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The Island recommends: Vote yes on Measure A

Submitted by on 1, February 4, 2011 – 12:02 am36 Comments

Measure A is flawed, but not so fatally that it should be sent back to the drawing board.

On March 8, Alameda’s voters will be asked once again to open their wallets to support local schools. Under Measure A, both homeowners and commercial property owners would pay 32 cents per square foot of building on each parcel they own, with a cap of $7,999 per parcel and $299 for parking lots and other unimproved spaces. Seniors and some disabled people would be exempt from paying the tax, which would be in place for seven years.

Proponents say the measure, which would replace the district’s existing and soon-to-sunset taxes and increase the amount collected from $7 million to $12 million, would provide desperately needed money for school services our community holds dear but the state is no longer able to pay for. They say the structure of the tax was crafted with extensive community input, including from business owners who declined to endorse June’s unsuccessful Measure E.

Opponents say the tax is unfair because it offers a break to large property owners like Alameda Towne Centre and the Oakland Raiders at everyone else’s expense. They are offering an alternate plan that they say would tax everyone – including businesses on government property that are now not paying the school district’s parcel taxes – at an equal rate. And they want the district to pull Measure A from the ballot and submit their plan in its place.

We sympathize with opponents’ concerns regarding the flaws in the tax proposal. But we don’t think those flaws outweigh our schools’ need for the money, which we think is genuine and immediate. And we’re not convinced their plan has any greater chance of passage than the one already on the ballot, which has garnered widespread support.

While we understand that the tax was the product of a collaborative process and that its structure is no doubt necessitated in some part by the high bar proponents must hurdle to succeed at the ballot box, the concept of large property owners paying less than everyone else is a difficult one for us to swallow. We think everyone should pay an equal share.

We’re also not huge fans of Measure A’s blanket exemption for seniors, though we again understand the unfortunate political ramifications of failing to offer it and also the limited impact the blanket exemption will likely pose to the district’s parcel tax collections. We’re hopeful seniors who can afford to support our schools with their tax dollars choose to do so.

That said, we don’t think the concerns about the tax’s imperfections outweigh the school district’s clear need for the money. The financial foundation that has been supporting our schools has been eroding for years, and there are no signs that the state or any other entity plans to repair the damage. We believe additional cuts would cause real and perhaps irreversible harm to our schools, and to the fleeting public school careers of thousands of students.

Unlike its predecessor, Measure A lays out clear spending priorities and offers a solid oversight mechanism to ensure they are followed.

Opponents say they don’t believe the school district will need to implement a “Plan B” scenario of school closures and increased class size if the measure fails, but the district has already made more than $7 million in cuts this year that included class size increases, a five-day reduction in the school year and program cuts. And its budgets show the district is relying on dwindling savings to stave off additional cuts this year.

Instead of offering specific cuts or changes they think the district should make, opponents propose a plan that seeks to raise a similar amount of money for our schools, leading us to wonder if even they are entirely convinced that “Plan B” isn’t real. Meanwhile, many of the small businesses opponents say will be harmed by Measure A apparently haven’t gotten the message: Three of Alameda’s four business associations have endorsed the tax, despite the fact that this alternate plan has been on the table for months.

Opponents of the measure do raise another good point, though: Measure A fails to ensure that for-profit businesses on government-owned land pay their fair share, something guaranteed by other local measures like the tax we pay to support Alameda Hospital. School district leaders have said they are prevailing on the city to get those taxes paid, and we are hopeful that opponents will hold their feet to the fire to ensure that they do, because every dollar counts.

We recognize that Measure A is not perfect. But despite its flaws, we believe it offers the best alternative and the highest chance of success for providing the funding even opponents seem to agree our schools need. For that reason, we recommend that you vote yes on Measure A.


  • Adam Gillitt says:

    Of whom is your new editorial board comprised?

  • Nice, well-reasoned, non-hysterical discussion of the issues on a complex, compromise of a deal. Your new editorial Board has done itself proud. Congrats.

  • David Howard says:

    Michele – Your “About” page doesn’t disclose any background information about your two editorial peers, and certainly none that would pertain to their consideration of this endorsement question.

    As I told you after we met, Terry Winckler, for example – despite your promises that he would be objective – flat out told us that he was evaluating Measure A in light of what he saw might impact his own two kids in Alameda’s schools over the next few years. That’s hardly objective!

    And you have not disclosed other pertinent information about other editorial board members that may skew their evaluation of the measure.

    You might want to read up on what the WSJ’s Kara Swisher is doing in terms of personal disclosure to help her readers understand what she writes: http://allthingsd.com/about/kara-swisher/ethics/

    • Jon Spangler says:

      And what is wrong with considering the needs of public school students in making an editorial decision, David?

      Just because you and other opponents of Measure A are discounting or ignoring the effects of the certain school closures already underway that will take effect without Measure A does not mean that everyone else should ignore the grim realities of the “Plan B” school closures.

      According to your standards of fairness, no one who supports Measure A can possibly be reasonable or fair or truthful. I don’t get it.

      You fail to make sense….

      • Joel says:

        David Howard fail to make any sense according to you.
        Now let see if this make sense to you, I have worked all my life to buy a house my taxes will go up by $ 500 a year while all large business will pay nothing and actually will pass all cost directely to their customers.
        Please Jon if you are the community activist you claim to be , draft in this blog a letter to my Employer for wage increase so everyone can submit it to their Employers.
        No on A is the only way to stop the waste .

  • Leland Traiman says:

    Plan B is a fraud.

    The Draconian plan of school closures the Alameda Unified School District says it will have to implement if Measure A fails is a fraud. This plan, known as Plan B, was not written by educators or even the AUSD’s accountants but crafted by political consultants whose only interest was to give the District a political tool to scare people into voting for Measure A.

    The Campaign Against Measure A has obtained copies of invoices from political consultants, Erwin & Muir, to the AUSD. The AUSD hired these political consultants to create Plan B. The invoice copies were obtained from the AUSD using the California Public Records Act. Political consultants Erwin & Muir have been on the AUSD payroll since June of 2009. The AUSD paid these political consultants $300 per hour costing the District over $100,000 in total. This makes Plan B a very expensive political fabrication.

    Plan B is the primary reason Alamedans cite as their reason for supporting Measure A. It is important for Measure A supporters to understand their support is based on the tactical fantasy of political consultants and not a well reasoned decision arrived at by AUSD’s accountants and educators.

    Vote No on A.

    • dave says:

      That’s quite an allegation to make, LT. Where is your proof?

      • Leland Traiman says:

        As the posting says: We have invoices from Erwin and Muir @ $150 per hour each. They were, by far, the highest paid participants on the committee which created Plan B.

        Last year’s Measure E was to raise $14 million or, the AUSD threatened, 11 schools would close. E failed and no schools closed. This year’s Measure A is supposed to raise $12 million or, Plan B, 5 schools will close. The math does not add up because none of the calculations involved classroom capacity, enrollment or finances. The only calculations used in creating Plan B were political calculations.

          • Leland Traiman says:

            No problem! And you can look up the Superintendent’s announcement of the “Advisory” Board that wrote Plan B. Erwin and Muir’s names are printed right there, in back and white, by the AUSD itself!

            Plan B is a fraud and now we have the proof. There is no logical reason to vote for Measure A.

          • dave says:

            First you say B was written entirely by consultants. Then, when conronted with evidence that scores, even hundreds of community members participated, you backpedal and say the consultants were the highest paid of the creators, (nifty when compared to community volunteers, eh?).

            You say they were paid 300/hr and also 150. Which is it?

            Then you say the math behind B is bad w/o offering evidence or example. Why? Because you know the calculations that went into B were in fact extensive & exhaustive. Class size & capacity were at the center of the entire plan.

            You seem not to recall how B changed over time in response to community input & creative alternatives put forth by the community. You seem oblivious to the real work by educators, accountants, staff & volunteers that went into it.

            If you want to see the process that went into creating the Master Plan, there’s a detailed history here:


            Anyone who looks at that will see that your claims are full of it.

        • dave says:

          No invoice, Leland? Dog eat your homework again?

        • Jon Spangler says:


          Merely claiming that something is fraudulent does not make it fraudulent.

          You fail to document your case, other than to repeat the inaccurate claims that “Scenario B” is purely a political ploy.

          In fact, you ignore the incredible public input submitted by the community and considered by the Board of Education before it reluctantly implemented the very real school closures that are now in process. The closures WILL occur if Measure A is defeated on March 8: do you really believe that these closures are purely an artifact after witnessing the BOE’s endless public hearings and deliberations last year? Did you even bother to attend the BOE’s meetings or did you just fail to recognize the realities you experienced there?

  • Lauren Do says:

    Thanks for the insightful analysis from your new Editorial Board, I look forward to reading future editorials from this body.

    A small recommendation, perhaps there could be a mention this page that this was a product of your Editorial Board, it’s not clear from this page alone and it was only a reference from yesterday’s Pro and Con that I recalled that this was an analysis from the full Editorial Board.

  • Allan Mann says:

    I agree with your editorial that Measure A is flawed (as were Measures H and E), but worthy of support. However, I have an additional concern: passing Measure A further erodes the state’s responsibility to fund education by shifting that responsibility to the community level. While this may be OK for Alameda students, it takes the onus off the state and leaves students in cities less able to support their schools with new taxes at a serious disadvantage. I will vote — reluctantly — for Measure A, but we need to continue to pressure our elected state officials to restore fairness to statewide education funding. If not, they will leave us in the lurch and force us to have this painful discussion every few years.

    • Leland Traiman says:

      Dear Allan,

      The only reason one could support Measure A is because Plan B predicts the sky is falling. However, we now know that Plan B is a political fabrication for which the District paid $300 to two political consultants. Without the threat of Plan B there is no reason whatsoever to vote for Measure A. If you believe in truth and transparency in government Measure A must be defeated.

      • Uhh says:

        Huh…is that the same as saying “if i go over 55, I will get a speeding ticket.”. And then you saying…”the only reason that you drive 55 is because you will get a ticket! Do you know who wrote those laws?! Oh yeah, they SAY that it will reduce accidents and there are stats to back it up, but do you know what happens to the money that you pay for the ticket??? Exactly. That is my point.”

        The outcome of Measure A is FACT. And nobody wants this to happen…so the only choice we have and the BEST choice we have on Measure A is YES.

        Yes on A

      • Jon Spangler says:

        I am left speechless at your off-handed dismissal of the extensive public process that accurately reflects the grim financial realities of an AUSD budget without a new/replacement parcel tax in order to meet the public school’s
        emergency requirements following Sacramento’s irresponsible thefts of our funding.

        • Joel says:

          Jon, be carefull on your choice of words or you might beconme muter , we would not want a community actist mute would we ? Why is the AUSD refusing to disclose the formula by which they decided on the taxes , they did not tell you that one , {sorry for you} it is secret , actually to quote them propriatery “just like the greazy burger and that molasse diluted with water they call soda” If the peoples that are supposed to teach the next generation lies , you really expect the students to be honnest.

    • Susan Davis says:

      Hi Allan!

      Just wanted to let you know that AUSD (and several AUSD families, including my own) are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state that seeks to redress the very funding problems that you detail here. (That lawsuit is called Robles-Wong v California — the lead plaintiff is actually an AHS student.)

      Unfortunately, no one expects that lawsuit to be resolved for a number of years. But the fact that our own district is involved is exciting and, in my mind, a sign that the education community here is well aware of the deeper roots of our funding issue.

    • Jon Spangler says:


      Measure A does NOT take the onus off of the State of California at all.

      Public school districts as well as CA’s institutions of higher learning (community colleges, universities, and state universities) are all on the ropes and the impetus for reform is building. Measure A, at best, is a temporary band-aid that will keep many public schools from being closed and many valuable programs from being cut. We owe it to ourselves and to all of the children of Alameda – not to mention our own future as a community – to vote YES ON A and then to work on statewide reforms during the short breather it buys us.

  • Tracy Jensen says:

    Michelle thanks for the thoughtful and critical reporting, as always.

    One thing that Measure A opponents seem to be missing is the fact that more than $7 million in AUSD revenue will be gone in less than a year. As a school board member who looked at the numbers, approved the budgets, and adopted the doomsday Plan B, I recognized that when the existing local revenue sources, Measures A and H, expire in 2012 the District will face a deficit that can only be addressed by closing facilities and laying off educators.
    Perhaps AFT is not aware that Alameda Unified School District is required by law to submit a budget for approval by the County Superintendent of Schools who acts on behalf of the State of California? If Plan B is indeed “a complete fabrication”, and no schools will have to close if Measure A fails, why did the County Superintendent and the State Superintendent agree that the District’s budget projections were accurate?

    By approving the AUSD budget projections, the State of California Department of Education told AUSD to either find some additional local revenue or close some schools. To put it a bit more simply, AUSD would be – right now – facing state takeover if a budget had not been approved that made substantive “Plan B” cuts to address the shortfall that we are facing. The Plan B alternative is real, and schools will close if Measure A does not pass.

    • Leland Traiman says:

      Tracy what you seem to miss is that Plan B is a fraud. The Campaign Against Measure A has obtained copies of invoices from political consultants, Erwin & Muir, to the AUSD. The AUSD hired these political consultants to create Plan B. The invoice copies were obtained from the AUSD using the California Public Records Act. Political consultants Erwin & Muir have been on the AUSD payroll since June of 2009. The AUSD paid these political consultants $300 per hour costing the District over $100,000 in total. This makes Plan B a very expensive political fabrication.

      Last year’s Measure E was to raise $14 million or, the AUSD threatened, 11 schools would close. E failed and no schools closed. This year’s Measure A is supposed to raise $12 million or, Plan B, 5 schools will close. The math does not add up because none of the calculations involved classroom capacity, enrollment or finances. The only calculations used in creating Plan B were political calculations.

      • Jon Spangler says:

        You claim that Measure A proponents are the ones falsely claiming that “the sky is falling,” but you seem to be out of touch with the truth embodied in what most people recognize as reality.

        You repeatedly attempt to deny that the school closures have already been approved by the school board and they are being implemented – NOW.

        Why are you denying this reality, and the fact that “Plan B” has been approved by the county and state authorities who oversee such things?

  • Susan Davis says:


    Your claim that “none of the calculations involved classroom capacity, enrollment or finances,” is totally false.

    As someone who has sat through hours and hours and HOURS of Board of Ed and community meetings about the Master Plan, Measure E, Measure A, and Plan B over the last 18 months, I can assure you that district staff has indeed conducted facility, enrollment, and financial analyses — and more. These analyses were exhaustive and, I’m sure, exhausting to do.

    I’d like to suggest you spend some time going through the minutes and documents for Board of Ed meetings dating back to the summer of 2009 (when the Master Plan process began). You can find those materials here: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/index.php/board-of-education/agendas-a-minutes. I think you’ll find everything you claim doesn’t exist right within those pages.

  • dave says:

    Second that. There were NUMEROUS exchnages, discussions, calculations and explorations that involved classroom capacity, enrollment and finances.

  • Mark Irons says:


    Incessantly repeating the claim that Plan B is a fraud does not make it so. On the contrary, the claims of CAMA are a fraud. Tracy made a very clear response about cuts to date with reference to sunset of existing parcel taxes in 2012, which you conveniently ignore. If this ballot measure does not pass, what will your excuses be when things really hit the fan, as they will without passage of some relief?

    Regarding senior exemptions, two points related to Prop 13. The first is that the parcel tax is the only legal remedy available under Prop 13 to raise funds. The second is that one of the major justifications for Prop 13 is to protect seniors on fixed incomes from being taxed out of their homes. Why then shouldn’t a remedy resulting directly from Prop 13 mandates( i.e. this parcel tax) mirror that protection for seniors?

    As for inequity of caps, I think protecting local mid sized businesses such as marinas justifies cutting the baby in half so to speak. Buying time to maintain continuity in school services with a seven year plan is a more sensible priority than obsessing about equity. That which is not fair is not by definition harmful. If we had perfect equity at the state level, we would not be compelled to fend for ourselves in this manner. The compromise is pragmatic, a concept to which you don’t seem familiar.

  • Phil Stewart says:

    This is really a simple vote. If you have a pension you should vote for Plan A, if you do not and are middle class you should vote against this bill. This is a blatant attempt to feed a pension system that is severely underfunded and very little to do with education. If it actually had to do with the education that our kids are receiving, why has the town not looked into the savings that can be reached by installing a 401k retirement system into the school department.


    I also wonder what the public officials in Alameda are making?


    • Susan Davis says:

      Hi Phil,

      School districts don’t negotiate their own pension arrangements with teachers. That’s done at the state level. So AUSD wouldn’t be able to impose a 401k system (or other pension reform).

      • Jon Spangler says:


        Susan is correct. Public-sector pensions are affected by union negotiations and regulated under state law, and cannot be abrogated unilaterally by AUSD or Alameda’s voters. (There ARE serious problems with CalPERS, of course, but solving those problems is not the purview of local authorities alone. Statewide action will be required to achieve any significant changes, and the pension agreements already duly entered into between public agencies and their employees cannot be cancelled after the fact.

        And before you castigate teachers for having somehow unreasonable pensions, salaries, or benefits, take a look at how many hours they actually devote to their jobs and to our community’s children. Go spend a few months volunteering at a local public school (I have) if you want to see what teachers are really worth. I doubt very much that your perspective would remain the same if your a) understood what teachers actually do on the job, or b) were fully informed about the way CalPERS works and what its limitations are.

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    All this posturing still doesn’t alleviate some basic facts, people:

    • ONLY 16-18% of Alameda families utilize the AUSD
    • Measure A exempts EVERY TAX PAYER over the age of 60
    • Measure A gives Alameda’s biggest businesses, like The Oakland Raiders and Nob Hill Foods, among others, a break and insists that they PAY LESS TAX, while homeowners and small businesses are required to pay the full 32¢/sq. ft.
    • Measure A’s language is so vague as to be unable to guarantee any sort of quantifiable success.

    All this while the proponents of Measure A tell everyone “The schools are a backbone of our community, and are of equal importance to EVERYONE, so EVERYONE should support the schools EQUALLY.”

    Why doesn’t this add up?

  • uhh... says:

    ONLY 16-18% of Alameda families utilize AUSD???????

    Do you know what AUSD does? They educate children. Children grow up and become part of the community, become employees, become business owners, become public servants, join the military. Please explain your thought process that AUSD is only utilized by 16% of Alameda.


    YES ON A

  • Joel says:

    To all pro A under this new tax I will be giving out $ 500 more a year can anyone explain me how to get that $ 500 legally . I allready have 2 jobs to pay for my kid university…… just wondering . No on A.

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