Editorial: Yes on Santa Clara County measures A, B

Funds for affordable housing, transportation need challenging two-thirds vote for passage

Two important measures on the Nov. 8 ballot ask Santa Clara County voters to approve a $950 million bond measure to build badly needed housing to serve homeless and low-income residents and a half-cent sales-tax increase to fund transportation projects over the next 30 years.

Together, these measures seek to provide some relief to the region's two biggest and most urgent problems, and we urge a "yes" vote on both. With two-thirds voter approval required for passage, the success of neither is assured.

Measure A, the affordable-housing bond measure, was placed on the ballot by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in a unanimously vote and is part of a larger initiative to reduce homelessness and provide subsidized housing for very low-income individuals and families. Most of the funds would go to projects serving the homeless and those with incomes of less than 30 percent of the county's median income. Smaller amounts would target those making up to 50 percent and moderate-income individuals who are seeking to become first-time homebuyers.

Current property-tax rates would increase by $12.66 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. A resident with a home assessed at $1 million would pay $127 per year more in property taxes; $2 million assessed valuation would mean an increase of $254 per year.

The funds generated would be leveraged to attract matching funds from state and local government as well as nonprofit and philanthropic investment, with the hope that as much as $3 billion could ultimately be invested in new housing.

With a survey last year showing that the county had more than 6,000 unhoused residents and long wait-lists for federally subsidized housing, Measure A is the result of extensive work by county leaders to put together a plan that would more aggressively tackle the housing needs of our most vulnerable populations, including veterans, seniors, the disabled, low and moderate income individuals or families, foster youth, victims of abuse, the homeless and individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse illnesses.

Measure B would raise the sales tax in Santa Clara County by a half-cent to fund more than $6 billion in transportation improvements over the next three decades.

It would be in addition to two previously approved transportation-related county sales tax increments totaling five-eighths of a cent, one for a half-cent expiring in 2036 and another for one-eighth of a cent expiring in 2042. With the passage of Measure B, the sales-tax rate in most cities, including Palo Alto, will rise to 9 3/8 percent.

This new tax, like those that preceded it, has been spearheaded by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, an organization funded by major Silicon Valley companies, and the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA.) Its timing -- during a booming local economy and amid high frustration over traffic and commuting -- creates the best chance of passage by voters frustrated by the state of local transit, but the measure must overcome a lot of discontent about the BART-centric approach to the use of tax measures already in place.

To address this concern, Measure B has emerged as a consensus plan after some tough bargaining by cities, particularly in north and west county. These cities have felt burned by the allocation of funds raised from the existing sales taxes and made clear that their support for Measure B was dependent on firm limits to spending on BART and the commitment to fund transit projects local communities consider priorities.

The result is a spending plan that will provide funding for the BART extension to downtown San Jose but that caps the allocation for BART at 25 percent of the total estimated $6.3 billion to be raised (in current dollars).

Funding for Caltrain improvements, including grade separations in north county, improvements to highway interchanges and expressways, local street maintenance and bicycle and pedestrian projects make up the bulk of the funding.

The VTA will issue bonds secured by the future tax revenues, a financing strategy that will reduce the total money actually available for projects but that will enable spending in advance of the receipt of the tax revenue.

We have many concerns over the VTA and transportation planning in Santa Clara County, but Measure B shouldn't fall victim to those frustrations. The region has severe transportation challenges requiring huge investments, and Measure B is a fair compromise of interests that will bring substantial improvements benefiting everyone, regardless of the means of transportation they utilize.


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41 people like this
Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:04 pm

NO on B!

VTA wants to gut North County bus service under its "Network
90" plan at the same time that they're asking voters to approve yet another bump in the sales tax. Santa Clara County residents are already paying three sales taxes to VTA, a permanent 1/2 cent that was approved in 1976, plus the more recent Measures A and B, whose revenues are mostly going down the BART sinkhole.
Plus, we're paying a Vehicle Registration Fee on top of that. Yet this is not enough, they want more tax money to flush down the BART toilet while eliminating local routes.

VTA is asking the voters for a fourth sales tax increase yet they refuse to “value engineer" their expensive projects. There is no reason that the BART extension needs to duplicate existing bus and train service between the San Jose and Santa Clara stations. And the proposed Bus Rapid Transit on El Camino could be constructed at lower cost by eliminating the dedicated center lanes and converting the curbside lanes to HOV use during peak hours.

Money saved from cutting the “gold plating" from big capital projects could be spent on supporting the bus system, including saving routes threatened under Network 90. Until VTA learns to use its existing resources more efficiently, vote NO on more taxes.

This tax is being pushed by Carl Guardino and the grossly misnamed "Silicon Valley Leadership Group," whose rich corporate members stand to benefit most from the hugely expensive BART extension. Rather than increasing sales tax A FOURTH TIME, maybe these rich companies need to step up and pay higher corporate tax.

Three pro-transit and environmental groups, BayRail Alliance, the Sierra Club, and Silicon Valley Transit Users are urging a “no" vote on the upcoming VTA sales tax increase. VTA proposes to use Measure B funds to extend BART beyond San Jose Diridon Station to Santa Clara Station, completely duplicating existing Caltrain service. This is a clear example of VTA's poor decision-making. It explains why Caltrain supporters like BayRail Alliance still cannot trust VTA.

The groups believe that the funds to run BART trains between San Jose and Santa Clara would be better used to boost Caltrain frequency to a BART/light rail level of service between Palo Alto and San Jose.

Visit Web Link to read more and join the No on B Campaign.

28 people like this
Posted by MV resident
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:22 pm

If it costs me money, I'm voting no. Can hardly afford to live here as it is.

23 people like this
Posted by Why No on B
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:31 pm

No on B, because:

BART is coming to San Jose and has already been overfunded. What has not been completely funded is extending it from Berryessa to downtown, largely in an expensive underground tunnel. The big lie is that people are given the impression that the extra money in Measure B is needed to get BART to San Jose at all. The timing of the request for extra money is misleading.

Vote no on B. VTA can take the remaining $5 Million from the previous funding measures and use it to do other projects which benefit the county as a whole. It's already too much to have spend almost all of this funding on BART to San Jose, but that's water under the bridge. Don't let them compound the misallocation by spending the $6 Billion plus on the subway in downtown San Jose. The nature of the subway makes it ONLY benefit those in downtown San Jose, who have already received 90% of the benefit from the previous tax measures. When approved, they had many other projects for the rest of the county that were cast aside when BART costs rose over time.

50 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:42 pm

No on both. Because as usual they will take your money and never use it for the intended purpose. Typical government never does what it says it will do they already have the money to do it. stop wasting all the money you already get. They already have enough money to do everything they want don't be fooled they just want to steal more of your money. They just waste and channel it to self-serving accounts. Always vote no to any new tax it's always a lie they have the money.

98 people like this
Posted by Taxed
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2016 at 3:29 pm

A tax is a tax. A bond is a tax. Both take more money out of your wallet and put them in the hands of people who can't balance a budget.

Personally, I think I pay enough in taxes. The government should cut wasteful spending and use the recuperated funds on worthy projects (including some proposed in various measures and propositions).

17 people like this
Posted by Scott L
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:28 am

Scott L is a registered user.

This is great to get the CalTrain improvements.

But there is far too much that is wrong with the VTA Measure B Tax:

- It's a political solution full of pork barrel projects to appease politicians but wasting at least $2 Billion on roads that will do nothing to improve the commute but will instead cause "Induced Demand"

- Does not offer robust solutions for the South Bay portion of the 2 million new commuters that will be in the SF Bay Area by 2040. We can expect to get at least 1/3 of the new influx of commuters if not more as they'll come from all nine counties of the SF Bay Area and the "Super Region" that includes the Central Valley. Transit is the ONLY way to address this!

- BART duplication of CalTrain from SJ Diridon to Santa Clara is for NO reason. Supervisor Cindy Chavez says that riders do not want to transfer and Rod Diridon Sr. says that transfers dramatically reduce riders. This is wrong. People transfer from BART to Muni all the time. This is wasting at least $1-4 Billion.
(there is no way that Measure B money will complete even BART to Diridon, so this is another LIE that this will complete BART to Santa Clara)

- VTA claims to add bus service, but they gutted it as they spent 80% of the proceeds on BART to Berryessa

- VTA has a history of "Bait and Switch"

- VTA's auditing promise is a sick joke - it will have NO power! Just look at the scathing 2004 Grand Jury reports and 2007 External Audits to determine how VTA's culture does NOT change.

- VTA's promise to keep these projects and not to overspend on BART can be changed in one meeting and will likely be changed in 2017-2018 timeframe (the ALL transit 2000 Measure A was changed in 2002 and 75% of the funds were diverted)

- VTA is insisting on the BRT down El Camino but has NOT (after 30+ years) increased bus service where cites like Mt View and Sunnyvale and Palo Alto want it

- VTA is offering NO innovative programs and this tax measure does NOT follow transit best practices that are used across the country and the world

- VTA continues to offer taxation without representation as they power is to strongly with San Jose. There must be direct voting for VTA Board Members and more fair representation. (VTA has no intention of doing this)

- VTA is not fully embracing California's laws regarding Climate Change and continues it's mindset and methodology from 20-30 years ago, repeating the errors they have been making since the 1970s

- This is a regressive tax hurting lower income people the most

- Fear tactics of losing Federal funding and blaming critics for the deficiencies of the SVLG/VTA tax are desperate tactics and are untrue

- The Federal government does not contribute to plans like much of what VTA is proposing because the Federal Government knows that it does not work, is not sustainable, does not scale and only leads in "Induced Demand" and worse gridlock.

Bottom Line: SVLG has created this plan in 2013/2014 and worked with VTA yet again to create a tax that will ensure money and projects and a jobs program for VTA and contractors and labor unions but will NOT provide the solutions

Don't buy into the fear that we must pass this tax. We may shift our place in the queue, but IF our transit plans are robust enough, they have a strong chance of getting funded. Big transit is such a long development timeframe that we have time to apply for the Federal Funding we need.

18 people like this
Posted by NO on B / 4th VTA tax
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:01 pm

VTA does not need a 4th tax on my paycheck. If they need money they should cut costs. That's how it is done in the real world.

4 people like this
Posted by Joseph
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 3, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Don't forget VTA's lack of oversight of fraud that has occurred at Outreach. The FBI had to get involved and shut them down today. If VTA can't provide oversight for a small paratransit contract, do you trust them with the rest of your wallet on measure B. We need investment in transit, but not if it involves the VTA or the politicians that are on the board. Just say no to VTA, and vote no on B

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