $1 million. This is a significant tax.
The East Bay Times raises concern that even though the money must be used for track, tunnel and train control rather than salaries and operational costs, that if the bond passes, BART Board could reallocate some money already in the budget for capital improvements covered by Measure RR to another purpose such as employee compensation. The East Bay Times urges rejection of Measure RR.
The San Francisco Chronicle, on the other hand, endorses Measure RR and points to the fact that the Bay Area cannot operate without BART. This is a truism we in Orinda know well.
Many of our residents rely upon BART to travel to and from work. It is also a way for the rest of us who work in town to exercise our commitment to environmentalism when traveling to neighboring communities. Instead of rejecting Measure RR, I am committed to working with our BART representatives to assure that money raised by Measure RR is spent responsibly on important improvements for our riders.
About 10 percent of the money raised by Measure RR would fund elevator repairs, re-tooling of the tracks to both relieve overcrowding and to make the tracks stronger. Trains would increase from 23 per hour to 30 trains per hour. The remaining 90 percent of the money would go to safety improvements.
The importance of these needed fixes is too important to allow us to reject them on the basis of frustration with BART management. Instead, we must give BART the resources to serve us effectively and work with BART to assure money is spent in the manner directed by our voters.