If Clean Water Tax is Good, Why the Deception?

By Cynthia Ruehlig

Public officials and the media are flooding the news with hype on the urgent needs of the Delta as a prelude to the Prop 218 election. Still, vital questions are left unanswered on this new property-related fee, which will be imposed throughout Contra Costa County.

1. The Delta is bounded by Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Solano. Is the Delta clean-up shared by counties who equally benefit from these waters? Or is Contra Costa dirtier than others?

According to an environmental justice case study: “Since 1989, there have been 35 major industrial accidents in Contra Costa County, California. This makes it one of the most dangerous places to live in the nation. In fact, between 1989 and 1995, there were over 1900 different incidents reported in the county, making it the eleventh worst area in the entire United States with regards to toxic accidents.” http://www.umich.edu/~snre492/sherman.html

How much of the Delta’s problem was caused by the 2008 Discovery Bay and 2009 Richmond sewage spills or the toxic leaks and gas releases from industries on the rim of our county, which all eventually end up in the water?

2. Contra Costa collects $14 million for stormwater yearly. The clean water fee could possibly increase funds by 50% with no promise to build new or repair existing infrastructure. Are we splashing more money for the same purpose to continue the same solutions which apparently has failed despite a $14 million budget? Is there an assurance that the $14 million will not be diverted for other uses such as salary increases and OPEB liabilities as restricted money from the new source comes in?

3. The clean water fee apparently is a parcel tax in disguise. The amount charged will be imposed on the parcel/person as an incident of property ownership. The charade to use the word “fee” rather than “tax” apparently justifies the special election process adopted for the Clean Water Initiative. This fee passes on a majority vote rather than the 2/3 voter approval required to impose a parcel tax.

Additionally, many strategies to sneak through a parcel tax in a stealth election are being utilized: expensive consultant, informational campaign paid by public resources, scare tactics by politicians and media, simple friendly sound bites that “it is only a few dollars” while embarrassing the opposition as cheapskate, scheduling a quick and probable low turnout but expensive election by mail in April despite 2012 being an election year.

If Prop 218 is as good as the glossy flyers allege, why engage in deception?

Finally, watch the next election and connect the dots from known industrial offenders to the well oiled campaign coffers of politicians supporting Prop 218.

3 Comments to “If Clean Water Tax is Good, Why the Deception?”

  1. Dale Dapkins says:

    An interesting article. . again, is it the moneyed interests trying to get the public to foot the bill for polluters trying to cut corners in order to reduce their bottom line for stockholders. . and then using the money saved to mount a publicity campaign cleaning up their filthy faces?

  2. Arne Simonsen says:

    The real question that needs to be answered is how is the current NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) taxes being used!!

    Each city sets its own rate for NPDES (Antioch’s is set at $25 per parcel a year) with 50% used within the jurisdiction and the remaining 50% going to the County’s Clean Water Program.

    NPDES is used for exactly what this new parcel tax is saying it will be used. Seems like double taxation to me.

  3. dotherightthing says:

    Two items:

    1.The Department of Water Resources has $$$ for funding entities within regions to cooperate, plan and address solutions to water issues that affect communities with inter-related water problems.

    My thought about accessing this tax on property owners with such sudden knowledge, no background of who was involved in the planning and after reading the actual initiative, little is there for the rationale of contaminated water, let alone the scare tactic of being laden with even more taxation in the future.

    2. One of the largest polluters in the Delta are industries. I see nothing in this initiative that places taxation upon the industries and businesses in Contra Costa County.

    Resident of Antioch, CA

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