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Healdsburg candidate questions city-sponsored meeting on tax hike

By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A Town Hall meeting next week on a proposed sales tax increase in Healdsburg is billed as strictly informational, hosted by city staff to explain the ballot measure.

But Tim Meinken, the only City Council candidate opposed to the sales tax hike, is skeptical that top city officials can give a balanced presentation on the topic.

“I find it hard to believe they will present just the facts,” said Meinken, who was rebuffed in his request to be a speaker at Tuesday’s 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall.

Tim Meinken (PD File)

City Manager Marjie Pettus, who is giving the presentation on Measure V, said it will simply be a factual presentation about the Nov. 6 sales tax initiative, with no advocacy one way or another.

“It’s a brief PowerPoint that presents information on why we felt the sales tax initiative was necessary and then we’ll allow the public to ask questions,” she said.

The City Council put the half-cent sales tax increase on the ballot earlier this year and individual council members have urged voters to pass it. But beyond that, state law prohibits city officials from using public funds or resources to support or oppose a ballot measure.

Legal experts say the courts have made it clear that government cannot use public money to take sides in a campaign because it gives an unfair advantage that can distort the electoral process.

“We are not allowed to advocate a position one way or another,” Pettus said of the narrow path city staff has to tread.

But cities can prepare and disseminate a fair and impartial analysis of a measure.

Meinken on Wednesday said he asked to be involved in the presentation, since he is the only candidate to have come out against Measure V.

“They need to look at both sides of the issue,” he said.

But Pettus rejected his request, saying Tuesday’s meeting is not intended as a forum or debate.

She said she will answer questions, but not allow endorsements, or “people to make statements of opinion on the measure.”

The sales tax measure would raise an estimated $1 million annually if passed by a majority of voters. It would increase the sales tax in Healdsburg from 8 to 8.5 percent for 10 years.

City Council members say it will help offset an $800,000 deficit in this year’s general fund.

Mayor Gary Plass said without Measure V passing, the city will have to dig deeper into its dwindling reserves. He said it is a way to bridge the budget gap and the revenue can be used to repair streets and bolster police and fire services, among other things.

“We’re starting to feel the effects of having to cut budgets,” he said, citing slower police response on some calls, such as car burglaries.

But Meinken, a winery owner and former partner in a pension and actuarial consulting firm, said the sales tax is too much to add on top of other taxes, and could deter retail sales, especially for the city’s truck and auto dealers.

He said there are other ways to deal with the budget deficit, including becoming more business friendly and increasing the business base.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.





3 Responses to “Healdsburg candidate questions city-sponsored meeting on tax hike”

  1. James Bennett says:

    Welcome to another ICLEI specialty:
    Synthesizing consensus.

  2. Dan Drummond says:

    Something stinks in Healdsburg this election season.

    Three weeks ago the League of Women Voters and the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored a debate on Measure V. As the author of the ballot argument opposing the measure, I was invited to present the “con” side while Healdsburg City Council Member Jim Woods was slated to present the “pro.” Even though I was told a few days in advance by the League’s President, Dee Dee Bridges, to prepare for questions from the audience, Ms. Bridges informed me upon my arrival at the debate that we would be limited to reading prepared statements only and there would be no questions allowed. The “no questions” rule was apparently dictated by the Healdsburg City Attorney as a condition to Mr. Woods’ appearance. Neither the League nor the Chamber bothered to let me know of this rule change prior to the evening’s debate.

    Further, and even though Ms. Bridges had told me in advance to prepare an opening statement of up to three minutes in length, she cut me off during my presentation after only two minutes. She did, however, allow Mr. Woods to complete his statement in support of Measure V without interruption. I later learned the League had endorsed Measure V, a disclosure Ms. Bridges failed to make to either me or the audience in attendance.

    That Healdsburg officials are willing to advocate for Measure V in op-ed pieces for the Press Democrat and conduct so-called town hall informational meetings yet refuse to debate the measure or even invite to their town hall the one candidate opposed to the measure borders on cowardly. It also tells us their measure won’t withstand scrutiny.

  3. Snarky says:

    Governor Jerry Brown goes berserk and tries to lie his way out of a under-cover media video showing CatTrans employees in misconduct of various types.

    As the reporter asks Jerry Brown for comment, Jerry Brown attempts to say that the media is “with-holding” the video !!

    Check out the liar Brown and take note he wants YOUR money for his THREE public pensions.

    http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2012/10/report-caltrans-workers-misused-rented-state-trucks.html