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A flood of campaign implications

By Aaron Kinney
Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 at 12:09 pm in Uncategorized.

The Burlingame City Council’s vote tonight on a new storm-drainage infrastructure bond could have a lingering impact when the November election comes around.

Mayor Terry Nagel and Councilman Russ Cohen are up for re-election this fall, and their votes on how to finance $37-million in upgrades to the city’s dilapidated flood-control system will be among the most significant decisions they make all year.

The Council must decide at tonight’s meeting whether to place a $37-million bond measure on the June ballot or give further consideration to an alternative financing mechanism known as a commuty facilities district or Mello-Roos tax. Measure H, a $44-million bond measure, narrowly failed to win two-thirds of the vote in November.

Opponents of Measure H are advocating for a community facilities district, which would be less onerous for new homeowners. They have pledged their opposition in advance to another general obligation bond, which would be supported by a tax based on assessed property values.

If the Council decides not to pursue a community facilities district, the anti-Measure H crowd will “vigorously oppose” the bond measure, in the words of Lorne Abramson, one of the group’s leaders.

Abramson said Measure H 2.0 “already is a campaign issue,” since it has played into the thinking of city officials. City Manager Jim Nantell has said he would not want to put a flood-control measure on the November ballot, in part because it could wind up dominating the race and leading to one-issue or proxy candidates.

Abramson said he has no plans to run for City Council himself, but expressed frustration that “we have no representation whatsoever for our constituency” on the flood-control issue.

Nagel, Cohen and the rest of the Council face a difficult decision Wednesday. If they opt for a community facilities district, they will appease Abramson’s group but risk creating a new set of antagonists. If they proceed with a bond measure, they will encounter an opponent that was strengthened and seasoned by the November election.

And if the council members opt for a general obligation bond and it fails, Abramson noted, that “won’t look good” for the Council.

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