A coalition including environmentalists, organized labor, local chambers of commerce, and politicians gathered this afternoon outside Kimball Elementary in National City to launch a campaign against a proposal to enact a half-cent sales tax across the county for the next 40 years.
The official wording of Measure A, to be placed before voters this November, is as follows:
“Shall an ordinance be adopted to: repair roads, deteriorating bridges; relieve congestion; provide every community funds for pothole/street repairs; expand public transit, including improved services for seniors, disabled, students, veterans; reduce polluted runoff; preserve open space to protect water quality/reduce wildfires by enacting, with independent oversight/audits, a 40-year, half-cent local sales tax ($308 million annually) that Sacramento cannot take away?”
Detractors, however, argue that the $18.2 billion the measure is expected to raise would be spent expanding freeways, increasing pollution, and undermining climate goals such as those laid out in the city of San Diego's long-awaited climate action plan.
"Measure A is more than a $18 billion tax increase, it's a burden on San Diego families and our community," said Gretchen Newsom, political director at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union that contributed $75,000 toward defeating the measure earlier this month. "The true cost is still unknown — medical bills from increased air and water pollution, environmental damage, and wasteful spending of taxpayer money are all serious risks posed by the measure."
Other labor interests, meanwhile, referring to themselves as "a coalition of construction professionals to repair San Diego's roads," have lined up with big money in support of the tax.
"Air pollution from cars is linked with increased risk of asthma, heart disease, and other health dangers," said Margaret Godshalk, a retired Kimball teacher and Environmental Health Coalition representative who called the measure "a careless, dangerous proposal."
"The asthma hospitalization rate for children in this area is one of the highest in the county — almost three times average," continued Andres Figueroa, a high school junior from Barrio Logan who lives near a section of Interstate 5 that would be widened with funds from the tax. "[Measure A] will just add more fuel to the fire.”
San Diego councilmember David Alvarez said the measure "was cooked up in a back-room fashion — and the people here weren't allowed in that back room.”