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The Oakland City Council voted Tuesday against collecting taxes under Measure AA, an embattled plan that the city certified as valid in December even though it failed to receive two-thirds of voter approval.
Measure AA, which received 62% of the vote in November, calls for collecting $30 million annually in tax revenue to fund early childhood education and college readiness. Initially, City Attorney Barbara Parker stated that the measure needed two-thirds of voter support to pass, as noted in the language of the measure. Later the city decided the measure needed only a majority vote to pass.
The city’s move to adopt AA prompted a lawsuit in February by half a dozen homeowners and landlords as well as the Jobs and Housing Coalition, a group that lobbies City Hall on behalf of businesses and developers.
On Tuesday, the council decided with a 5-2 vote to not implement the measure amid concerns that the city could be trampling on the will of voters.
“For me, this is about hearing from my constituents that they are losing public trust in us here at City Hall,” said Council member Nikki Fortunato Bas. “They’re losing public trust in our elections.”
Her sentiment was echoed by Council members Sheng Thao, Loren Taylor, Rebecca Kaplan and Noel Gallo.
Council members Larry Reid and Dan Kalb voted in favor of collecting the tax.
The parcel tax will not be collected for one year. Kaplan introduced a motion to discuss language for a tolling agreement at an April 30 meeting. This would enter the city into an agreement with the plaintiffs of the lawsuit to delay the suit for a year. During this year, the city would reconvene stakeholders to consider a separate measure to place on the ballot in March 2020.
That motion passed with five council members in favor of discussing a tolling agreement at a later meeting. Reid voted no and Kalb abstained.
The council’s actions puts the lawsuit on hold, said Greg McConnell, CEO of the jobs and housing coalition.
“I think this is the best solution,” he said. “This is the best chance they have, coming back to the voters with a reasonable solution.”
The decision to put off any steps toward collecting the tax would also allow for the city to see how the courts would rule should there be potential litigation in a similar San Francisco case.
The council’s decision to certify the measure by a 6-1 vote in December followed a memo by the city attorney in San Francisco saying that citizen-initiated tax measures need only a simple majority to pass. It was a new interpretation of long-standing state law requiring ballot measures that would raise taxes for specific purposes need two-thirds of a majority to pass.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the council’s decision on Tuesday hurts children, who would benefit from the programs that would be funded by the parcel tax.
“The Council’s decision to forever forfeit $30 million in taxes approved by 62% of the voters only hurts children and families from Oakland’s most underserved neighborhoods,” Schaaf said in a statement to The Chronicle. “As this issue continues to move through the courts, the Council sent a devastating message to working families in Oakland tonight: Their kids’ education is not worth fighting for.”
Schaaf had championed Measure AA during the election.
“It’s not a question whether people who want to support the election process, who trust the electoral process, disagree with the purposes of AA. It’s whether we disagree with the way the election process has been bastardized,” McConnell said at the meeting.
Measure AA calls for a 30-year annual parcel tax of $198 a year on single-family homes and $135 a year per unit of each multiunit residence.
The money would fund early child-care and preschool programs. The revenue would also fund college readiness programs, tuition assistance and efforts to fix racial inequities in access to higher education.
Additionally, Measure AA would create a citizen commission to conduct oversight and audits.
Oakland Promise, an initiative introduced by the mayor in 2016 to triple the number of college graduates from the city within the next decade, would have been able to apply for funds geared toward “college access” that would have been available through the tax revenue, said Maggie Croushore.
Croushore noted that the initiative has its own budget and is not tied to Measure AA.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-council-postpones-collection-of-Measure-13773725.php.