G . . . WHAT AM I MISSING?LET’S MEASURE

This morning I read Measure G. Sounds good. More money for emergency services, police training, blah, blah, blah . . . Oh! And youth services. (Wait, did GVRD suddenly stop offering Youth Services?)

Only, that’s not what Measure G says. Measure G is a general tax not a special tax; which means, that these monies go directly into the General Fund and may be spent any way the City Council, I mean the City Manager, wants to spend them. That is it. These monies are NOT dedicated to more emergency services, not required to clean up public spaces, and while perhaps intended, are not mandated to help the homeless.  Now hoodwinked may be too strong a word; I think it is more like, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

The following is directly quoted from the Measure G Resolution passed by Council July 29, 2020:

WHEREAS, the tax provided for by the proposed Ordinance shall be enacted solely to raise revenue for general purposes, and shall be placed into the City’s General Fund, and is not intended for regulation;  . . .   (Author added emphasis.)

There are two things around this topic that I know to be true:

  1. I do not want to pay higher taxes. The reason I live in Vallejo is the same reason you do: I can afford a good life here.
  2. We need to raise our taxes. It’s the same, it’s the same, it’s the same. Ever since the Navy left we have not figured out how to raise money and now we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Bankruptcy behind us, bankruptcy before us, into the valley of Receivership rode the City of Vallejo. We need to tax ourselves more.

“But Tom,” you ask, “if we need higher taxes why vote no on Measure G?”

This is a very fair question which I will attempt to briefly unpack for you. Those of you who have watched the West Wing have undoubtedly heard Toby Ziegler say how a Sales Tax is a regressive tax; it unfairly burdens those at the bottom of the income ladder. Newsflash: Most of Vallejo is at the bottom of the income ladder.  One councilperson, whose opinion I respect greatly, told me that, “Over 200,000 people travel through Vallejo every day. They should pay for their share of the services.” Now a couple of things about this statement is true:

  1. People who come from out of town to shop so indeed spend more money per capita than do local shoppers which does result in more sales tax collected. But only if we give them a reason to shop here. (Example: If I live down the street from the grocery, I may just pop down for a gallon of milk. If I choose to travel to Benicia and visit the Raley’s there, I will spend more money because each trip takes me so much more time and I do not wish to waste the trip.)
  2. 200,000 people do indeed travel through Vallejo every day; although, they do not so much all stop and shop here. (What we really need is to develop reasons for them to stop and shop here. We need to work on our place making like Mare Island Brewery and Nicole Hodge’s Provisions. If only I knew someone on the Planning Commission.)

FYI: Currently 27% of our budget comes from sales tax. When people are shopping here, things are booming for the City budget. If we add the $12M more, that this tax will supposedly raise, that would bring the adjusted percentage to 34%. If you do not believe that Vallejo is drowning, and we are; by adding this level of dependency on the health of the economy, without the monies specifically going the services you want, well it is like swimming in shark infested waters. Now swimming with sharks is fine, if you can afford to feed them. But what happens when the supply of fish is gone . . . With this type of Transaction and Use tax as an anchor around our feet even the joke of out swimming your buddy becomes impossible.

It was on 12 years ago when we entered the Great Recession (GR). Now there is a significant difference between that event and what is happening now. The GR was a failure of the mortgage banking industry. When adjustable rate loans started, well, adjusting; people could no longer afford housing. Credit scores were ruined and my house alone dropped to a quarter of its previous high in value.  Because of this Vallejo lost not only property tax but sales tax revenue too; and the economy, in total, nearly ground to a halt. That bit has now sorted itself out and mortgage rates are at an all-time low. Housing is in demand and home values are remaining strong. Why? Because this time the economy has slowed, not because people cannot afford to keep their homes but because we are not allowed to go out and spend money. Monies which return as sales tax to the City.

Many of you voted for Measure K which is a special parcel tax that funds Capital Improvements, part time help and some Recreation programs for GVRD. While GVRD is reeling from the loss of income it receives from the fees that it would normally charge for rentals or programs; Measure K monies are keeping their ship upright and sailing. Why? Because this type of tax is not dependent on the economy. This money is collected by the county every year and held for GVRD to use as it sees fit; within the restrictions of Measure K that you, and GVRD, agreed to when voting for it. Now a parcel tax would increase the rent of renters in Vallejo true, but, more importantly, it spreads the cost to not only residential parcels but non-residential ones as well. A much stronger, more dependable tax base.

Vallejo, the truth is, if we want nice things we have to pay for it. If we want more mental health services and programs like CAHOOTS, we have to pay for it. But not this way. What good is a sales tax when no one is out shopping and spending money? What sense can you make of a strategy that is entirely dependent on a proven weak leg of the economy; local consumerism?  Voting for Measure G only make Vallejo more vulnerable in the future. Let us instead write a new Special Parcel Tax that gives us the exact services that we want with a funding source infinitely more dependable.

Please, Vote NO on Measure G. With that I ask everyone who is willing, let us get together to write a new measure that will guarantee funding for public safety.

Until next time,

Tommy Judt

I CAN NO LONGER HOLD MY BREATH

The words you are about to read, the very ones that are just now marking my thoughts upon this paper, will most probably end our relationship. I have been overly hesitant to write them, they are not what you want to hear but, and I hate to use the word but, but I do not hear anyone else saying them. I know many fine people in this town of ours. Women and men whom I respect more and more with each passing conversation. People who give of themselves to, and care more about, this town than many I have ever known. Our town. Many of you will unfriend me, as a number have done in the past when my writings unsettled their quiet state of single-mindedness.  Many nights I sit in quiet contemplation of the knowledge that I will lose people, many whom I wish to keep close, when I share the following which I know to be true.

Many years ago, when my business started to take off and passed the point when I needed a payroll service to help with managing my books, I met a man who represented the payroll company, a Republican, one whom I liked, yet we shared a passionate disagreement on almost all things political. He and I would agree to meet upon occasion, share a beer and discuss the ways we each viewed the world differently. On this one particular occasion, when “W” was the President and the wars in Iran and Afghanistan were still escalating, we met for a drink and ended up speaking about . . . The Surge. The Surge was the common moniker which described increasing the number of soldiers in the battlefield. The argument was that there were simply just not enough bodies in place to keep the peace.

I, not approving of W’s war, argued that it made no sense to send more troops to war. The basic objective was already achieved and that we should leave the area as quickly as possible and stop telling people around the world what to do. My bar side companion argued, what did it matter?  Let’s give him the troops and see what happens.  It turns out that my argument that day was wrong, but moreover, his was right.  The surge made a difference.  Within a matter of weeks the entire region was stabilized and the process of a quiet, orderly state building could take place.  In other words:

  1. Iraq was a violent and unsafe country.
  2. There were not enough soldiers to maintain peace.
  3. Violence was significantly reduced when more soldiers were deployed in Iraq.

For the record there are a couple of facts that I would like to state.  Understanding theses fact, reading them and truly knowing them is all of our responsibility. I imagine that they will unsettle you as they unsettle me:

  1. Vallejo has violent crime. Please let me repeat that. Vallejo has violent crime. 
  2. Vallejo does not have enough patrol officers.
  3. Violence in Vallejo will be significantly reduced with more patrol officers.

This next part will cause me to lose even more friends and followers. It speaks to the way that our police department chooses to respond to these violent crimes.  I will openly admit that I have not studied police science nor am I an expert on law enforcement. I need be neither to know that 2 bullets will stop a person and 64 are way too many. I am of course referring to the shooting of Willie McCoy.  The facts:

  1. Willie McCoy had a gun.
  2. He was asleep in his car.
  3. One or two officers could have easily covered him while the others set up the perimeter.

These facts are bare bones. They have been neither washed nor sanitized.  I do not need to be a law enforcement expert to know these 3 statements to be true.

The reason that multiple police officers stood pointing their guns at a sleeping Willie McCoy is because that was what they were trained to do.  If you see a weapon, draw yours. If the suspect moves toward the weapon, fire. Actually, as I write this, it seems a reasonable but, far too simplistic, response.  In my heart I know, it cannot just be this.  I have written the following before, and I still stand by the statement: We, the citizens of America, have asked our police departments to protect us and WE have given them the authority, and mission, to do so with this level of violence. It all began with the Patriot Act and every Use of Force decision handed down by the courts, both Superior and Supreme alike since then.  If the suspect refuses a police officer’s command, the police officer may put his hands on the suspect.  If the police officer is fearful for their life, they may use lethal force.  While I understand and admit that this is legal, it cannot be the end of the discussion.

When I attended a Use of Force seminar put on by the Vallejo Police Department, I came away with one vary clear thought: When confronted with a volatile situation, draw your weapon.  This is not the only way, but this is the way that our group was shown how the VPD is trained. Command and Control. Order the suspect to comply, if they don’t, restrain them or shoot them if necessary.  All the simulations I was shown that day focused on using our weapons to deal with the situation.  99% of police interactions with the public do not involve weapons. The challenge that we have in Vallejo is that the 1% that do involve weapons tend to end very badly here.  The two part solution to this is:

  1. Hire more patrol officers.
  2. Replace VPD’s existing training officer and their approach.

More officers in the field will allow more bodies to respond to a situation and provide the overwhelming force needed to control the situation and most likely not require weapons fire to be exchanged. It allows our police department to be more places in the City at the same time. An amended, and improved, approach to training will provide all of our officers with greater Tactical Negotiation skills that rely more on understanding human nature and less on lethal force as the final arbiter.

I will miss you when you unfriend me but I must repeat to you before you go that Vallejo needs BOTH of these things. We need more armed patrol officers. We need to replace our existing training officer and methodology.

Until next time, I hope,

Tommy Judt

EXPECTATIONS

“I just want to have two days off where no one expects anything from me.” She said heading out the door to go camping over the holiday weekend.

 

Switch gears.

 

My fantasy restaurant name would be Attente. French for “expectation.” I, along with others, believe that we need to raise our expectations and set our sights higher, here in Vallejo. That should be our way forward.

 

Switch gears.

 

In relationships, Continue reading “EXPECTATIONS”

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION

“What? You want me to go to a Planning Commission meeting? . . . Boorrriinggg.”

 

Not so. This past week Porter Venn and Kevin Scott had their hearing for a Conditional Use Permit so that they might open REVOLUTIONS, an entertainment venue at 350 Georgia Street here in Vallejo. The part that was not boring were the speakers and Commissioners that spoke out in favor of the Permit and, wait for it, the removal of some of the conditions negotiated to by the city. Yes, the citizen body Planning Commission actually made it less cumbersome to start a business downtown. Faith be restored.

 

Checks and balances. In my last interview for appointment to the Planning Commission another of the questions that was asked was Continue reading “DEMOCRACY IN ACTION”