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Councilmember Nancy Nadel Defends LLAD Tax Collection

Councilmenber Nancy Nadel (District 3, Oakland) is catching hell over this exchange with a property owner in her district. The basic news is that she does not see -- and I guess will not look to find out if -- any improprieties existed in the way the Landscape Lighting and Assessment Distict votes were counted.

Check this out, which was on the Yahoo Message Board and the HarriOak blog:

People may be interested in the following exchange between Nancy and
one of our neighbors about the LLAD tax. For those who aren't
following this issue, the measure would have been defeated by
homeowners who are already struggling with taxes that typically range
from $5000 to $12,000 a year. But the city wanted it to pass so it
added extra weight to the votes cast by the Port of Oakland and by
city-owned properties.

Since this surely is illegal, the city is now
preparing to be sued. (Which we will also pay for. Dishonest
government is extremely expensive.)

On top of the vote rigging, the State Supreme Court recently ruled
that these kinds of elections, in which only parcel-owners vote and
pay but everyone benefits, are not legal. In that case, the Supreme
Court overturned an open-space tax in the South Bay. There will be a
council hearing on this issue on Tuesday, July 22 at 9:30 a.m. Please
note that council deliberately scheduled the hearing at a time when
the people who pay the tax have to be at work. They really don't get
it. Then again, Nancy's property tax is only about $1600 a year thanks
to Prop 13, so maybe it's hard for her to imagine the burden these
extra taxes will place on her middle-class constituents who bought in
the last 7 years.

This exchange was also posted on the HarriOak News, which removed the
property owner's name to preserve his privacy.

Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 12:59 PM
To: Nadel, Nancy
Subject: LLAD tax vote

Dear Ms. Nadel,

Simply put, I am appalled over what I have been hearing in the media
regarding the LLAD tax vote.

I became a resident and homeowner of Oakland one year ago and was
optimistic about life here in Oakland. But since my arrival I can only
say I have been disappointed by the City government in almost every
way. Wasteful spending, nepotism, corruption, and an almost complete
denial of reality regarding the crime problem and our hopelessly
inadequate police force.

And now comes the LLAD vote rigging which, in the opinion of myself
and many of my neighbors, is the ultimate insult (at least to those
who live in what is supposed to be a democracy.) As I understand it,
the LLAD votes were weighted by how much of an increase the voter
would be required to pay. But a simple reading of the facts shows that
the Port of Oakland's votes were weighted by the total amount they
would pay, NOT the increase. If all of our votes had been weighted
this way, the measure would have been defeated. In fact, the measure
would have been defeated by every method of counting except the one
you used. Never mind the question of why an entity like the Port of
Oakland has any say at all about homeowners' property taxes, but
that's another letter.

It seems fairly obvious that the citizens of Oakland are not in favor
of a property tax increase. I respectfully request that will of the
majority of the people of Oakland be acknowledged and that the
improperly counted LLAD vote be declared invalid.

This issue will not go away. And the City government has a long road
to travel to regain the confidence of the people you represent.
Recognizing the seriousness of this issue and implementing, what to
most Oakland residents is, the obvious solution would go a long way
towards regaining some trust.

Sincerely,

J.

From: Nadel, Nancy [mailto:NNadel@...]
Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 1:18 PM
Subject: RE: LLAD tax vote

Dear J.

Not sure what factual media account you might have read about the LLAD
vote. I don't know any investigative reporters anymore, sadly. The
blog, newspaper and yahoo group information is inaccurate as is David
Mix. Incorrect things repeated over and over doesn't make them
correct. The Port had no LLAD assessment in 1994 therefore the votes
based on the full assessment rather than the difference was appropriate.

Nancy

Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 1:44 PM
To: Nadel, Nancy
Subject: RE: LLAD tax vote

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for your response, Nancy.

From what I've been able to find, the argument for the Port's votes
counting as much as they did is that the LLAD tax that they've been
paying all along was done so on a voluntary basis, an assertion that I
find unbelievable. I would love to see this claim documented. Am I to
believe that the Port has been paying this tax out of the goodness of
their heart, as they would to a charity? Surely they have been paying
this tax as part of an agreement they made with the City, which makes
it a tax nonetheless (maybe it wasn't "assessed", but it has been an
obligation on Port's part.)

Since the Port has been paying the LLAD tax for many years
(voluntarily or otherwise), their vote should count based on the
increase, not the total amount. In any event, the logic used here to
validate the vote counting method is so convoluted that it makes me
ill to think that people in our city government actually devised it.

You know, I'm not opposed to raising taxes when it's necessary and the
money is used wisely. But this LLAD tax vote has to be one of the most
convoluted things I've seen in government. This was so poorly
represented and explained that it's no wonder people are calling this
fraudulent.

One last question for you: can you understand why people are so upset
about this?

J

From: Nadel, Nancy [mailto:NNadel@...]
Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 1:54 PM
Subject: RE: LLAD tax vote

Dear J,

I can understand why people are upset about many things in Oakland
government but the LLAD increase is not one of them for me. The city
is constantly increasing parks and landscaped median strips at the
request of residents and we had no escalator in the earlier LLAD. As
property to maintain increases, and inflation increases, the money has
to come from somewhere to do the maintenance on parks that people
want. Mandela Parkway, Bancroft median are huge new areas for which we
had no money to maintain. Even with the LLAD increase, Mandela Parkway
is not in it and I had to peel off money from a seismic rehab project
just to fund continued maintenance of Mandela which is supposed to be
our catalyst for industrial attraction in West Oakland.

Nancy

Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 2:45 PM
To: 'Nadel, Nancy'
Subject: RE: LLAD tax vote

Hi Nancy,

I'm totally with you when the City needs money to do something and the
money is used wisely. But that's not the issue. The issue is that the
City isn't counting votes properly. If the LLAD tax had won (that is,
a majority of people in Oakland had voted in favor of it) I wouldn't
have a problem – I might express my feelings about whether the money
is used efficiently and, for instance, not used to pay people who
don't show up for work.

But in this case, the voters declined the tax increase, only to find
that after a rather convoluted method of counting, the City government
declared the tax increase had won. And guess what, the City government
was almost unanimously in favor of the increase.

This just isn't democracy: the vast majority of PEOPLE in Oakland
voted against it, yet it passed. Wouldn't you be angry? The issue
isn't the tax, it's the counting of the votes. It makes me feel like
the only reason we had a vote at all was to give people the illusion
that they had some control over this issue.

I think people would be more comfortable with tax increases if there
were very specific requirements for how the money would be used. As it
is, taxes are increased on Project A, and money that was coming from
the general fund to Project A gets diverted to some other project and
replaced by the tax increase. I'm simplifying here, but the point is
made, and it makes people furious.

Anyway, thanks for writing, Nancy!
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