Monday, 24 June 2024

Steele: Measure G – what it means to Lake County

I appreciate the opportunity to express an alternate viewpoint than has thus far been presented in letters to the editor about Measure G, the proposed 1.5-percent sales tax that will be on the June 5 ballot.

Recent letters by Phil Murphy did a grave disservice to hardworking county employees – at all levels. He did little to acknowledge what’s at stake and what’s been lost in the multiple disasters that hit our county three consecutive years and did nothing at all to further understanding about government – how it works – what it can and cannot do, depending on the availability of human and fiscal resources.

Measure G will put the unincorporated towns and areas of the county on par with the two cities that have already passed initiatives to increase taxes and are beginning to see positive results. Voters who live outside the city limits of Lakeport and Clearlake will decide on the proposed tax. The measure requires a simple majority vote to pass.

The tax in Measure G ends in 10 years unless re-enacted by the voters. It will not apply to food and utilities and requires an oversight committee to ensure transparency and accountability on how the funds are used. An anticipated $4.5 million into the county’s general fund is anticipated if the measure passes. The general fund is used to pay for our law enforcement programs, code enforcement, roads, parks, libraries, museums, administrative and other services not covered by dedicated funds.

The fact is the County has lost multiple millions of funding in recent years. As a former human resources professional and manager of large budgets and organizations I can say with certainty, it takes skilled workers in the right numbers to get projects completed and services delivered. And yes, they have to be paid at levels that are fair.

Regardless of past decisions, we’re falling deeper and deeper in a hole and Measure G is one way to address the endless needs and complaints from citizens who want more services. There are no more re-development funds from the State and funding sources have declined.

To understand the implications of our current state of affairs is to simply open our eyes to the reality of mountains of trash in our hillside neighborhoods; crime and environmental degradation occurring on our streets and in the back country; slow response times to calls from an understaffed sheriff’s department; a lack of county services to adequately or timely respond to code enforcement complaints; the need for qualified personnel to support things like expedited sales of county properties or to move projects through complex state and federal regulations; lack of funding to make project improvements that could boost our sagging economy; the very real losses incurred when trained, experienced employees leave to take jobs in nearby counties that offer better wages; and the difficulty in recruiting technical positions at all levels due to the county’s inability to offer competitive salaries.

Of course in all organizations, big and small, there are internal improvements and efficiencies that can be made. But the fact remains – there are real and mounting problems and people look to government for services and solutions that require funding.

Measure G is not a panacea, but it is, in my view, a necessary step in the right direction.

Olga Martin Steele lives in Clearlake Oaks, Calif.

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