I have read the arguments for and against the extension of the parcel tax, and was struck by the seeming contradiction between some of the City’s recent actions and the arguments in favor of renewing the parcel tax.
The proponents argue that the $1.5 million in revenue that the parcel tax brings in is essential in order to continue to maintain “essential city services.” My simple question is that if $1.5 million is so “essential” to the City’s budget, why didn’t the City’s losses of almost twice that amount (at least $2.5 million) on the Piedmont Hills Underground Project likewise threaten essential services? And how did the City react to that loss? Their “investigation” of it could be charitably described as dilatory, and seemed more to reflect an attitude of avoidance rather than any sense of urgency or resolve.
And then when they finally came up with “lessons learned” recommendations almost 2 years later, they proceeded to basically ignore all of them in connection with administering the Blair Park project, which is apparently still in litigation, and has continuing cost overruns of at least $100,000 and up to $400,000 if you count staff time. This was a project they repeatedly told us was a “gift” – that is, it was not supposed to cost the City anything. It has turned out to be anything but.
Why does the City then apparently feel that despite the undergrounding losses, it was okay for decision-making to remain business as usual, but now it is essential that we renew taxes to recover a fraction of what was lost. Wouldn’t it make more sense to change the way the City approaches these fiscal issues and actually take real steps now to avoid continuing to incur large losses, rather than maintain the status quo and rely on more taxes to backfill for prior poor decision-making and losses? Actions speak louder than words.