no Measure A in 2020

The Sacramento Transportation Authority decided today in a special meeting to “Repeal Ordinance No. STA 20-001 And Withdraw Request To The Board of Supervisors To Place The Measure On The November Ballot”. So Measure A is dead for the 2020 election. I celebrate this decision, but not for the reasons that most of the commenters online and by email gave.

A lot of the people opposed to the measure are simply opposed to any taxes, of any sort. The claim was made by a number of commenters that no roads had been fixed in the county. This is simply not true. Several roads have been paved, and a few reconstructed. The reason it looks like not much has been done is that there is so much need, so much deferred maintenance, that available funds can make only a small dent in the backlog. This is a significant point, as there is no amount of money, even if every cent went to fixing roads, to maintain the sprawling road and freeway infrastructure that the county and the cities have created. The economic value of these road investments is too small to maintain them. Economic productivity lies in places where there are a lot of jobs and a lot of small businesses, and that takes at least moderate density. The suburbs and exurbs of Sacramento county can’t provide that economic value, their value is just too low. Most of the commenters are under the illusion that someone guaranteed that their roads would be maintained even if their property taxes and sales taxes and other taxes were not sufficient to cover the cost. This is delusional. A lot of commenters suggested that the politicians are lying to them, and that the money is going somewhere else. Well, what the politicians are doing is not telling the truth that the infrastructure cannot be maintained on any conceivable tax. There are too many miles of roads, running through low density development, that can’t pay its own way. There are too many miles of freeway and expressway, serving to get commuters from their low-tax haven in the suburbs to their high value job in the job centers such as downtown Sacramento, and parts of Rancho Cordova and Folsom.

I know that a number of SacTA board members want to bring the same measure back in two years, when they hope (and I hope) that we are out of the current health and economic crises, and voters are more willing to vote for a transportation sales tax measure. I sincerely hope that is not what happens. I hope that instead people see that sales taxes are a dead-end road, and that the projects proposed were not the ones needed. I’ll have at least two more posts over the next two days about what I would like to see happen.

Missing the message on Measure B

This is a letter I sent to my representative on the Sacramento Transportation Authority (SacTA) board of directors.

I read the Measure B report from Executive Director Jeffrey Spencer, item 12 on Thursday’s agenda, and I have to say I’m rather disturbed by it. (here, or page 41 of the SacTA agenda packet)
In paragraph one, he is completely incorrect about the voter turnout. It was 74.5%, similar to past elections, both on-year and off-year.

In paragraph three, he claims $35K spent by Measure B opposition, and though he doesn’t provide any reference for this, I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he did an FPPC records request and used that info. However, he does not mention political spending by the pro-B group, as well as “educational” spending by SacTA, SacRT, Sacramento County, and the cities such as the glossy mailers that clogged my mailbox. His implication is that pro-B got outspent, but that simply cannot be true.

In paragraph three, he also stated “These news releases and reports are not always factual and can rely on conjecture. Although providing untrue statements, the general public cannot decipher the facts and may rely on this group’s opinions.” That is a pretty amazing statement coming from a public official. Is he really accusing anti-B of lying? He fails to mention that the pro-B glossy mailers had a number of factual errors, mis-statement, straw-men, and questionable implications.

In paragraph four, he says “Discussions with voters after the election…” What voters, whose discussion? I would think there would be documentation here. Though I’m certainly not claiming anything but anecdotal evidence, I heard two things from voters after the election: 1) anti-tax sentiment, and 2) opposition to a measure that spent so much on roadway expansion and so little on transit. Voters got that there was a focus on fixing roadways, and the pro vote was probably in large part due to that, but they also recognized that there was unnecessary roadway expansion larded onto the measure.

You can’t solve a problem if you misidentify what that problem is, and in my opinion, Mr. Spencer has failed to admit failure, has mis-identified the reasons for that failure, and therefore, cannot solve the problem.

If SacTA is to have any chance of moving forward WITH the community to address transportation issues, they need to a) listen to the public, and b) come up with innovative solutions rather than the 1970s thinking represented by the failed Measure B.