An Initiative Without Transparency



At the polls in November, Laguna Beach residents will be asked to vote upon the parcel tax initiative. This is not an open space initiative as packaged, but a mechanism to bail out taxpayers who, displeased with lots they bought, can now look to other taxpayers to pay the price for their displeasure.

The tax seems small — $10 per month per parcel. Apart from eliminating taxes on these otherwise unmarketable properties, the price to taxpayers as a whole amounts to some $1.5 million annually or some $30 million over the lifetime of the initiative. As Laguna Beach already has one of the highest operating budgets per capita in California, what is not needed is yet another tax for an undertaking of dubious value.

Our family lives in Temple Hills. We purchased our home three years ago after nearly 15 years in Vermont. Vermont too has “open spaces”. The term commonly means a relatively large area of land free of development. That vision is a noble one.  Indeed, Laguna Beach has embraced the notion for decades. Today, few would argue that the open spaces land has not benefitted the city.

Implicit in these purchases was that a substantial parcel would be presented to the City Council which would accept it or reject it and, if necessary, would turn to the taxpayers to approve a bond for its purchase. In short, open space purchases approved by the council are visible to all and the council is fully accountable to the taxpayers.

The proposed mechanism operates in the shadows and sidesteps transparency. What is needed is to use existing mechanisms, rather than to overlay yet another mechanism, one buried beneath the surface, which adds yet another tax. Once this poorly conceived initiative is put in place, it cannot be easily reversed. You break it and you own it.

As you cast your ballot, ask yourself several questions: as Laguna Beach has a very large budget relative to its size, why is this initiative appropriate? Does it advance our interests? What gets crowded out by the passage of Measure CC? Is a government-managed market in any way an improvement over a visible and competitive free market? You should vote against Measure CC on Nov. 6.

Bud and Nancy Bigelow, Laguna Beach

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