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Alameda Journal letters to the editor

With the switch to once-weekly, there wasn’t enough room in last Friday’s print edition of the Alameda Journal for all the letters to the editor. But you can find them online here. The letters include a note from Dianne Richmond, the president of the Alameda Association of Realtors—written in opposition to Measure P. There are submissions both for and against Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to make marriage between people of the same gender illegal. And you can also find two letters in support of Ron Mooney‘s candidacy for school board. For more on endorsements, Lauren Do has a nice election roundup page here.

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Alameda school pesticide policy

Michele Ellson of The Island has a post up about the Alameda Unified School District‘s pesticide use policy and what Laura DiDonato, a parent who serves on the committee that created the policy, says is the district’s violation of its own rules.

Apparently, in 2001 AUSD approved a pest management policy in order to accord with California law which called for the use of pesticides only in cases of emergency, but has recently stopped following it. According to DiDonato, California law requires school districts to have a registry of parents who wish to be notified when pesticides are going to be sprayed, to post warning signs before and after spraying, and also keep records of pesticide use for public inspection. But DiDonato told The Island that only the only rule that is being followed is the one that requires general notification about the possibility of pesticide use. Ellson wrote about that notification a while back.

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Alameda votes, Measure P and more

Lauren Do over at Blogging Bayport has a comprehensive local election page where you can find out more info about the candidates/ballot issues and, too, see who has endorsed whom/what.

People keep asking me about Measure P, the item on the city ballot that would raise Alameda’s property transfer tax. I will be voting for it, mostly because the more I learn about the city budget (not to mention the state’s and the nation’s) the more it becomes clear that, in order to keep things running semi-smoothly, we need to raise more funds. Michele Ellson over at the Island is supporting P, as is Lauren Do, and, too, John Knox White.

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Prop. 8 would ban marriage for Alamedans who are gay

In addition to local races—City Council, Measure P, School Board—Alamedans, along with the rest of California, will be voting on Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative. It’s a serious civil rights issue (I don’t see how we can, in good conscience, deny people who are gay all the rights that come with marriage). I’ve posted below a clip from a very funny woman, Ellen DeGeneres. She’s not talking specifically about Prop. 8, but she says, among other things, “Maybe it’s because I’m gay that I feel that I think we should all be equal but I feel that we’re all equal.” And, “People are going to be who they are going to be and we need to love them for who they are and let them love who they want to love.”

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No fair property taxes in Alameda

This week in “Life on the Island,” the column I write for the Alameda Journal, I discuss the legacy of Proposition 13, which leaves newer property owners, of both homes and businesses, paying property taxes much higher—sometimes three or four or five times higher—than those who bought earlier. (Property tax information is public and you can look it up by parcel or address here.)

Measure H, the Alameda school tax passed in June, assesses businesses based on square footage, which is, to my mind, closer to fair than a flat per parcel tax, which taxes the owners of mansions and hovels identically, the owners of large tracts of land the same as those who own a small parcel.

A Prop. 13 supporter once described the 1978 law to me as a ‘double-edged’ sword, by which I think he meant it was bad when you first purchase a property, but gets better over time. But Prop. 13 has created a system of taxation so inequitable that it has turned out to be a very bad thing over time, not just because of its pronounced lack of fairness but, too, because it fails to raise enough money to support the infrastructure and services our state requires.

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October 20: Last day to register to vote

In case you had not noticed, country-wide (and, too, city-wide) we’re gearing up for an election on November 4th. If, for some reason, you’re still not registered to vote, you have until next Monday, October 20th, to do so. Guy Ashley, from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, sent this how-to/FYI:

Alameda County residents must be citizens, 18 years old and not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony to be eligible to register to vote.

Voter registration affidavits are available at the Registrar of Voters office and at libraries, fire stations and post offices. You may also download and complete the registration form on our website.

Completed affidavits must be delivered to the Registrar of Voters Office at 1225 Fallon Street, Room G-1, Oakland, CA 94612 or postmarked by October 20th in order to be valid for this election. Voters can call the Registrar of Voters Office at (510) 272-6973 or (510) 267-8683 to check their voter registration status.

It also sounds like the Registrar of Voters as well is hosting a last-minute sign-people-up-to-vote event. This also from the ROV’s Ashley:

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters office will be holding a special “Midnight Madness’’ voter registration drive outside its offices in downtown Oakland from 5 p.m. to midnight on Monday October 20th. The event will occur outside Alameda County’s Rene C. Davidson Courthouse at 1225 Fallon Street, Oakland… Staff will be on hand to distribute registration forms, answer questions and receive completed forms right up until the midnight registration deadline.

There’s no excuses, really. And I haven’t heard much of what I used to hear, back there in the 1990s, “The candidates are all the same.” I think people are seeing the differences now.

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State budget leaves Alameda schools in the lurch

The new California state budget lowballs the cost of living increase for schools (anyone notice the rising cost of almost everything these days?). Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued this statement about the budget’s funding for education:

[It] includes a reduction of the cost-of-living adjustment that will further tighten the vise on local school budgets as districts across the state face increased costs for supplies, food, transportation and employee health care costs. These reductions are a disservice to California’s 6 million school children and the thousands of educators across the state.

Read all of Contra Costa Times reporter Kimberly Wetzel’s story on the budget and education here. As for blame? George Skelton has this piece in the Los Angeles Times: Blame all the players for a gimmicky budget.

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California state budget? We shall see.

California legislators—yours and mine—passed a state budget this morning that will close the budget gap without, get this, raising taxes or cutting services much. How do they do this? Through a series of accounting tricks. Such as this one: counting revenue expected in the next fiscal year as coming this year. Another? They’ll be boosting tax withholdings for workers—even though the money will be refunded later in the year. In sum, it’s no long-term solution, just a game of smoke and mirrors. “They basically punted the ball down the field,” Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty told the Contra Costa Times, “and delayed all the pain and anxiety until next year rather than deal with it now.” And, in any case, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has threatened to veto the plan…so I wouldn’t say we’re quite there yet. As the details emerge over the next couple of days and weeks we’ll be able to get a clearer sense of how it will impact Alameda.