Commentary – Quentin Kopp

Election choices; bad fees

by Quentin Kopp

Was it Diogenes who declared: “If a man carries his own lantern, he need not fear darkness”?

Reiteration appears inevitable in the face of the June 5 California election. Therefore, I reiterate my three most-prized recommendations:

I urge readers to vote for retired Superior Court Judge Steve Bailey for attorney general, Steve Poizner for insurance commissioner and Marshall Tuck for superintendent of public instruction. That gives you a Democrat, Republican and independent, thereby covering all bases.

Judge Bailey was principally a criminal defense lawyer for 25 years before election to the El Dorado County Superior Court. He is unmistakenly the most experienced and balanced of the three other candidates. Steve Poizner, a registered independent like me, served as insurance commissioner from 2007 until 2011, accepts no campaign donations from insurance carriers or brokers and represents integrity of the highest nature.

Democrat Marshall Tuck is free of obligation to the California Teachers’ Association or charter school proponents and is not a career politician, unlike the incumbent or his principal challenger.

Absent from last month’s recommendations was my feeling about Regional Measure 3. It constitutes unfair governmental taxation, flying in the face of logic, history and fair treatment. It proposes toll bridge increases from $5 to $8 on six of the seven bridges crossing San Francisco Bay, which are owned and operated by the state of California, and a Bay Bridge increase to $9 during peak hours, $8 on weekends and $4 all other times by 2025.

Tolls, like gasoline taxes, constitute user fees, paid by users of the public transportation facility. In fact, motorists at the time the Bay Bridge and others were opened received governmental promises that tolls would cease once the bonds used for construction were paid. That was untrue.

Regional Measure 3 now proposes to use an estimated $4.45 billion to pay for 35 projects not constituting maintenance or improvements of the seven state-owned bridges. About 70 percent would finance mass transit projects, 25 percent would foster roads and highways and three percent would benefit bicyclists, who pay no tolls or other fees, and pedestrians. A user fee, it is not.

The state legislature and the governor already bastardized the gasoline tax last year with increases not simply for highways, roads and streets, but for public transit and other non-user purposes.

California three times in the early 20th century used general obligation state bonds to pay for motor vehicle facilities before political leaders recognized that it was unfair to those not using streets and highways. Thus, in 1922, the legislature and governor enacted a two-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax upon the clear principle that those who use streets and highways, not the rest of society, should pay for their construction and upkeep.

That’s the principal reason an initiative to repeal the politicized gas tax increase has been circulated for the November 2018 statewide election.

Note that the Bay Area Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SPUR, which falsely proclaims itself as an “urban planning think tank,” support Regional Measure 3. They’re contributing vast amounts of money to its passage.

Why? Because their membership, builders, engineering firms and designers, will obtain most of the contracts for the contemplated projects. The myth that SPUR is a “think tank” conceals its membership roster of contractors, architects and recipients of taxpayer and toll-payer dollars.

Stop their ripoff by rejecting Regional Measure 3.

One other election highlight warrants comment. By a small majority, San Francisco voters approved a 2016 measure which allows aliens to vote in SF Board of Education elections this November. Some of those aliens may be illegal residents. Under state law, it’s possible that local aliens’ names and addresses could be obtained by federal authorities, like immigration and customs enforcement, to detect illegality. Only aliens with children under 19 years of age can vote in those elections.

Afraid of detection of illegal aliens by federal immigration officials, the Board of Supervisors approved legislation last month compelling the SF Department of Elections to warn all such aspiring alien voters that illegality of presence could be discovered. Laws sometimes boomerang on those who are supposed beneficiaries.

The Board of Education has also began a process of removing public school names no longer politically acceptable, authorizing an alleged panel of experts to investigate and submit recommendations this fall. By June, such proposal may have received approval.

In 2016, Board of Education member Matt Haney tried to promulgate abolition of the name of George Washington High School. In the face of riveting opposition from the Washington High School Alumni Association and others, he turned tail.

One of the targets identified last month by a colleague is Fairmount Elementary School in Glen Park, which faces identity extinction in favor of politically correct Dolores Huerta.

In today’s San Francisco political climate, nothing is safe from revision to suit those who abhor history. The orthodoxy of San Francisco politics sometimes interferes with Diogenes’ observation.

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor and state senator, retired judge and current member of the SF Ethics Commission.

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