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Official Argument in Favor of Measure R

as it will appear on the ballot

(with comments)

Vote YES on R for a Safer Orinda by reducing wildfire risk, maintaining safe roads and improving critical infrastructure.


Just eight years ago, Orinda's deteriorating roads were rated among the worst in the Bay Area. That's when Orinda voters approved a modest increase in the sales tax rate to fund repairs. All scheduled road improvements were completed on budget and ahead of schedule, as documented by the Citizens' Infrastructure Oversight Commission. (The voters were told that the 10-year tax would cost them $600,000 a year.  They were told that to repair Orinda’s roads and storm drains it would cost $52 million. So far, over $60 million has been spent and there remains $10 million in road repairs and $30 million in storm drains to be dealt with.  And this does not include the cost to maintain the 30 miles of residential streets still maintained by the taxpayers living on them which City refuses to recognize, even though it now claims road maintenance is an essential service [for everyone except the 1,500 families living on those streets].  For the City to insinuate “job done” is a false claim.  Not even close.)


This vital local funding source is set to expire. (It will not expire until March of 2023, over two years from now.  Hopefully by then the Covid Pandemic and its associated economic disruption will be under control.)  Funding continues to be needed to maintain roads and address urgent wildfire safety issues. (Over the next two years the City has $3.5 million at its disposal for infrastructure and fire prevention, without any new tax.)


Recent fire seasons have been the hottest, driest and most destructive on record. Orinda's excess vegetative fuel increases fire risk and creates conditions similar to those leading to devastating wildfires in Santa Rosa, Paradise and other communities. Proactive wildfire prevention is needed to keep Orinda safe. (The City has been aware of the high fire danger in Orinda since October of 1991 when the Oakland Hills Fire killed 25 souls and destroyed 3,300 homes.  Large areas of Orinda have been designated a very high fire hazard severity zone by CalFire for years and recently even larger areas have been designated elevated and extreme fire threat districts by the State PUC.  And yet, historically the City has allocated nothing to fire prevention nor has it insisted that MOFD allocate funds to this “essential” need, even though MOFD spends $3.5 million dollars a year of Orinda property tax dollars for service to Moraga.  Are we to believe they are now going to spend the “appropriate” amount without ever performing a study of what an appropriate amount is?)


Voting YES on R renews the expiring voter-approved sales tax and increases the rate by ½C (50¢ on a $100 purchase) (This is a gross understatement of what this tax will cost.  This tax, a full percent on all purchases including major purchases like cars, regardless of where they are purchased, will generate $2.4 million per year.  That equates to $340 per household annually; which will increase with inflation.  Over 20 years it will generate over $60 million; over $8,000 per household.) to provide locally-controlled funding for local needs, including:


        • Improving wildfire safety by controlling hazardous brush and vegetation throughout Orinda (Improving by how much?  How much should we spend to make Orinda as safe as we can?  Orinda has never done a study to determine this.  It just says “give us $60 million and we will make the City safer.”)

        • Protecting neighborhoods, schools, fire stations, roads and bridges from wildfire by maintaining defensible space (The City has never commissioned a study of what would make Orinda fire-safe.  Before the voters give the City $60 million to use at its discretion, shouldn’t there be a substantive plan based on facts on how to spend it?)

        • Repairing aging and collapsing storm drains to prevent flooding, sinkholes, and maintain safe evacuation routes

        • Improving disaster preparedness by enhancing emergency communications, early alerts and evacuation planning

        • Maintaining roads to minimize future costly repairs (There are 94 miles of residential streets which all have the same purpose; providing paved access to private residences.  64 of those miles have been declared “public” streets and are maintained with public funds. The other 30 miles, home to 1,500 families who pay the same taxes as everyone else, have been denied that declaration of being considered a “public” street and thus denied public maintenance funding including one cent from the $50 million we have spent to repair the residential streets since 2012.  This tax, called a “essential services” tax, presumably considers road maintenance an “essential” service since the bulk of it will be used for road maintenance; specifically the maintenance of residential streets.  So why is not the maintenance of the neglected 30 miles of streets any less an essential service?)


Measure R Continues Strict Accountability Protections


        • All funds stay in Orinda and cannot be taken by Sacramento

        • An independent citizens' oversight committee and mandatory audits are required

        • Essential purchases like groceries and medicine are exempt to reduce the burden for residents on fixed/ limited incomes. (But most of the tax comes from major purchases, like cars, not purchased in Orinda but registered in Orinda.)


Maintaining Orinda's infrastructure and preventing wildfires will protect our safety, quality of life and property values.


Please join Orinda's respected leaders in voting Yes on R.  (Based on existing public documents, 15 percent or less of this tax will be spent on fire prevention.  Until roads get to a truly miserable condition, they do not pose a safety problem.  Most of Orinda’s roads are virtually new and the City road plan is to keep them that way.  This is not a “safety” tax.  It is a keep-the-roads-nice-to-enhance-the-property-values-of-80%-of-Orinda tax.)

Darlene Gee, Mayor, City of Orinda

Melanie Light, Chair, Orinda Firewise Council

Sue Severson, Former Orinda Mayor & Chair of Fix Orinda Roads

Jud Hammon, Chair, Orinda Citizen's Infrastructure Commission

Steve Glazer, CA State Senator

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