Public Safety. What is it? That seems to be a matter of some confusion when it comes to the application of funds from everybody’s favorite tax, Measure Z.
As THC recalls, the County was fairly loud in their assertion that the funds were for fire and police services. Sure, the language in the ballot measure reflects that the funds could be used for literally anything, or “any legal governmental purpose.” It’s a trust issue, we guess.
An editorial from the T-S back in February, which you can read in full here, points out as much: “Measure Z is ultimately a matter of trust. … Do you trust Rex Bohn, Estelle Fennell, Mark Lovelace, Virginia Bass and Ryan Sundberg to spend Measure Z dollars faithfully?” Trust is earned, and, well, look at the track record in question. Yikes.
And where was all the County propaganda championing how roads were an imminent threat to public safety back in 2014? The County’s creatively loose definitions about public safety, and how they specifically chose to push Measure Z on the basis of funding safety services, reminds us a lot of their months-long disaster declaration.
Crap, that was propaganda from the other side. But THC doesn’t remember – nor can we find anything on the all-powerful interwebs – that speaks to the County’s plans for road repairs. There sure are a ton of pictures of firefighters and cops, though.
How trusting are you going to feel when Humboldt County fails to sunset the tax Measure and it becomes a permanent part of the tax base? (That coming to pass is a THC guarantee! You think the County is going to let go of that money?)
Ryan Sundberg showed up on KINS Talkshop not too long ago, and spoke about the use of Measure Z funds for roads. Slippery, ain’t he?
At the end of the day, THC is excited something is finally being done about the condition of the really shitty roads in Humboldt County. But judging from the public reaction to the County using Measure Z funds to fix potholes instead of fund police and fire services, THC isn’t alone in feeling bamboozled.
Hell, we would have feel better about the whole thing and the County introduced a tax specifically for road repairs, and were upfront about it from the get-go. We might even vote for it! But shoehorning a measly $2 million into the road budget when the Public Works Department estimates over $200 million in maintenance backlogs doesn’t do much for the roads. It does do a lot to reinforce the notion that the Supes are being pretty shady with an already questionable application of the tax. (Remember how the County “accidentally” came up with an extra $2 million in Measure Z funds? And then introduced another new tax on the same day? Whoopsie!)
Another Times-Standard piece sums up our concerns with the use of Measure Z funds and the misdirection (we didn’t say lying, in case the libel police show up again!) of the County. You can read it in full here, and we’ve also reproduced it below. All credit and kudos to the T-S, of course.
From the T-S on March 12, 2016:
Z’s a poor fix for county’s roads
Measure Z, a general sales tax, was sold to Humboldt County voters as a means to boost public safety. But county supervisors can spend its revenue however they see fit.
As we reported this week, Humboldt County Public Works wants $2.5 million in Measure Z funds for roadwork. Even if they get the full amount, it only covers 1 percent of deferred maintenance. And even if the supervisors chose to spend the upcoming fiscal year’s entire $5.9 million in remaining Measure Z revenue on roads, it’s still a drop in the bucket.
Public Works has a $200 million backlog of crumbling roads. Between 1,000 and 1,100 miles out of the county’s 1,207 total miles of roads are in ever-growing need of repair.
Despite the inclusion of “road repairs” in Measure Z’s ballot language, the worsening condition of Humboldt County’s roads was never a problem that a modest half-percent countywide sales tax hike that sunsets after five years could ever hope to slow, let alone stop.
Absent a source of funds to replace revenue from a state gas tax that’s fallen over the past four years, that’s not going to change. According to Public Works’ application for Measure Z funds, the road fund has already taken a more than $1 million dollar hit for the next fiscal year alone.
This is a bigger problem than Humboldt County, which either needs to generate additional revenue exclusively dedicated to road triage, or enlist the aid of state lawmakers, or turn to Washington, D.C. Five years of desperately trying to weave a Band-Aid out of Measure Z funds to slap over the grievous wound of our county roads isn’t going to do the trick. Every dime spent on a pothole is 10 cents we could have invested toward a deputy, or a firefighter, or treatment of our county’s substance abuse problems that drive so many of our public safety woes.