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OP-ED: Big Bay Area governance costs voters big money

April 30, 2016
By Linda Koelling : smdailyjournal – excerpt

Why are we being asked to raise another parcel tax, this time in all nine Bay Area counties? Another redundant government agency without voter or local government oversight is trying to raise money through a new parcel tax. The question for voters should be: “How many governing special authorities does it take to do the same job?” Proponents of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority:

San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Measure AA on the June ballot claim that this new tax of $25 million collected annually, for 20 years, will be used to protect San Francisco Bay for future generations. There are already several special agencies that currently market the same effort. Special governing bodies start off to provide special services, using feel-good statements to sell themselves while eventually wielding considerable influence with little oversight. In many cases, these special interest agencies are responsible for multi-million dollar budgets like what this special authority is attempting to obtain. Voting no on this initiative is all about stopping unnecessary government bodies using increased tax dollars and using a broad brush of authority. This same Measure AA is being voted on in all nine Bay Area counties.

Measure AA states that there will be annual audits for transparency … by whom? Annual audits do not necessarily prevent mismanagement or embezzlements in these types of special governing agencies as the 2011-12 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury found in the case of the San Mateo County Mosquito Abatement District. Consider the 23 special districts in San Mateo County alone, their budgets, influence and oversight. Empowering a government body with tax dollars is not needed, especially one that covers nine Bay area counties. Another question for voters in all counties should be: “How does the money get distributed equally, and how is this vote being tabulated given the population differences in the counties?

I encourage voters to evaluate the policies and procedures for managing what the Bay Restoration Authority is alleging this significant monetary need is for, and consider alternatives to be implemented through already existing boards and commissions that protect the Bay. There are many state and nonprofit agencies that already assert the Bay protection efforts. Another question should be: “Why was this authority even put in place given all these other groups?”

Big government oversight by special governing bodies, like the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, will create more confusion for the public to have any accountability for decisions made. Just consider the broad stroke of far reaching influence being used by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Association of Bay Area Government boards. As we continue broadening the umbrella of control over everything, we reduce local government control and the ability for voters to have their voices heard. Remembering an old story which I believe describes what this initiative is really doing, is called “The Camel in the Tent”: “Crossing the desert, a Nomad stops to rest in his very small tent and ties his camel right outside. As he rests in his tent, the camel asks if he could put his nose in the tent because he’s cold. The Nomad agrees. Later the camel asks if he could put his front legs in the tent for warmth. Reluctantly the Nomad agrees. Then the camel says to the Nomad that unless his hind legs are in the tent, he will be unable to make the journey in the morning. The Nomad allows this and now the camel has taken over the tent and the Nomad is kicked out.” We are allowing ourselves to be tossed out of our “tents” of control by continuing to allow regional agencies to be empowered.

Stop the growth of unnecessary government and redundancy of responsibilities. The public is best served now and in the future if control stays local. Vote no on Measure AA.

Linda Koelling is the former mayor of Foster City and current member of the Congestion Management and Environmental Quality Committee, the Redevelopment Oversight Board in Foster City and a county commission(more)

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