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Sheffo Strikes Back
Nanninga and Sheffo authored this editorial:
Election Day is approaching and for the second time in less the six months Encinitas voters are being asked to weigh in on a sand tax favored by the city council.
You may remember Propositions F and G, which were decided way back in June.
Proposition F, which passed, expanded the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to include short-term vacation rentals.
Proposition G, which failed, would have added two percent on top of that tax and devoted it to sand replenishment.
Instead of respecting the will of the voters and acknowledging defeat, the city council majority of Jerome Stocks, Jim Bond and Dan Dalager decided they wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
Their response was to introduce Proposition K, a tax measure that will do exactly what Prop G would have done had it passed in June.
Throughout this process, the council majority has used every well-worn tactic in the tax-and-spend playbook.
First voters were told that these tax hikes weren’t really tax hikes. Then passing the sand tax was an issue of fairness. Finally, supporters of the tax conceded that, while the measures really were tax hikes, it was okay because they would be paid by tourists.
In reality, Prop K is just the latest in a series of taxes offered in the name of sand replenishment.
In 1998, Proposition R, the first sand tax, increased the local TOT by 2 percent and dedicated the money to sand replenishment. There was also an attempt in 2002 by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to increase property taxes for this same goal. Councilmen Stocks and Bond supported both of these efforts.
To these taxes can be added future ones such as SANDAG’s “Quality of Life” sales tax increase, which will likely be put before voters in 2010. Sand tax supporters are already selling this multi-billion dollar tax as the ultimate sand replenishment measure.
Many of you may wonder how we can argue against sand replenishment, and the taxes to pay for it, when the idea seems to offer a number of aesthetic and economic benefits.
Perhaps we could be more supportive if the push for more sand were the result of a fact-based community dialog resulting in real consensus. Unfortunately, the “debate” over sand replenishment has been one-sided, simplistic, and misleading.
In their ballot argument, proponents of Prop K argue that Prop R allowed the city to “afford the highly successful 2001 sand replenishment project.”
That would be a noteworthy accomplishment, were it true. The problem is that the 2001 project was actually paid for by the U.S. Navy.
In addition to this blatant fallacy, the push for yet another sand tax also comes amid growing concerns about the ultimate uses of the revenue collected.
Sand tax backers have tried to create the impression that money for sand replenishment will simply be used to dump sand on the beaches or just off shore. That sounds fairly straightforward.
In reality, sand replenishment entails more controversial projects that should be examined as part of a broader debate on this issue.
Steve Aceti, executive director of the Encinitas-based California Coastal Coalition and a leading proponent of sand replenishment, has stated that artificial reefs are a part of the region’s long-term sand replenishment efforts.
Artificial reefs are extremely controversial because of their ability to permanently alter local surfing conditions. Surfers deserve a lot more information about this option before self-proclaimed sand advocates and city leaders charge ahead with a plan that could irreparably damage Encinitas’s premiere surfing spots.
Then there’s the cost. Aceti has suggested that sand replenishment will require the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars every three to five years.
Can we really afford that kind of expenditure when budgets are tight and so many other worthy projects, like overhauling the embarrassingly dilapidated lifeguard station at Moonlight Beach, are ignored?
Lastly, as we face economically uncertain times, we need a council that is able to set priorities and live within the city’s means.
The willingness of the current council to raise taxes to fund a pet project shows that it is unable to do that.
If the city council devoted as much time to other pressing issues as it does to sand replenishment, Encinitas would be a much better place to live.
Vote no on this sand tax – again – this November.
Sheffo and Nanninga are both candidates for Encinitas City Council. They are also signatories to the ballot argument against Prop K.
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