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Ron Fink: Read The Fine Print Before You Vote

Vote-by-mail ballots are out and some of you have already made your choices; this is for those of you who haven’t.

If you are one of those busy people who doesn’t have time to read all of what’s in the voter pamphlet and instead rely on paid campaign ads, or simply vote based on the title of many of the propositions or bond measures, this commentary is aimed at you.

For example, proponents of bond measures frequently claim that “tax dollars won’t be used for this project.” Technically, they are right, but there is more.

Bonds are paid for by assessing the beneficiaries of the bond; in the case of school bonds, it is all the property owners within the district.

Look at the property tax bill you just received, and you’ll see just how much you are paying for all those bond measures.

So, although no “tax money” is used for whatever the bond will finance, only one class of people will pay for it.

Keep in mind that the nonprofits that operate multi-family, low-income housing projects that house tens of thousands of children pay nothing for these bonds.

On the current ballot, there are two measures that create a commission to oversee the redistricting process following the 2020 census. One creates a “citizens redistricting commission;” the other a “independent redistricting commission.”

The “citizens redistricting commission (G2018)” sounds like a group of ordinary citizens will be selected to serve; but when you read the fine print, only people with “experience that demonstrates analytical skills relevant to the redistricting process and voting rights” would be deemed qualified to serve.

This seems to be a limiting factor so 99 percent of us need not apply.

The “independent redistricting commission (H2018)” only requires you to be a registered voter and not an elected official.

So, you see two proposals, but the title of the “citizens redistricting commission” is misleading because you must possess special qualifications which most citizens do not possess to serve.

In Santa Maria, the city has placed a “public safety and essential services transactions and use tax (U2018)” on the ballot.

Who isn’t for providing an adequate level of protection for their community? When people dial 9-1-1, they have a reasonable expectation someone will show up promptly who has the knowledge and skill to handle their problem.

But, buried in the fine print the city says, “The proceeds of the tax approved by this Ordinance may be used for unrestricted general revenue purposes.”

In other words, they can use it for anything they wish, including street planter landscaping, not just public safety and essential services.

In Goleta, the City Council members think they are underpaid, so they placed a ballot measure (W2018) before voters that says:

“The salary for each member of the City Council shall be 75% of the nonfamily household median income for the City of Goleta as published annually by the United States Census Bureau.”

Council members are currently paid $7,020 a year. The average single-person income in Goleta was about $40,000 in 2016.

If you think your councilmembers are worth $3,000 a year just to act on professionally prepared staff recommendations, then you should support this measure.

These are just some examples of why it pays to look beyond the titles of these measures. Try to inform yourselves before you vote because you are paying for each of these proposals if they pass.

Voting isn’t just an activity, it carries with it some responsibility to become informed about what you are voting for or against.  ut vote; it’s your pocket that will be picked if most of these measures pass.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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