Measure Z ‘Safety’ Monies At Risk for Misuse
Humboldt County officials called Measure Z — the countywide half-percent general sales tax on the November ballot — crucial to improving public safety services.
Measure Z, also known as the Humboldt County Public Safety and Essential Services Measure, will generate $6 million annually until it sunsets in 2020.
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last year in to place the measure on the ballot after an outcry from the public concerning the lack of law enforcement presence and an increase in crime in the county’s outlying areas.
The tax was proposed to raise funds for a broad spectrum of public safety services such as fire departments, the county sheriff’s office, probation department and district attorney’s office. Spending was proposed to be overseen by a citizen’s advisory committee, which would also include annual independent audits.
Along with the money comes a long line of recipients now asking for an easy handout outside of Measure Z’s ‘safety’ guidelines– with Humboldt County first in line for stretching the limits of how to take the money for itself.
From the Times-Standard’s editorial page this morning:
“Measure Z — Humboldt County’s half-percent general sales tax hike passed in November by voters — took effect at the start of April. The trough’s already drawn a crowd.
Although its backers sold Measure Z to the public as a means to boost public safety services following an outcry in several communities in southern and northern Humboldt County over crime and a lack of deputies on patrol, the Board of Supervisors
put it on the ballot as a general tax.
Which means that the doling out of the expected $8.9 million in annual revenue, although ultimately controlled by the supervisors, has already attracted about $18 million in funding requests from every corner of county government and beyond, according to 2nd District Supervisor and board Chairwoman Estelle Fennell.
Some of the requests are quite in line with the spirit of Measure Z’s campaign.
• The Sheriff’s Office wants $3.5 million to fill 30 frozen or unfunded positions.
• The District Attorney’s Office wants $1.5 million to fill nine frozen positions, including two deputy district attorneys, two district attorney investigators, a senior legal office assistant, a new deputy district attorney and a Victim Witness program coordinator.
• The County Administrative Office wants $1.4 million to be placed in the General Reserve for additional jail and juvenile hall staffing. The CAO is also requesting $548,491 — roughly split into four parts one-time expense and one part ongoing expenses — for an IT systems upgrade spanning several county departments that handle public safety.
• The Eureka Police Department wants $483,000 for two full-time police officers to work with the county Department of Health and Human Services to work on reducing homelessness with the Mobile Intervention Support Team, a team effort.
• The county Probation Department wants $607,047 to restore six deputy probation officer positions.
Other requests, well — we’ll leave you to imagine what relation some of them have to the intent of the voters who passed Measure Z:
• The CAO, for example, is also requesting $78,000 for a feasibility study for a food-packing export facility, $18,500 for a team to produce online profiles of former mill sites for economic development, $18,000 for “Go Local” economic development workshops, a cool $1 million to help pay down the county’s accrued unfunded pension liability, and, to cap it off, an additional total of $2.75 million over five years — $550,000 a year — to build up the county’s General Reserve.
~That’s nearly $2 million of requests that have very little to do with public safety.
• The county’s Aviation Division wants $84,060 to trim trees to Federal Aviation Administration standards near the Arcata-Eureka Airport, and another $85,000 to help pay for airport security that the feds mandated but didn’t bother to fund.
• The Humboldt County Department of Public Works wants $250,000 for upgrades to the infrastructure of five veterans’ buildings in Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna, Ferndale and Garberville.
• The city of Rio Dell is asking for $25,000 to help fund an “Avenue of the Sculptures” — and an additional $20,000 to contract an economic development coordinator.
Admittedly, we’re cherry-picking. You can find each of the 47 funding requests online and see for yourself.
What’s evident is that a few of the applications have very little to do with what Measure Z proponents were selling to the public: More funding for emergency services.
We hope that the Board of Supervisors — the ultimate arbiter of how Measure Z revenue will be spent — agrees.”
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~Via the Times-Standard, Yes on Measure Z, and Vimeo
The public needs to keep up on this shell game. There’s not a tax public officials don’t like, and one they don’t like spending.
If the Board of Supervisors dare misdirect and misuse Measure Z monies contrary to its intended purpose, the Grand Jury and the voters should be made aware of the swindle– and those specific supervisors held accountable and voted out as a rule of measure.
If they misuse the monies en masse and en blanc, they must be recalled wholly– as a measure of taxing propriety.
It’s a popular misconception that government wastes a large amount of money through inefficiency and sheer sloppiness. Quite contraire, mon frère. It takes an enormous amount of effort and a great deal of elaborate planning and guile to pull it off.