September 17, 2008 > Measure UU - what does it mean?
Measure UU - what does it mean?
By Simon Wong
A concerted campaign is underway to raise public awareness of Measure UU, its benefits and the fiscal consequences should the Measure not receive the required two-thirds' voter approval at the November 2008 polls.
Measure UU is the successor measure to the 2004 Measure K Public Safety Parcel Tax which will expire automatically in Spring 2009. It has the same basic tax rates as Measure K, a term of eight years, a Consumer Price Index cap of 2% and an enhancement of $500,000. Measure UU represents approximately $2.7 million in funding towards the cost of police, fire and youth violence prevention and intervention programs. The enhanced Measure equates to an increase of less than $20 per annum for most owners of single-family, residential parcels.
On September 8, 2008, the Union City Citizens for Public Safety steering committee and Council members hosted a public meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Union City, to put the case for Measure UU. City Staff were also present to explain the financial cost to the City should the Measure not pass in November 4. According to protocol, City Staff may inform and educate but may not advocate.
Firefighters fear for the future. The loss of the 911 fee has already impacted the City's budget for the current fiscal year. Union City Fire Department and the fire services of neighboring cities provide mutual aid when incidents require extra manpower and equipment. The absence of Measure UU funding would reduce the Fire Department's ability to deliver the services and standards to which residents have become accustomed and increase reliance on assistance from other cities.
"These are not scare tactics. We have men and women who risk their lives daily, serving in law enforcement, in youth services, fire and emergency management. We are just establishing the latter and there is a danger that without Measure UU it may be subject to review. It takes money and voter approval of Measure UU to deliver the Department's commitment to public-safety standards and service levels," stated Fire Chief Carlos Rodriguez.
Union City Youth and Family Services has provided intervention services for a decade. Free services, including crisis counselling to manage trauma, are available to youth and their families through various programs which can be delivered at different venues across the City such as the workplace, schools, and community resource centers. Clients are taught skills that enable them to better manage problems that arise, evaluate choices, avoid violence, criminal behavior, domestic disputes or a child running away. When working with youth, the goal is to imbue them with a sense of self-belief to empower them to become productive citizens.
"Currently there are only two Intervention Counsellors but when Measure UU passes it [the $500,000 youth component] will allow us not only to continue our work but to expand our services by adding more program staff and bilingual assistants which will enable us to reach more young people and their families. Measure UU will invest in our youth to help make the community a safer and more meaningful place in which to live and thrive," stated Patricia Abadesco, Intervention Counsellor, Union City Youth and Family Services.
Police Chief Greg Stewart reminded the meeting that Union City voters supported the Measure K Public Safety Parcel Tax in 2004 in response to a budget crisis. Doing so not only maintained public safety levels and standards but also avoided the loss of a dozen jobs. Four years later, the City and residents face similar choices.
"I know times are tight and the economy is not in the best shape but, as Fire Chief Rodriguez said, 'These are not scare tactics.' It's a simple matter of mathematics. Less money means fewer personnel. Fewer personnel mean less service. Less service means only the basic services will be available and the current level of public safety services enjoyed by Union City residents will have to be curtailed. Given that public safety staffing levels in Union City are already well below the National and County averages, reducing them any further is neither advisable nor in the community's best interests. I, for one, am unwilling to compromise the quality of life in Union City that I have seen improve to current levels during my thirty years with UCPD," said Chief Greg Stewart.
From a financial perspective, the City's General Fund currently has an annual budgeted expenditure of approximately $40 million. Measure K provides a further $2.7 million and represents about 6.75% of the City's total annual budget, as did the 911 fee.
The recent loss of the 911 fee has forced the City to reduce the current fiscal year's anticipated expenditure by over $2 million. Higher-than-expected revenues from some areas, such as property taxes, and funds earmarked for capital projects, most notably the implementation of a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system to replace the existing 911 system, have been used to offset the remainder of the lost $2.7 million 911-fee revenue and the City's refund liability.
There will be a moratorium on staff recruitment for the remainder of FY 2008-09. Vacancies, including three police officer positions, will not be filled. The City will monitor the budget and see what other positions fall vacant and can remain so between now and the end of June 2009. At that time, what positions to keep and which are redundant will be decided. If the City does not have Measure UU funding, then serious cuts are likely. The General Fund, which is already paying for other services, will be trying to finance the services previously funded by Measure K and the 911 fee.
"That means everything is spread thinly; everything gets cut back and would be a substantial hit to our budget, explained City Manager Larry Cheeves.
"Police and fire services account for approximately 75% of our entire operating fund. So, public safety is a huge part of what we do as a City. About 80% of those funds are personnel costs. So, when you talk about cutting, you are talking about individuals who provide services. If those people go, the services they provide will also go. The police and fire chiefs have already said that it's important to have these people available to protect you in time of need.
"When we present our next two-year budget to the Council at the end of this fiscal year, we shall have to say 'This is what we have and these are the services that we have to provide.' All of those services will have to be funded. The Council will decide what services will be cut, though the City will make recommendations. We shall try to protect public safety as much as possible but, with public safety accounting for 75% of our budget, it will be extremely difficult," said Mr Cheeves.
Compared to other cities in Alameda County, Union City residents enjoy an above-average median income. The City's property taxes per parcel and total per capita expenditure are among the lowest. Total tax collections are the lowest in the County. Besides having the fewest number of public employees, after Fremont, per capita revenues are also low. These rankings mean that the City provides services more efficiently than the majority of other cities within the County.
Moreover, Union City's crime rate equates to the average for Alameda County. "We do not want it to deviate from that; we don't want a higher crime rate. We are in jeopardy of that if we don't provide the funds to keep the services, to keep the officers on the streets that we have currently," concluded the City Manager.
The Union City Citizens for Public Safety campaign is funded by public donations which pay for signs, fliers, the organization's website and other campaign literature. There are seven steering committee members who donate their time freely - Lynne Mattos (Chairperson), Emily Duncan (letter writing co-ordinator), Barry Ferrier (webmaster), Gertrude Gregorio (community organizer), Jo Ann Lew (Treasurer), Mary Schlarb (volunteer organiser) and Gary Singh (signs). All are community volunteers; some work and others are retired.
"The committee members of the Union City Citizens for Public Safety are doing an excellent job. We need as many volunteers as possible on as many different fronts as possible to reach as much of the community as possible. I have walked daily in different parts of Union City since August 22 and the response has been very positive. However, I cannot pretend that I shall be able to visit every house. We need more people to walk, knock on doors, to talk to people, to put up signs to pass Measure UU. Every vote is critical; every vote is crucial. We need everybody's help. Please tell your friends, family and neighbors of the importance of this Measure," rallied Mayor Mark Green.
"We need community involvement. If any of you belong to a group, no matter how small it might be, we need to be in touch with you to make a strong pitch for this Measure to your members. It may be Little League Soccer, Basket Ball, Chamber of Commerce, HOA, Neighborhood Watch and so on," continued the Mayor.
"I can say unequivocally that we are much further ahead than we were with the June 2008 campaign. We have a website which has given us an advantage. Although much further ahead than before, this does not mean that we are certain to win. I know from previous campaigns that we must continue to work hard until the very end. So, we need to campaign tirelessly between now and Election Day. We ask people here to step forward as community members. This is our community; it is your community.
"This Measure for police, fire services and youth violence prevention has widespread appeal. It will fund about ten or eleven police offers, paramedic services with emergency response, fire fighters at fire stations and has a strong youth and gang prevention component. So it's a broad-based attack on crime to ensure public safety in Union City. We need your support, your vote, help to write letters to newspapers and to neighbors. All of this is important. I'm delighted to see this excellent turnout tonight. Thank you for coming. Again, I'd like to congratulate the steering committee for doing a sensational job. We need your continued support to the finish line," concluded Mayor Green.
"Measure UU is the right thing to do. We need Measure UU to keep Union City a great place for families to live, work and play. We need Measure UU to protect our youth and community and to keep our schools safe. Measure UU is an investment in our community; it is one of the most affordable there is and represents excellent value. Measure UU will provide stability in our public safety programs. Please vote "Yes" for Measure UU on November 4," urged Lynne Mattos, Chair Person, Union City Citizens for Public Safety.
For more information, or to contact City Staff, Council Members and campaign organizers, visit the Union City website at www.ci.union-city.ca.us and the Union City Citizens for Public Safety website at www.putsafetyfirst.net