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Santa Cruz voters retain utility tax

...
Santa Cruz voters retain utility tax

<www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2002/November/06/elect/stories/03elect.htm>

November 6, 2002
By DAN WHITE
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ - Santa Cruzans overwhelmingly rejected an attempted
tax repeal Tuesday, thwarting an initiative that would have thrown
out the city’s 7 percent utility tax.
The measure fared so miserably at the polls that some tax supporters
trying to inject drama into the evening were eagerly waiting to
see if they would get a two-thirds “supermajority” victory.
Measure P, driven by an ultra-low-budget campaign led by KSCO
radio talk-show host Steve Hartman, would have repealed a tax that
generates an estimated $8.4 million annually for the city’s $48 million
general fund. The surcharge applies to water, sewer, trash, phone,
cable TV, gas and electric bills.
Bookshop Santa Cruz owner Neal Coonerty, a co-chair of the “Save
Our City: No On P” campaign, said the vote “puts the issue at rest for
a long, long time, if not forever. The voters really appreciate the city
services. They listened to firefighters and police officers who said to
vote ‘no.’ They really enjoy the parks and recreation programs. We
never expected this large a victory.”
Hartman waged an aggressive campaign, from the radio station, from
a specially decorated shuttle bus, in frequent newspaper opinion
pieces and at City Council meetings. But from the earliest returns to
the last counts of the evening, it wasn’t looking good for his group.
Hearing some early unfavorable results, Hartman said, “Hmmm. I hope
that’s UC Santa Cruz,” referring to the campus’s left-leaning student
population. He later angrily said UCSC students were “stupid” for
listening to the editors of student newspapers urging them to vote in
favor of the tax.
“If it goes the way it’s going right now, I feel bad for the people of
Santa Cruz who got suckered,” Hartman said around 10:15 p.m.
Then he angrily declared he was “done with politics. I’ve put in 20
years with the city. People never listened to anything I had to tell
them. Fine with me. They can listen to somebody else. I’m tired. I’m
going to take a long vacation in Montana.”
The tax foes, who started their campaign during last year’s energy
crisis, blamed the liberal City Council for driving off business and
alienating investors with what they called wacky pronouncements and
silly foreign-policy resolutions. They accused the city of shifting its
revenue source from industry to local residents including the elderly
and poor. He said the tax revenue propped up a city government
preoccupied with “pet projects” and resolutions.
But supporters said the tax’s loss would have left the city a “skeleton
operation” with a closed Civic Auditorium, a shuttered teen center,
scaled-back police patrols, unfilled potholes, curtailed recreation
programs and more than 80 layoffs of city employees. They named
their pro-utility tax campaign “Save Our City” to drive home the
point.
Detractors said the predictions were scare tactics, and called the
utility tax a form of government-sanctioned thievery. But Hartman’s
group faced stiff opposition from a wide group of people that included
a range of left-leaning and middle-of-the-road Santa Cruzans.
The tax supporters included a number of community groups, from the
Human Care Alliance to the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center. The tax
supporters also had the backing of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of
Commerce, associations representing police officers, firefighters and
sheriff’s deputies, as well as labor unions.
It also had the full support of the city government, which spent $18,000
in June to poll 400 randomly chosen residents about the tax, and another
$10,000 last month to send out pro-tax fliers to every household in town.
--------------------
Measure P
Santa Cruz utility tax repeal

No 12,773 74.8%
Yes 4,293 25.2%

42 of 42 precincts reporting
 
 


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