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Decision 2010: E-ndorsements!

Submitted by on 1, May 6, 2010 – 5:00 am3 Comments

This week brought one endorsement for Measure E and a statement of non-support.

Alameda’s City Council, whose members had all individually endorsed the tax in advance of their meeting Tuesday night, voted unanimously to support the tax.

“I understand this parcel tax is going to be a hardship for everybody. I don’t think anybody is discounting that or belittling that,” Councilwoman Marie Gilmore said. “But at the end of the day, these are our kids. This is our community. We are educating our future business people. We are educating our future government leaders. And this is the only shot that they get.”

Opponents of the tax said it’s illegal because commercial property owners and homeowners are not charged uniformly, and they said the tax has caused community divisiveness as a result. But proponents said that no tax is perfect and that the schools desperately need the money to stave off deep cuts in the face of dramatic state funding reductions.

Meanwhile, the West Alameda Business Association has said it can’t support the tax. In a letter released Tuesday, they said the tax will continue to severely impact businesses and property owners in the West Alameda commercial district, and that it would make it difficult to fill vacancies on Webster Street and maintain the streetscape there.

The association’s executive director, Kathy Moehring, said she polled WABA’s membership and that 66 percent of the members who responded asked the association not to support the tax.

“Consequently, while the business and property owners of the West Alameda Business Association recognize the importance of providing quality education and will continue to support schools in meaningful ways, we cannot support the proposed Measure E parcel tax in its current form,” the letter says.

The endorsement list for the tax includes the Alameda Education Association, the International Association of Firefighters Local 689, Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, the League of Women Voters of Alameda, the Community of Harbor Bay Isle Homeowners Association, City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy and others. Both WABA and the Alameda Association of Realtors have said they can’t support it (though more than 100 of the Realtors association’s members are set to put their names to a newspaper ad supporting the tax).

The Measure E tax would charge residential property owners $659 a year for eight years. Commercial property owners would pay 13 cents a square foot on their property, with a cap of $9,500 per parcel. People who own multi-unit buildings with five or more units would pay the commercial rate; owners of smaller buildings would pay the residential rate.

The school board put the tax on the ballot in the face of millions of dollars in state funding cuts.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for more information on the pro and con positions on the tax, by the way, the Alameda Democratic Club will have a pro-con presentation on Measure E as part of its discussion and endorsement on June ballot issues. That’s from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Alameda Hospital, 2070 Clinton Avenue. That’s free and open to the public.

In other Measure E news, a coach at Alameda High School has retracted an e-mail to parents that said their student athletes were to participate in mandatory phone banking sessions to help pass the Measure E parcel tax. And the phone banking sessions set up for the students have been canceled.

“As you all know the Parcel Tax is very important to us, therefore we need to make the effort to attend this mandatory service so we can help pass this Tax. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to say that if you plan on playing any sport next year you need to come out for the assigned dates,” Alameda High School soccer coach Danny Ayllon wrote in an April 29 e-mail.

A day earlier, a parent sent a more strongly worded message to families.

“All AHS high school sports teams have been mandated to do 4 hours of phone service to help with the Parcel Tax. Our task is to make phone calls to people who have been identified as pro-Parcel Tax,” the April 28 e-mail from Thu-Huong Nguyen billed as a “Message from coach Dannylo” said. It said the hours would count toward the students’ 20-hour community service requirement.

Ayllon did not respond to a call seeking comment. But Alameda High Athletic Director Brad Thomas said coaches did talk about rallying for the tax to protect school sports from the state budget ax. But he said he never told them that students would be required to work the phone banks.

“Did I say this was required? No. Did we decide to push this? Yes,” Thomas said.

Superintendent Kirsten Vital and APLUS campaign spokesman John Knox White, who The Island contacted Wednesday, said they just learned of the e-mails this week. Knox White said the e-mails weren’t appropriate and that the campaign doesn’t condone them.

“This just seemed like an overly exuberant response to what the coaches see as a serious issue,” Knox White said. “But we would never mandate coaches to say their students have to show up to phone bank.”

Vital, who echoed that sentiment, said in a statement that the district has issued a policy for employee participation that is posted on the district’s website. (Vital identified the coach as “one of our community members who works as an hourly coach for the District.”)

“As you know, we have taken steps to inform all employees of the District policy surrounding participation in political processes. Specifically, we have distributed and posted on our website guidelines for employee participation in the parcel tax campaign to ensure that they remain compliant with California law,” Vital wrote.

“Unfortunately, it appears that a coach may have been over-zealous in his efforts to support Measure E. This miscommunication has since been corrected,” she wrote.


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