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Whac-a-Mole and flood control

By Aaron Kinney
Thursday, February 22nd, 2007 at 5:31 pm in Uncategorized.

Wednesday’s City Council meeting in Burlingame ended with the council deciding not to go through with a June bond measure to fund $37 million in fixes to the city’s battered storm-drainage system.

Council members offered a number of reasons for delaying a decision and giving more thought to an alternative funding mechanism known as a community facilities district: voters may be suffering from flood-control fatigue; it would have been difficult to mount an effective campaign in just three months; and the Council simply needs more information on CFDs than a $5,000 analysis can yield.

But attorney Charles Voltz may have offered the most telling reason for the Council to take a pass during public testimony. “My concern is what I refer to as the Whac-a-Mole game,” said Voltz, perhaps overlooking the scores of people who also refer to Whac-a-Mole by its proper name.

Voltz’s point was well taken, however. In satisfying the opponents of Measure H, who had pledged their opposition in advance to another general obligation bond, the Council could create a new set of opponents if it decides upon a CFD.

Depending upon how a CFD were set up, it could shift the burden of paying for storm-drainage upgrades away from middle-income and affluent residents and towards commercial properties or even lower-income residents. Council members seemed to think, however, that the flexibility of a CFD has the potential to yield a tax formula that would make a sufficiently small number of people angry.

Lorne Abramson, a leading opponent of Measure H, and Councilwoman Rosalie O’Mahony presented a contrast in emotions as the council’s decision, or non-decision, arrived. O’Mahony, the sole Council member who favored proceeding with a June ballot, viewed the Council’s move to defer a decision as a punt.

Who’s to say the Council won’t study the issue some more and then decide to put the matter off even longer, while the city’s infrastructure grows creakier? O’Mahony wondered.

“The way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if you did,” said O’Mahony, who was clearly frustrated.

Abramson, meanwhile, was relieved and happy with the Council’s decision. Abramson, who attended the meeting along with his wife, Elana Lieberman, was also glad to have some personal time back after spending the last few months attending meetings and huddling with city officials.

“This is our date night,” Abramson told the Council, acknowledging that Council Chambers was not as romantic a locale as, say, Il Fornaio. “One more Council meeting and I’m in the garage.”

Previously: A flood of campaign implications

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