Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Restricted Parking Around Hayward BART Station

The City of Hayward has been busy installing signs that restrict parking along streets near the Hayward BART Station and at the parking garage across from City Hall. The posted restrictions limit parking to a maximum of 2- or 4-hours during the work week at the locations shown on the map below.

Click on the map to view an enlarged version.  (Image credit: City of Hayward)

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Beginning tomorrow, December 1st, the city will enforce restrictions by issuing warnings to those who exceed the posted time limits. After a grace period of a couple of weeks, citations will be issued. The fine for parking over the time limit is currently $77.50.

The new parking restrictions are in response to BART's plan to charge for parking at the Hayward Station. Hayward is the last station where drivers can still park for free. But this will come to end on December 8th when BART will begin charging a $1 fee to park between the hours of 4 am and 3 pm.

BART's new fee will undoubtedly increase desire for free off-site parking. The city hopes to limit this by enforcing the new restricted parking zones. Doing so, however, creates two potential problems.

First, those who reside on streets within the new restricted zones and who park their vehicles on the street for lengthy periods are at risk of being ticketed. Fred Kelley, the City's Transportation Manager, acknowledges that this is a possibility. But he assured me that the City will attempt to avoid citing vehicles of those locals who reside within the restricted areas and will dismiss tickets of those locals who are mistakenly cited. The alternative is to establish a parking zone that requires parking permits. While such permits are a possible future consideration, the City's current plan, if effective, is preferable, since locals won't have a need to purchase permits.

The other problem that will probably arise from the City's parking restrictions will surely frustrate many BART patrons who currently park at the Hayward Station. Currently, there is an insufficient number of parking spaces available at the station to accommodate demand. The lot and garage are typically filled to capacity by 8:15 am every Monday through Thursday. Those who arrive later are forced to find parking off-site in competition with those who prefer city streets or the City's garage to that of the BART parking lot or garage. If nearby off-site parking is effectively eliminated by the City's parking restrictions, the station's parking capacity will likely be reached considerably earlier. Those not arriving before then may have to park many blocks away, find another way to get to BART, or give up on it altogether.

Monday, October 6, 2014

New Fee to Park at Hayward BART Station

BART announced that it will soon charge for parking at the last four stations where it currently does not charge; this includes the Hayward Station. The announcement states that the daily fee will be $1, payable by cash, fare ticket, or Clipper Card. The exact date that the fee will apply at the Hayward Station has apparently not been finalized. But a City of Hayward notice states that the date will be on or around November 8, 2014. [Update: Fee will take effect on December 8, 2014]

To discuss the potential impact to the surrounding neighborhood and to hear community concerns, the City has scheduled a neighborhood meeting for October 16, 2014 at 7pm in Room 2A of City Hall. The City Council is also scheduled to have a work session on the matter on October 21, 2014.

BART plans on issuing a bulletin at least 2-weeks in advance of when the fees will take effect.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Oil by rail - not through Hayward if you please

At its meeting this past Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to oppose the transport of hazardous crude oil by rail.  This was in response to a Phillips 66 proposal to process Bakken crude at its Santa Maria Refinery in San Luis Obispo.

Bakken crude comes from the massive Bakken shale formation which underlies parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Canada. This formation has proven to be an incredibly abundant source of oil. So prolific, in fact, that production greatly exceeds existing pipeline capacity for transporting it to refineries. Consequently, suppliers have turned to railways as a means of picking up the slack.
Oil tank rail cars used to move crude to refineries.

One railway that could be used to deliver Bakken oil to the San Luis Obispo refinery is the Union Pacific line that traverses right through the heart of Hayward. The concern is that transporting oil this way, particularly Bakken crude, can be incredibly dangerous. Reasons for this include the sheer volume of oil that is typically moved in each shipment, the hurried pace by which shipments are apparently being made throughout the country, and the questionable containment integrity of existing tank cars. Moreover, Bakken oil has been found to be considerably more flammable and explosive than other types of crude.

It was Bakken oil that caught fire and exploded during a train derailment at Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec in July 2013. That disaster spilled 1.5-million-gallons of oil, destroyed half of the city’s downtown, and killed 47 people. The ongoing recovery cost is expected to climb as high as $2-billion.

While the Quebec catastrophe is undoubtedly the most infamous incident so far, it is by no means the only one. Numerous railway tanker accidents have occurred across North America within the past 9-months, including in North Dakota, Alabama, and Alberta. Could a similar one happen right here in Hayward? Absolutely. In fact, multiple derailments (not including oil tankers) already have.

In 1980, a freight train derailed while crossing the Industrial Parkway overpass. Seven freight cars derailed, the locomotive was destroyed, and two train crewmembers lost their lives. Damage was estimated to be over $1.3M.

Train derailment at Industrial Parkway overpass in Hayward (1980).













In 2002, an Amtrak Coast Starlight derailed near Baumberg Avenue and Industrial Boulevard. A locomotive and five passenger cars left the tracks.

What might the consequences be of a Hayward train derailment that involves oil tank rail cars carrying Bakken oil? In a staff report to Council, Fire Chief Garrett Contreras detailed a scenario where only one tank rail car (of what could be as many as one hundred) explodes. The result is not pretty. The hypothetical explosion, centered at the Hayward Amtrak Station (as shown in the figure below), would potentially be lethal over a radius of a third of a mile. This deadly blast zone includes the Burbank Elementary School, numerous parks, and scores of residential structures. Outside the immediate blast zone, burns and other painful effects might be felt as far away as three quarters of a mile.

Area impacted by a hypothetical explosion of one oil tank rail car at the Hayward Amtrak Station  (Credit: HFD)


































Given Hayward's history of train derailments, the possible tragic consequences of an accident involving Bakken crude, and the tremendous political power of the oil and railroad industries, the Council is absolutely correct in taking a strong, early stand against this potential threat. Kudos to the Council and City Staff for monitoring the situation and getting out in front of it. The Council resolution approved on Tuesday night authorizes and directs staff to advocate the issue at both the local and national levels.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Congratulations Hayward! Now 9.5 and shooting for 10!

Bay Area Sales Tax Rates
9.50% Albany, El Cerrito, Half Moon Bay, HAYWARD*, Moraga, Union City
9.25% San Leandro, San Mateo, San Rafael
9.00% Alameda, Antioch, Atherton, Belmont, Berkeley, Brisbane, Burlingame, Campbell, Castro Valley, Colma, Concord, Corte Madera, Daly City, Dublin, East Palo Alto, Emeryville, Fairfax, Foster City, Fremont, Hercules, Hillsborough, Larkspur, Livermore, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Newark, Novato, Oakland, Orinda, Pacifica, Piedmont, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasanton, Portola Valley, Redwood City, Richmond, San Anselmo, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Lorenzo, San Pablo, South San Francisco
8.75% Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara, Saratoga, Sunnyvale
8.50% Belvedere, Brentwood, Clayton, Danville, Lafayette, Martinez, Mill Valley, Oakley, Pleasant Hill, Ross, San Ramon, Sausalito, Tiburon, Walnut Creek

                   *October 1, 2014














We're floating to the top!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Measure C - Vote No Before We're All Cooked!



Integrated Waste Management Fee • Household Hazardous Waste Fee • Stop Waste Benchmark Service Fee • eWaste Fee • Tire Fee • Paint Fee • Paper Bag Fee • California Lumber Products Assessment • California Redemption Value • California Disability Access and Education Fee • Occupational Lead Poisoning FeeChildhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Fee • Alcoholic Beverage Tax • Cigarette and Tobacco Products Tax • Emergency Telephone Users SurchargeFederal Universal Service FundGolden Gate Bridge Toll • CalTrans Bridge Tolls • Express Lane TollsCalifornia Vehicle Insurance Anti-Fraud Fee • California Highway Patrol FeeCalifornia Vehicle Registration & Vessel FeesVehicle License FeeVehicle Weight Fee • Alameda County Vehicle Registration Fee  • Motor Vehicle Fuel TaxUse Fuel TaxNatural Gas SurchargeAC Transit Measure VVCSA Paramedic AssessmentCSA Vector Control • CSA Vector Control BMosquito Abatement • Mosquito Assessment #2Urban RunoffFlood Benefit Assessment • East Bay Regional Park District Trail Lighting and Landscape DistrictHayward Area Recreational District Park MaintenanceHayward Unified School District (HUSD) Measure G • HUSD Maintenance Assessment DistrictSurvey Monument Preservation FundProperty Documentary Transfer TaxHayward Real Property Transfer Tax • Hayward Emergency Facilities TaxHayward Utility User Tax • Hayward Transient Occupancy Tax • Hayward Business License Tax ...


California Sales Tax
7.5%
BART/AC Transit Sales Tax (1974)
0.5%
Alameda County Transportation Sales Tax (1986)
0.5%
Alameda County Health Care Sales Tax (2004)
0.5%
Current Total Sales Tax:
9.0%


Hayward's Proposed Measure C Sales Tax
0.5%
Proposed Future Sales Tax:
9.5%


Proposed Additional County Transportation Sales Tax
0.5%
Proposed Future Sales Tax:
10.0%




Sunday, June 1, 2014

Measure C & the Proposed Library - a pre-election update

Campaign Contributions Supporting Measure C

Earlier this past week I was urged to visit City Hall to examine the campaign disclosure statements that were filed by the political action committee supporting Measure C.  I didn't expect them to be all that interesting, but I made the effort anyway. As it turns out, they are rather intriguing.

As of May 22nd, the PAC took in a reported total of $62,450.

The first interesting contribution is that made by the City Manager, Fran David. It would appear that she really wants to see this measure approved. Not even being a Hayward resident, she contributed $2,500. This is more than the contribution made by the Mayor and all of the City Council members combined. In fact, her contribution is more than that of any other individual except one. That honor goes to our district Assemblymember Bill Quirk, who's currently running for re-election.

Mr. Quirk contributed a whopping $7,500. Apparently public service in the State Assembly makes one wealthy and philanthropic. Or perhaps the money is otherwise a quid pro quo payback of the funds previously provided to the Assemblyman's campaign by local unions (as documented in other campaign disclosure statements). 

Direct contributions by labor unions to Measure C are less than I had otherwise expected. So far the total contribution is $9,200 with Hayward Firefighters Local 1909 and Sprinkler Fitters Local 483 providing the bulk of the funding at $5,000 and $3,000, respectively.

Now here's where things get really interesting. The next largest contribution is by the architectural firm Noll & Tam. This is the firm that has been working with the City on the proposed new library since 2007. It currently has an active $3-million contract with the City to complete the library's final design. The firm initially contributed $5,000 to the campaign. But within a week of my posting "Hayward's Proposed New Library - A Costly Mistake," the firm tripled its contribution, bringing its total to $15,000. Now I'm not an authority on campaign financing, so I'm guessing this is legal. But it sure does smack of impropriety to me. This is because the contract includes a contingency pay item that's authorized at the discretion of city staff for issues not previously identified. Seeing how eager our city staff is to have Measure C pass (as evident by the City Manager's generous contribution as well as contributions made by a couple of other executive employees), one has to wonder if the firm will be recouping its contribution through exaggerated contingency claims, contract amendments, or deliverables that would not otherwise meet expectations. An independent audit would be prudent.

Finally, the largest contributor, providing $20,000 so far, is the Friends of the Hayward Public Library. This is particularly surprising; because as a non-profit organization, it is discouraged from political lobbying. In fact, the IRS imposes severe penalties, including revocation of non-profit status, on an organization that spends more than 20-percent of its expenditures on campaigning. This means that the friends group must spend $80,000 (and advisably more) on other endeavors this year. Spending a minimum of $100,000 in one year is a tremendous amount for the group considering that it only takes in about $25,000 annually.

Library Commissioner Criticizes Council over Measure C

At this past week’s City Council meeting, Library Commissioner Kelly Greenne laid into the Council for allowing a long sought library funding measure to evolve into a costly, unrestricted general fund, sales tax referendum. She fears that if approved in this form, the money can be spent any which way, potentially resulting in an undesirable project or possibly none at all. She also called for a public accounting of the $10M in library funding promised by Calpine.

SF Chronicle Highlights Proposed Library Project

In case you missed it, earlier this month the San Francisco Chronicle published an article highlighting the City's proposed library project. The article reveals just how delusional city leaders are in their belief that a new library will be Hayward's salvation. They claim it will have "a huge impact" on economic development by attracting over one million visitors to the downtown each year. They seem to be under the illusion that they're planning the next Disneyland.  The photos in the article are equally revealing. Advocates for a new library trumpet the need for space, yet photos 1 and 4 show that the existing shelving space is significantly underutilized. And why would Hayward citizens want to invest $90-million in a new library when the City is unable or unwilling to maintain it's existing from such things as a window leak as shown in photo 5? Voters ought to take note that it's this kind of deterioration from neglected maintenance that's used as justification for promoting replacement of many of the older City facilities.

Pursuing Library Partnerships

On a more positive note, at the last City Council meeting the Library Director informed the Council of the department’s new goal for FY 2015: expand the library's reach by partnering with local schools. Yep, it looks like we're starting to talk some good sense. Perhaps my arguments aren't falling on deaf ears after all. Whatever way it has come about, let’s hope the endeavor proves fruitful.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Measure C - More costly than you may think

Some of our Mayoral and City Council candidates have described Hayward’s proposed sales tax increase as “nothing to cry about” and a mere “a drop in the bucket.” Apparently they view this tax as nothing more consequential than losing a few pennies from their pockets.

A more considered perspective would be to view the proposed increase from 9 to 9½-percent for what it really is:  a 5½-percent tax hike. And should the November county transportation sales tax measure also be successful, the move from 9½ to 10-percent (the highest rate in the state) will equal an additional 5-percent increase or an overall 11-percent increase of our sales tax in just 6-months.

Consider the ramification in the context of cumulative spending over time. Over the course of two decades (the duration of the proposed tax), a typical household will spend many tens of thousands of dollars on the purchase of taxable items, such as: vehicles, vehicle fuel, parts and supplies, home remodeling, home maintenance items and tools, appliances, furniture, TVs, computers, cell phones, clothing, toys, gifts, carbonated and alcoholic beverages, dining out, pet food and supplies, etcetera. All this adds up. The typical household will wind up spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more in sales tax.

Also consider the consequences in the context of business operations. Hayward is fortunate to have a large commercial/industrial business sector that generates much of the city’s sales tax revenue. Many of these companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on materials and supplies every single year. And most of them are competing in a global market where every penny counts. Aside from decreasing the desirability of their products among California buyers, increasing our city’s sales tax discourages them from making any substantial business-to-business purchases in Hayward.

Don’t expect others to shop Hayward first either. Never mind those who will shop out-of-state retailers via the Internet. Consider those families in San Lorenzo who currently prefer to shop Hayward’s Costco, Home Depot, Macy’s, Kohl’s, etcetera over those very same stores located in San Leandro simply because Hayward’s sales tax is currently a quarter percent less than San Leandro’s. Such frugality might seem incredulous to some, but in the context of cumulative spending over time, the savings are measureable and obviously desired. And possibly more motivating to those who make this choice is the principle of supporting more efficient governance by voting with their wallets. Approving Measure C reverses this equation, as Hayward’s sales tax will wind up being a quarter-percent more than San Leandro’s. Hayward’s sales tax will also wind up being a half-percent more than Pleasanton’s and Newark’s, thereby putting retailers at Southland Mall at a disadvantage to those located at the popular Stoneridge Shopping Center and the increasingly attractive NewPark Mall.

Hayward building contractors competing with contractors that commute in from outside of the county are going to find themselves at a greater disadvantage as well. The sales tax rate in Modesto, for example, is only 7.625-percent. Should Hayward’s sales tax be 10-percent by the end of the year, contractors commuting with their supplies purchased from the Modesto area will have a 2.375-percent purchasing advantage on top of their already lower cost of doing business. And believe it or not, contractors are commuting into Hayward from as far away as Sacramento.

Finally, consider that the Measure C tax is just one of several we’ll be facing in short order. By the end of the year we can also expect the aforementioned transportation sales tax as well as other new taxes proposed by AC Transit and the Hayward Unified School District. Of these, Measure C will be the only one whose outcome will be decided solely by Hayward voters. This, in conjunction with the expectation that voter turnout will be abysmally low, means that your vote in this election will greatly influence the amount of future sales tax you pay in Hayward; so be sure to vote.

And when you do vote, should you find yourself wondering if Measure C represents anything more than a few pennies from your pocket, keep this incredible fact in mind: it will take nine-Billion pennies just to pay for the City’s promised library. It will take many more to deliver on the City’s other Measure C promises. Do you really have that much spare change?

Vote No on Measure C


PS: Measure C isn’t the last of the City’s intentions to raise taxes. According to its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015, the City is planning on increasing its business tax revenues by at least 10-percent through adjustments of its rates and business categories.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Unabridged Argument Against Measure C

By now registered voters should have received their official Voter Information Pamphlet in the mail. It contains the argument I authored against Measure C. I'm somewhat surprised by this because an argument submitted by an individual voter, like myself, gets superseded by any submitted by an organized group or a governing authority. Apparently though, I was the only one who made an effort to challenge the measure; so mine are the words you'll read.

To make the argument, I repeatedly used questions as my rhetorical device. I did so believing that readers contemplating these questions would more strongly convince themselves of the absurdity of it all than I could with specific statements, given the 300-word limitation.

But now not being restricted to the number of words I can post, I figured I'd offer some additional thoughts congruent to those previous. The bold text below is that of my original argument printed in the pamphlet. The italicized words are my added thoughts. Feel free to include your own in the comment section that follows.


Why does the City believe it’s entitled to greater relief from the effects of the recession and future inflationary costs than its residents and businesses?

This single question could have been the extent of the argument, since I honestly couldn't conceive of a justifiable answer myself. After all, everyone faced hardships and cutbacks during the recession. Just as we're all now facing rising costs as the economy improves. What makes the City so special that it should be rewarded with bonus income for the next 20-years?

Having since heard our incumbent candidates speak in support of the tax, it appears that their agreed upon answer is this: the City is deserving because it has managed its finances responsibly while the state has robbed it blind. They repeat this so often; they've apparently convinced themselves it's true. But they haven't convinced me.

Yes, two decades ago, the state altered the traditional allocation of property tax revenue to include a shift of funding away from local governments and toward local schools. For the City, this essentially resulted in a permanent loss of several million dollars per year. While certainly unfortunate, undesirable, and not entirely inconsequential, it's not the source of the City's current woes. After more than 20-years, this overused excuse has become a bit long in the tooth. We've since approved Measure A which offsets the annual loss by several fold. And we've also approved Proposition 1A (2004) and Proposition 22 (2010) to protect city funds. 

The candidates also point to the State's dissolution of local redevelopment agencies as another source of the City's financial woes. The problem with this argument is that redevelopment money was never city money in the first place. The State granted cities an extra portion of property taxes collected in a particular project area to use in a very specific way. This investment by the State was to reverse urban blight, which would presumably lead to increased property values, thereby raising future property tax revenue. Some cities were apparently misusing program funds, and the program's overall effectiveness was called into question. In 2012, all redevelopment agencies were dissolved. While this too was unfortunate, undesirable, and not entirely inconsequential, it's also not the reason for the City's current budgetary concerns.

The current concerns are the direct result of an unfortunate misstep made by Hayward (and many other cities) when employee pension plans were greatly sweetened back in 2002. Now, as the saying goes, the chickens have come home to roost. The floundering Public Employees Retirement System has been requiring greater and greater contributions to remain solvent. As a consequence, the City is now predicting significant budget deficits in future years.

In 10-years the deficit may be as high as $23-million, according to a Measure C editorial published by the Oakland Tribune/Daily Review. The problem, as the editorial points out, is that the promises made by the City for how it will spend Measure C money do nothing to address any deficit. In fact, if you think it through, fulfilling the Measure C promises will actually exacerbate the situation. The editorial warns that the City may be employing a bait-and-switch tactic. While the editor apparently understands how illogical it is to approve this measure, the publication inexplicably supports it anyway. Go figure.



Why does the City contend that it has over half-a-billion dollars in unmet capital needsyet provides no reference to any document supporting this incredible claim? 


Because any organization seeking additional revenue will typically exaggerate its need. But it's rather incredible that any would do so by hundreds of millions of dollars beyond its own published documents. Then again, if no one of authority questions it, why not shoot for the moon?


Why does the City’s Capital Improvement Program list unfunded capital projects valued at $325M of which more than half this amount can be attributed to Caltrans interchange projects traditionally funded by federal, state, and regional sources?

Because if you're going to exaggerate a need for funds, there are few better projects to claim as your own than hugely expensive CalTrans projects, including...

  • I-880/Industrial Parkway Interchange  $43M
  • I-880/West A St Interchange  $27M
  • I-880/Whipple Rd Interchange  $13.5M
  • I-880/Winton Ave  $25M
  • Rt 92/Clawiter/Whitesell Interchange  $52M
  • Rt 92/Industrial Blvd Interchange  $6M

(Incidentally, most of these projects are also being sited by the County Transportation Commission as justification for another 1/2-percent sales tax measure in November, which the Council also unanimously supports.)


Why is the City proposing a $60M library that is 50-percent more costly than even the most expensive new Bay Area library built within the past decade?

Because the proposal is based on the unbridled wishes of passionate library enthusiasts. And, of course, this grand plan is embraced by staff who are understandably eager to work in a new facility that would rival and exceed those of even the most wealthy Bay Area communities.


How will the City afford to stock, staff, and otherwise operate this proposed three story facility that would be more than twice the size of the existing?

If the City is honest and accurate with its projections of increasing pension liabilities and resulting future deficits, it will not be able to afford it without yet another increase in taxes. Never-the-less, like many public boondoggles, proponents believe "if we build it, they will fund"--betting on the notion that if so much money is committed to construction and financing, a future commitment of additional operating funds will have to materialize. Perhaps it will someday. But if we're to take a lesson from the City of San Jose, we best not hold our breath while waiting. 


Why does the City believe that it’s managing its finances responsibly when the 20-highest compensated city employees in 2012 each received a quarter-of-a-million dollars or more in salary and benefits? Or when the top six received more than $300,000 in compensation—nearly six times Hayward’s median household income?

While everyone who lives, works and generally survives at the mercy of competitive free-market forces recognizes that this level of compensation is excessive, the City only compares itself to other local public organizations where such pay is not entirely unusual. Consequently, the City deems this to be perfectly responsible management. Never-mind the fact that many of these organizations are facing fiscal calamity.


Why hasn’t the city’s existing supplemental taxes (the emergency facilities tax and the 5.5-percent utility tax) accomplished what they were intended to do?

Because according to a 2012/13 Alameda County Grand Jury investigation, the City allocates the entirety of the Emergency Facilities Tax revenue toward paying down the construction debt on City Hall and the downtown Fire Station No. 1. This then leaves nothing for addressing current concerns at any other critical facilities. The grand jury determined this to be acceptable, since the emergency facilities tax is a general fund source that can be spent any way the City sees fit. Likewise, the utility tax is also a general fund source, so its revenue can be expended in any manner as well. And yes, Measure C would also be a general fund source.

These taxes for general discretionary spending always begin with the promise of addressing emergency/protection/safety issues, yet they always seem to fall short on delivery. See the pattern? Perpetuating public fear is an effective strategy for seeking additional future revenue.


Why is the City not concerned by the burden that this unprecedented combination of taxes will have on Hayward’s residents and businesses?

Because apparently City leaders don't feel personally burdened by these taxes. It then stands to reason that they can't appreciate why anyone else would.


Why is the City not concerned that this measure in combination with the possible augmentation of the county transportation sales tax will set Hayward’s sales tax rate at an even 10-percent?

Because even after climbing to what is currently the highest sales tax rate in the state, City leaders are confident that a handsome new library building will attract new business and more shoppers to Hayward.


Why does the City believe that its residents and businesses are an endless source of revenue?


Because we have historically shown that we are willing to be so by way of our collective apathy and acceptance.

In fact, if you oppose this tax, it is not merely enough to plan on voting no. You need to commit to ensuring that every Hayward voter you know votes no as well. Because if I'm the only one making the effort, then we're all going to be paying unnecessarily higher taxes in the future.


Why?


Because the City has analyzed it, strategized it, and figures it can.  Don't let it.

Vote No on Measure C

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hayward's Proposed New Library - a Costly Mistake

To make its sales tax measure as enticing as possible, the City has made numerous promises. The most expensive of which by far is the promise of a new library. Consequently, if you haven't made up your mind on Measure C (or even if you have), you should be asking yourself, "is this proposed new library really such a good idea?"

I say no; it isn't.

It's not that I dislike libraries or believe nothing should be done to improve our existing library situation. It's just that the proposal before us is ridiculously exorbitant and a big mistake. We really have to strike a better balance between the reality of the digital information age and what we already have available to us, all the while continuing to live within our means.

Presently, the City is proposing to construct a three-story, 55,000-sq-ft library at a cost of $60-million which equates to $1,100 per sq-ft. This would be the most expensive new library endeavor in the Bay Area since the monumental collaboration 12-years ago between San Jose State and the City of San Jose.



The information in the chart above was compiled and presented to the Hayward City Council on March 4, 2014 by library supporter Cheryl Penick.


In addition to the $60-million construction cost, the City would incur a $30-million financing charge (inferred from the City's staff report on Measure C, a snippet of which is shown below).

So when all is said and done, this single building will actually have cost us $90-million. That's $600 for every man, woman, and child living in Hayward today.




The image above is a snippet from the project/services table presented in the March 4, 2014 city staff report on Measure C. The text in red is an annotation by this blog author to show the derivation of the otherwise undisclosed $90M total cost.








Architect's rendering of the proposed library's interior showing patrons wandering around a vast open space. Admittedly pretty to look at, but at an ultimate cost of $90-million one has to doubt if this is at all practical, necessary, or worthwhile.


For 90-million dollars, we're supposed to get 50-percent more shelving space than the existing main library according to city staff. But what exactly is going to go on all this shelving? After-all this is supposed to be a "21st Century Library of the Future," and only an ostrich with its head in the sand can't see that the future is all digital.

Printed books are going the way of the retailers that once sold them--Crown Books, Waldenbooks, Borders Books--all gone. But if you're the ostrich who thinks this isn't going to happen, then invest in Barnes & Nobles. They're currently having a great sale on their stock.

The same can be said for all physical forms of audio and visual media. Say good-bye to CDs and DVDs just as you have to Tower Records and Blockbuster Video.

The fact is, the future has arrived. It's digital, and it doesn't require shelving--not in a store and not in a library.

The problem here is that the City's proposal is based on the wishes of library enthusiasts that were gathered in the latter half of 2007--2½-years before the release of the first iPad. The world of information exchange has changed a lot in seven years. High speed Internet and cheap digital storage memory have become ubiquitous. Today people can access more current information than any library could possibly hold right from the device they carry in the palm of their hand. Odds are you're doing so right this very minute.

Supporters of the proposed library argue that besides more shelving space, the new library is needed for more meeting space. This is nonsense; we already have all we need. We already have invested millions toward the new construction and refurbishment of some really great spaces all throughout our community. We just need to make better use of them.

Not more than a 5-minute walk from the existing main library is our $35-million City Hall. For public meetings (and even private functions) it has a beautiful rotunda, auditorium, and a large, easily accessible meeting room above the lobby. The City Hall also has a vast unused corridor that could be re-purposed as a public Internet cafe if the number of terminals in the existing library are deemed insufficient for the demand.





Existing public meeting spaces in Hayward's City Hall include the rotunda (left), the city council auditorium (right), and Room 2 (not shown) above the lobby.









An unused, off-limits, wasted space corridor in our existing City Hall. Its 100-ft length and generous width could accommodate at least 50 public Internet terminals that could be watched over by the existing lobby receptionist/security-guard.


Additionally, in 2008 voters approved Measure I which authorized $205-million in improvements to our local schools, including: MLK Middle SchoolSchafer Park Elementary, and Tyrell Elementary. All of these schools serve as excellent locations for meeting and tutoring; after-all that's their principle function. Another great facility is Burbank Elementary School where my neighborhood group meets on a regular basis. In addition to these and other schools, we also have the HARD community centers. Or how about the facilities of other public entities like the Flood Control District offices where the most recent candidates forum took place? The fact of the matter is, we have many decent places to conveniently gather and meet if only we make the effort to arrange for it.

Still not convinced that this proposal is a mistake? Then consider the wisdom of further perpetuating the existing seismic hazard by building a three-story, public assembly building filled with thousands of unrestrained projectiles across the street from "America's most dangerous fault." It sure seems like a mistake to me.





USGS map of Hayward Fault traces and their proximity to the proposed library site.


So, what do we do if not move forward with the City's proposal?

We should work with what we have, just as any sensible Hayward resident or business would do.

We've got an existing library that needs upgrades and renovation, and we have a $10-million "gift" from the Calpine Corporation (at least we did before the City started spending it on Measure C consultants). If we can't accomplish the necessary upgrades and renovation for $10-million, then we're doing something wrong.

But if utilizing what we have is too modest of an approach for the big spenders in the community who just can't do without a dedicated, glistening new building, then at least let's consider collaboration--let's share the cost. We could follow in the footsteps of Albany, Dublin, Fremont, Newark and Union City and join the Alameda County Library system. Or perhaps we could collaborate with the university like San Jose did, or partner with Chabot College or the Hayward Unified School District.

The fact is we can do a lot with what we have and with the partnerships we could form. We do not need a $90-million library, and we definitely don't need to be burdened with more unnecessary taxes.

Vote No on Measure C.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Opt Out of the Garbage Snooping Fee

If you're like most, you probably don't like the idea of the government eavesdropping on your phone conversations or scanning through your e-mail. But how do you feel about the government snooping through your garbage? That's what's happening right now all across Alameda County under a program called Benchmark Service. It's a program of the Waste Management Authority, where random inspections of people's garbage containers (and those of businesses as well) are documented and reported.

The supposed purpose of this program is to measure the amount of garbage, recyclable, and compostable materials being discarded as garbage. It's promoted as anonymous, but the audits take place at the point of collection (your home or business) rather than at a transfer station. Why? Apparently the Authority is not merely interested in the general proportioning or total amount of collected materials, but rather the specifics of what and where it was collected. Can you say Green Police?



If this is something you support, then move your welcome mat out to the curb on collection days. If it's something you oppose, opt out of paying the fee that funds the program (today is the last day).

Opting out won't save you enough money to buy a new environmentally friendly car, but at least it'll give you the satisfaction of knowing you're not supporting more government snooping.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"No On C" Signs

It won't be long before you start seeing some fancy "Yes on C" campaign materials distributed by an organization called the "Committee to Protect Hayward's Future."  They'll show images of noble fire fighters, police officers, and of course, adorable little children reading books, aww.

The deep pockets that fund these campaigns for higher taxes (yeah, you know who they are) are preying on the fears of the gullible who believe that if we don't grow the city's payroll by passing this tax, our future and that of our children will go unprotected.

Do not dismiss the effectiveness of this obvious ploy. After all, it worked just 5-years ago to pass the 5½-percent utility tax. Why wouldn't they come back for more using the very same arguments and images from their prior campaign?

On this side of the struggle, all we have is a grassroots effort. There are no committees and no special interests funding anything here--no professional websites, no flashy mailers, and no print shop signs. All we have is this humble blog and its companion Facebook page.

With no funding, we're at a huge disadvantage when attempting to reach out to the disconnected and the uninformed. Therefore, if you believe enough is enough, and that the City needs to operate within its means just as you and everyone you know has to, then get involved and spread the word.

Make your own signs. You can use the files I've created here to print paper signs and post them in the windows of your home, your business, and on bulletin boards at the office, club, or other gathering places. (Of course, be respectful and only post signs or flyers where you have authority or permission.)

Now I'm no graphic artist; so if there's anyone out there who can do better (as I'm sure there are), please contact me and propose/prepare alternative sign designs. I'll post or add a link to any decent new designs. So be sure to visit here again anytime before the election for possible updates.

All files are in the portable document format (PDF)

Single 8½ x 11 letter size sheet  "NO ON C"

Single 8½ x 14 legal size sheet  "NO ON C"

Single 11 x 17 ledger size sheet  "NO ON C"

Three 8½ x 11 letter size sheets  "NO ON C"
  • horizontal/landscape format:  red font


Copy and Print Services in Hayward: Yelp list



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Submitted Argument Against Measure C

This past Friday was the last day to submit arguments for possible inclusion in the official voter information pamphlets for the June 3, 2014 election. For Hayward's sales tax measure, now designated as Measure C, I submitted the text below as an argument against. Strict rules limit the number of words that can be used to no more than 300, so I presented my narrative in a rhetorical question style for greater effect. Will these words actually find their way into the voter's pamphlets? Probably not. So here they are now for your consideration...

Why does the City believe it’s entitled to greater relief from the effects of the recession and future inflationary costs than its residents and businesses?

Why does the City contend that it has over half-a-billion dollars in unmet capital needs, yet provides no reference to any document supporting this incredible claim? Why does the City’s Capital Improvement Program list unfunded capital projects valued at $325M of which more than half this amount can be attributed to Caltrans interchange projects traditionally funded by federal, state, and regional sources?

Why is the City proposing a $60M library that is 50-percent more costly than even the most expensive new Bay Area library built within the past decade? How will the City afford to stock, staff, and otherwise operate this proposed three story facility that would be more than twice the size of the existing?

Why does the City believe that it’s managing its finances responsibly when the 20-highest compensated city employees in 2012 each received a quarter-of-a-million dollars or more in salary and benefits? Or when the top six received more than $300,000 in compensation—nearly six times Hayward’s median household income?

Why hasn’t the city’s existing supplemental taxes (the emergency facilities tax and the 5.5-percent utility tax) accomplished what they were intended to do? Why is the City not concerned by the burden that this unprecedented combination of taxes will have on Hayward’s residents and businesses? Why is the City not concerned that this measure in combination with the possible augmentation of the county transportation sales tax will set Hayward’s sales tax rate at an even 10-percent?

Why does the City believe that its residents and businesses are an endless source of revenue?


Why?


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

City proceeds with tax measure citing “very strong support”

Last night the Hayward City Council unanimously approved a resolution to place a 1/2-cent city sales tax measure on the June 2014 ballot. It did so on the recommendation by staff who had previously declared that potential voters showed "very strong support" for the tax increase.

Apparently, a sampled group of likely voters indicated support to the tune of 66-percent, according to the city's consultant, Godbe Research. However, this group was only effectively exposed to the City’s one-sided message. The research consultant warned that support could quickly erode should the electorate be exposed to counter arguments without a sustained campaign in favor of the measure. To foster such a campaign, the Council previously approved $114,000 in consultant fees for "outreach and education." Never-the-less, I expect voter support to be fleeting as it simply doesn't make sense for a truly informed electorate to approve such a measure.

Many reasons exist as to why voters should oppose this tax increase, and I’ll elaborate on them in the coming months. But for the moment, I want to touch on just a few to get the conversation started.

Let’s begin with the absurdity of the City’s claim that it has over half-a-billion dollars (that’s a five with eight zeroes behind it) in unfunded needs and that only an additional half-cent of every future dollar sale will get us by. This kind of claim requires some scrutiny. We ought to be taking a closer look at these supposed needs, and in particular, the justification and alternatives to each. The latest report of the Capital Improvement Program provides a laundry list of city desired projects with no identified funding that total $325-million. Having perused this list I can assure you that not all of these projects are critical and that the expected augmentation of Measure B will fund a substantial number of the most expensive of them.

Next let’s examine the lack of funding. After all, we do pay a plethora of taxes: property taxes, sales taxes, an emergency facilities tax, and a utility tax. We also pay other taxes and fees, such as the gas tax, Measure B tax, vehicle licensing fees, etc. which provides the City with millions of dollars in grants each year. Where exactly does all this money go, if not to the city's most critical needs?

The San Jose Mercury News - Public Employee Salaries Database offers a clue. A query of the latest available data (from 2012) reveals that the City’s 20-highest compensated employees (including a contract employee) each took home a quarter-of-a-million dollars or more in salary and benefits. In fact, there were a half-dozen employees whose compensation was north of $300,000 in that single year. That’s nearly six times the median household income of Hayward residents and more than many small businesses earn in annual revenue.  One has to wonder if voters strongly favor this as well. Because this is the reality of what a general fund sales tax actually supports.


Click on the chart above to view a more detailed and expanded PDF version.

Then there has to be the consideration of impact to business in the city. The City's position, supported by its revenue enhancement consultant, Muniservices, is that the impact will be negligible. I don't think so. If approved in conjunction with the almost certain passage of the County Transportation sales tax measure (another Council supported initiative), Hayward's sales tax will be an even 10-percent. This will make it the highest in the state, a distinction that will be shared by only five other cities in this state of 478 (assuming no additional tax increases occur at other highly taxed cities). If you believe this is negligible, think again.

A 10-percent sales tax will have an adverse impact for several reasons. First, it passes a psychological threshold that is known to influence sales. Retailers set prices at $9.99 instead of $10 for a reason. Second, while the new higher rate might not drive smaller purchases to surrounding communities, it will almost certainly drive more small purchases to out-of-state retailers via the Internet. Larger purchases will most definitely be driven to neighboring communities as the difference can be substantial. For example, if a contractor needs to purchase $50,000 in building supplies, why would he buy them at the Hayward Home Depot when he could drive down Crow Canyon Road and buy them at the San Ramon Home Depot for a savings of $750 (10% tax rate vs. 8.5% tax rate)? And finally and perhaps most importantly, having the highest sales tax rate in the state, in conjunction with our other special taxes, basically screams that Hayward is unfriendly toward business. This equates to a critical fail as the city's real future revenue growth stems from a thriving business community.

If the City would only focus this much staff time, consultant time, and precious funds on fostering and attracting new business as it has on this effort of taxation, our economic forecast would be far more encouraging and positively sustainable.

Monday, February 24, 2014

City campaign to increase Hayward's sales tax

Last week the Hayward City Council approved a contract amendment for political strategist Clifford Moss who's working toward the apparent goal of increasing the City’s sales tax. By doing so, a good $114,000 in consulting fees and an untold amount of staff costs will likely go to waste, as it's hard to believe Hayward voters will approve another tax.

It’s not that the proposed ½-cent increase is particularly steep; it’s the fact that we are facing the proverbial death by a thousand cuts. A little tax increase here, a special assessment there, mix in a bunch of new government fees, and we’re left choking on a long term financial burden for services we supposedly already fund by other means.

Aside from the usual property and sales taxes that fund essential services like police and fire fighting, we in Hayward have a special Emergency Facilities Tax and a 5.5-percent Utility Tax. Both of these are supposed to provide additional support to the City’s police and fire fighting capability. But somehow it's still not enough. So now, yet again, we are being asked to pony up even more.

But this won’t be the only sales tax proposal we'll face this year. According to a Contra Costa Times news article, the County Transportation Commission will be promoting an increase as well.

And have you reviewed your property tax bill lately? I have. In addition to my regular property tax, I have to pay over $300 for a dozen special assessments on my single family residence. This includes an assessment for “Mosquito Abatement,” “Mosquito Assess 2,” “Vector Control,” and “Vector Control B.” All of this begs the question: How many times do we have to pay for the very same thing?

Then of course there’s the government imposed fees on every bottled drink, every electronic screen, every stick of lumber, and every paper grocery bag just to name a few. And if those are not enough for you, don’t worry; there are plenty more on the way. Here are a couple you should be directing your immediate attention to:

Prior to last week’s meeting I sent a letter to the council members urging them to abandon this sales tax campaign to no avail; the item passed unanimously without discussion. Apparently, if this is to be nipped in the bud, the community as a whole is going to have to push-back and push-back hard. It’s time to get vocal and rally your neighbors and friends. Tell your Council members, and particularly those running for mayor, enough is enough; let’s live within our means and avoid an expensive campaign.