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Comment: Measure C creates a legacy

Robert Collier lives in North Berkeley and is co-chair of the Berkeley Pools Campaign. He writes about the intensifying campaign for Measure C:

In Berkeley, local folk know it’s election season when the city’s streets begin to be garlanded with election signs supporting one or another candidate or ballot measure. By that standard, this weekend marked the official opening for the June 8 election.

Around Berkeley, signs began to sprout like mushrooms overnight in support of Measure C, the pools bond to save and rehab Berkeley’s four municipal pools. Teams of Barracudas – the youth swim team that is among the measure’s most enthusiastic backers – roved the city, knocking on doors, planting window signs and yard signs.

Measure C is already getting a lot of attention, and it is likely to eclipse the other items in Berkeley’s June 8 election. Measure C is the only city measure on the ballot, which also has five relatively low-profile state measures (see the League of Women Voters’ summary online here). While the Republican primaries for governor and senator are hotly contested, the Democratic primaries are not – which, given Berkeley’s liberal political leanings, means that Measure C may be the only high-energy item to bring voters to the polls.

To its supporters, Measure C is a once-in-a-generation “legacy” decision. It would save Willard Pool and the Warm Pool from permanent closure. For the Barracudas and Masters teams, it would expand King Pool to larger size, resolving the overcrowding that has forced team members to do their training laps in the small dive pool. For residents of West and South Berkeley, it would rehab West Campus and Willard Pools. For the disabled, elderly and parents with infants, it would rebuild the indoor Warm Pool at West Campus, replacing the decrepit, decaying version at Berkeley High School that is scheduled to be demolished next year. And for all pools, it would provide operating funds to keep the pools open and the swim programs humming despite the worsening budget crisis.

But rarely in recent memory has there been a local campaign so resolutely grass-roots and youth-focused, as legions of Barracudas – and their parents – try to win the needed two-thirds of voter support. Scores of kids organized a swimathon last month at King Pool, at which they were joined by their elder brethren of the Cal Mens Water Polo team. Barracuda moms and dads are even organizing a swimathon at Willard Pool next month at which the kids will throw prominent local politicians into the pool, fully clothed (and on camera, for auction). And the students of Berkeley City College have gotten involved too, composing a series of short music video ads for the campaign that starts its roll-out on the Measure C Campaign website today.

Whatever one’s leanings, it promises to be an unforgettable campaign. Measure C has received the support of Berkeley’s entire political spectrum – the unanimous City Council and School Board, former Mayor Shirley Dean, Sen. Loni Hancock, Ass. Nancy Skinner, and an alliance of seemingly everyone else in the Democratic and Green Party firmaments.

But the expected low election turnout means that the result is unpredictable. Victory or defeat hinges on what happens in the streets — and in the pools — between now and June 8. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is sacred. Stay tuned!

Photo: Shelley Hayden

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  • Vivian

    Go Measure C! Ensuring an established, vibrant municipal pool program for all residents is such a positive and essential way to build and maintain a healthy Berkeley community.

  • EBGuy

    The full text from the City of Berkeley’s website:
    MEASURE C
    Berkeley Public Pools Bond
    (2/3 vote required)
    Shall City of Berkeley Community Facilities District No. 2: incur bonded indebtedness not exceeding $22,500,000 to replace the multiuse indoor Warm Pool, renovate Willard and West Campus pools, construct a multipurpose pool at King; levy a special tax at a rate not exceeding $0.0258 per square foot of building area to finance that indebtedness and not exceeding $0.0126, indexed for inflation, to maintain pools and operate aquatics programs; and establish an annual District appropriations limit of $3,500,000?
    And from the City Attorney’s analysis:
    The cost in 2010 dollars for an average size 1,900 square foot home until the bonds are repaid, including the tax for maintenance and aquatic programs, is estimated as follows:
    Annual Tax
    First year Average
    (Residential) 1,900sq.ft. $56.43 $ 70.06

  • Sally

    With our city’s current pools having been built in the 50’s and 60’s, we desperately need to pass this bond measure. Rob’s article addresses the populations who will be served. Additionally, we need facilities in which our children can learn how to swim.
    To those who worry about the cost of the bond measure, consider the cost if we fail to pass it. Will we be next voting for a bond to fund more prisons? Energetic kids need healthy activities. Without them, their behavior becomes toxic.
    The therapeutic warm pool offers the only means of exercise for many people in our area.
    Also consider: the cost to property owners is only $5.00 or $6.00 per month, equivalent to the price of a burrito or two gelatos.
    Vote YES for Measure C. You will be so happy you did.

  • Lori Kossowsky

    This is our only chance to make sure that the Warm Pool is not extinct and that pools do not close. Berkeley does not need any more drowning fatalities, because children can’t swim.
    As a warm pool swimmer, I would be in so much pain, being a cancer surviver, having Fibromyalgia, a nerve illness and CFS. My doctor gave me a prescription to the warm pool. Can you imagine going to a pharmacy and them telling you that that the script was no longer available, and would NEVER be available. Without our pools, children and others will drown, people will be in horrible pain ( relying instead on pain killers– which could be dangerous), and perhaps unable to live an independent life– putting them in a system where there are already monetary cuts.
    I think, as a community, voting for measure C is the only ethical thing to do.
    Thank you.

  • http://blognabbit.blogspot.com deirdre

    Questions to EBGuy:”…until the bonds are repaid…” What is the estimate of the time it will take to repay the bond? Will the example homeowner of the 1,900 square foot home be paying the $56.43 for three years? five years? ten years? twenty years?

    What is the time frame during which the pools will be reconstructed: one year? two? five?

    Masters swim program: what’s the participation in the Masters at city pools versus Cal pools? Can Cal pools handle these swimmers or is there not enough space/too expensive for some swimmers/etc.? I ask b/c I know some Masters swimmers but they all participate via Cal pools. I’m not rejecting your pitch – – just help me understand why I need to vote for this.

    The “pools versus prisons” comment by another writer is unconvincing. I suspect there are lots more cost-effective ways of keeping kids out of prisons than building pools. But maybe you can convince me otherwise if you present some data about it.

    And please … don’t tell me that “voting for measure C is the only ethical thing to do.” You’re not helping your case.

  • EBGuy

    deirdre, I’m in the same boat as you; just trying to educate myself and figure out how I’ll be voting.
    What is the estimate of the time it will take to repay the bond?
    From the City Attorney’s analysis (PDF alert)
    Bond Repayment
    The first part of the special tax would secure and repay the bonds, and would be levied for a period of 30 years, from fiscal year 2011 through fiscal year 2040. Its maximum rate will be $0.0258 per square foot of improvements. Once the bond is repaid this part of the tax will terminate.

    From what I can tell, the maintenance portion continues forever (and is indexed to the cost of living). Why does this not give me warm fuzzies? Probably because it should be in the city’s general city budget and not voted onto my property tax bill. Why didn’t they just throw Iceland into the measure as well — could have gotten the heat for the warm water pool for “free”. Okay, I’m starting to get surly. Don’t worry, I haven’t made up my mind yet.

  • Lori Kossowsky

    Deirdre,
    I agree with you on using the word ethical. It iS a poor choice of words. I think the idea of the warm pool being gone forever, scares me and I become somewhat over zealous.

    Lori

  • Maureen Burke

    Re the maintenance portion of this measure, I believe Mr. Collier wrote it was Mello-Roos, since most bond measures can only be used for capital costs and Mello-Roos can be used for maintenance. Mello-Roos line items will stay in perpetuity on our tax bills, with built-in increases. California residents must disclose Mello-Ross items when they sell their property because they are considered a negative element in property sales. They also have an accelerated foreclosure element of 90 days, instead of the 3+ year time frame for non-payment of other parts of the property tax bill. Watch out if you go on vacation and miss your property tax bill while you’re gone. Most people despise Mello-Roos add-ons, no matter one’s political perspective.

    EBGuy, you’re right. Maintenance costs should be paid for by the City’s general fund. The City will be running $14M deficits next year, despite Mr. Collier’s assertion that it will have a balanced budget. So the City won’t have the money to pay for maintenance, hence Mello-Roos. A very bad deal for current and future Berkeley residents.

  • s z underwood

    All for the cost of a mere burrito per month? It seems like such a paltry sacrifice for what is doubtless a worthy cost (as a pool user myself). But when you add up all of the worthy and necessary public infrastructure projects (many Berkeley streets are crumbling, our sewers system is decaying etc.), all of the various educational initiatives we are already funding through bond measures, all of the beneficial public programs which are not fully funded, adequately staffed or face cutbacks in state or federal funding, those “burritos” do start to multiply. A few burritos here and a few more burritos there, and suddenly each household is supporting its own private Taco Bell franchise. Many struggling home owners are battling business downturns, declining property values, unemployment, underemployment, furloughs and foreclosures.

  • Maureen Burke

    Thanks for the chuckle SZ. Also for making the critical point that our fair city needs to prepare a comprehensive plan for making future necessary investments in all the areas you mention.

    Ardent supporters of particular, narrow programs should not drive the city’s resource allocation plans. Greatest good for the greatest number is probably a point most Berkeleyans can agree on. I wish the warm pool advocates had considered this when they demanded the warm pool stay at BHS instead of letting the school build the classrooms that would have benefited thousands of kids every single year. There’s an ethical equation that in my eyes comes down on the side of thousands of high school kids, not a small number of swimmers.

  • EBGuy

    The Mello-Roos district may be a deal breaker for me…
    WHEREAS, this Council did, on January 19, 2010, adopt its Resolution No. 64,751-N.S. entitled “Resolution of Intention to Establish Community Facilities District No. 2 (Berkeley Pools) and to Authorize the Levy of a Special Tax within the Proposed District” (the “Resolution of Intention to Establish the District”), in which this Councilstated its intention to form Community Facilities District No. 2 (Berkeley Pools) (the “District”) pursuant to Chapter 2.5 of Part 1 of Title 5 (commencing with Section 53311) of the California Government Code, commonly known as the “Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982” (the “Act”) in order to finance certain facilities and services

  • Diane

    Same issues for me. Everything I have read on this leads me to support the construction side of the measure, but not support the maintenance side of the measure. Capital costs differ from maintenance costs, and I am not willing to commit to an open-ended tax forever for maintenance and overhead These costs should be addressed through the regular budget process, not measure “C”.

    It is unfortunate that both the construction & upkeep funding measures have been bundled together, as I will probably vote against it, and I wouldn’t have were it just funding for capital construction. Perhaps they’ll be able to take another crack at it if this fails and de-couple the two parts of the measure.

  • David Berkeley

    Any system that regularly needs new exceptions in order to maintain itself is a broken system. And, worse yet these “exceptions” actually divert resources that could be used to make the system function as a whole. Sorry for the abstraction, but sometimes it is easy to get lost in the details.

    The city has a budget. That budget needs to provide for maintenance and (eventually) replacement of city resources. If the money is not available, then it seems like a bad time to build a new pool and increase on-going expenses.

    One more vote against the measure.

  • Lori Kossowsky

    We don’t get ” another crack at it”. If measure C goes doesn’t pass, then the warm pool, which services so many people…. an amazing amount AND is a money maker dies, and so do real people.
    Maureen, I heard you speak over and over again at city council meetings, always saying the same thing. In fact if I remember clearly, the exact same thing) calling our children selfish, our elders selfish, our disabled community selfish, cancer survivors who use the pool, injured people, etc.. is beyond me. It is a huge number of swimmers. AND if you mean the small number of swimmers as in those who cannot swim, that is a real crime.. for safety every child should know how to swim.
    Our children will look at this for many years to come.. let’s do the right thing and Vote YES on measure C.

  • Maureen Burke

    Lori,

    The last time I spoke at a Berkeley City Council meeting was 1987. Feel free to meander through City Council meeting minutes.

    Your comments are false and ridiculous.

  • Robert Cabrera

    If you are a Berkeley property owner look at your recent tax bill. It contains 27 special taxes. My total of these “special taxes” paid was $2447. Measure C’s twenty million dollar bond would be the 28th and add $80 to $2527.
    The upcoming BUSD 200 million plus dollar bond proposed for November 2010 would be special tax number 29 and probably increase the county tax another $800 to $3327.
    I contacted friends in Richmond and Oakland to compare “special taxes.”
    Richmond has eleven totaling $1670. Oakland has seventeen totaling $1940.
    Berkeley needs to live within its means and stop the out of control spending during a time when residents face high unemployment, a weak economy and looming unfunded municipal pension liabilities.
    Vote no on C.

  • laura menard

    Thank you Robert for stating the plain truth.

    I often think that the vast majority of Berkeley residents/voters have little concern for those of us who can not afford to shop at Whole Foods or dine at Chez Panisse. As I wrote earlier, if this community truly wants to maintain economic diversity Berkeley they need to consider the burdens high taxes places on homeowners struggling to survive especially in a recession. The official budget policy of relying on new taxes and fees to solve budget problems which could have been properly planned for places an untenable burden on the shrinking middle class homeowner.

    check out this website:
    http://berkeleycandobetter.com/action_alerts.html

  • Lori Kossowsky

    Berkeley could do much better without organizations like Berkeley Can do Better. Do you drink lots of tea at your meetings. Sheesh.

  • Justin Lee

    Whether you like the pools or not, this measure is a total boondoggle.
    NOBODY is doing the math here.
    If you take the capital costs of building a pool at face value(23 million for 4 pool renovations) then there is still the extension of the bond that adds 30 years of maintenance and running of the pool. That’s another 30 million(they say its about 1 million a year, which is quite possible.)
    Bonds are floated to pay for large capital intensive projects and paid over a length of time. Like a new roof your your house.
    You don’t float a bond to pay salaries and maintenance-a cost that goes into perpetuity. That’s called ROLLING CREDIT. The city can’t run the new pools on the budget, so they hit the credit card.
    Salaries, chemicals, lifeguards,electrical,water and so on are costs that go forever. That should be a TAX. Taxes can be charged forever-bonds expire and cost more than they need to.
    The entire pool bond equals near 100,000,000 million dollars over 30 years. Construction is painfully overcharged at 22 million or whatever. It’s ridiculous since the average house pool is around 100,000 for a small pool. Why do renovations cost 5 million??? These aren’t even olympic pools.
    Take the above at face value-silly,but whatever. 30 million for 30 years=1 million a year to run the pools.
    The real cost of building the pool with the bloated bids = 52 million.
    So, if the bond costs around 100,000,000 then where is the difference going? INTEREST PAYMENTS. This is absurd. Near 40 million could be used for something else for crying out loud.
    This is assuming last census at 42000 households in Berkeley.
    Politicians are so weak-kneed that that can’t asked for the 30 million as a annual tax. So they just use the bond as a smokescreen.
    Plus a lot of that bond money is UP FRONT. You know what the city will do with that money, right? They are going to plug up those budget holes(salaries,pension obligations, entitlements) with the pool measure money and RUN OUT of funds.
    That’s why they want so much money for “pools.” Probably a fraction will actually go into the pools themselves.

  • Justin Lee

    My Previous post:
    After getting the pro-C flyer(I use the pools and would gladly pay for them if it’s presented correctly) I came up with this:
    -there are 45000 households
    -each household would pay on average 70 dollars
    -45,000 times 70 times 30 years=94,500,000 million dollars TOTAL for principle and the “loan”
    -The renovations are slated to cost about 25 million for all 4 pools. That’s to fix them
    -The pool maintenance is slated to be just under a million a year(that’s the city’s numbers)
    -At worst that’s 30,000,000 over 30 years for running the pools
    -30 mill + 25 mill=55 million total.
    -Why is the City paying 40 million in INTEREST payments. Who gets that? Goldman Sachs?
    Now, the proper way to float this bond is ask for 25 million in bonds to the building costs as we need that now.
    -Next tax households in perpetuity for the maintenance.
    -Why are we bonding 30 million in permanent costs. What happens after 30 years? Another bond measure to borrow.
    -The pool looks like it is costing near double the real costs because the politicians think that debt and bonds and credit are free. But that 40 million could be used for libraries and other things. The costs of running these facilities are doubling because the city cannot to 3rd grade math and have to go to the piggy trough and beg corrupt banks for a loan when it’s not a capital improvement cost it’s an ONGOING expense.
    My check for 20 bucks a year for the pools is in the mail.
    Marketing the pools as the future for the city with emotion is exactly why the county is in paralysis. If people would stop being lazy and look at the facts as presented, there are ways to do this without it being YES or No.
    My solution is raise taxes 20-30 dollars a year per household for running the pools.
    Ask for a 25 million dollar bond to raise money for constructions. Pay the minimum bond interest because all that extra is just making bankers RICH
    Regarding:
    Claim: Berkeley municipal debt is rising from $4 million in 2010 to $15 million in 2011. Fact: By law, the City must approve a balanced budget each year. Berkeley has a Standard & Poor’s bond credit rating of AA+, putting Berkeley in the highest 1 percent of cities nationwide.

    No city has a “balanced budget” in the sense that incoming=outgoing. The city is in debt, but is a AA+ creditor. Adding more debt harms the debt rating of the city. AA+ is also not AAA, which is the best. I suspect Berkeley has fallen in recent years like all city governments which have gone to the credit card/bond system too long without a reasonable “balanced” budget to pay for increased debt service. And interest rates are going up.
    Paying 40 million in interest for a sub 100 million dollar project is a bad deal.
    Facilities=26 million in renovations
    maintenance for 30 years=30 times @1 mill=30 million.
    We are paying @1.3 million in interest a year!
    Principal needed=56 million for running them for 30 years and construction.

    And as I said before, the less debt the better. We should only be financing any money that is needed at the start of construction. Floating a bond to pay for recurring costs of salaries, equipment, chemicals etc. takes care of these for 30 years. But we know costs will go up, because this is Berkeley, so saying that the pools will cost more than 980,000 a year(3 million? Who knows!) is not far fetched. I suspect the “overage” will go to other parts of governments to pay salaries in the parks,the yard,police etc. Like I say, who knows.

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