Advice from Rep. Zoe Lofgren

Back in the 1980’s I had the good luck to be assigned by my employer Bechtel to work with Zoe Lofgren, then Santa Clara County, Ca, Supervisor, to implement the first 1/2 cent sales tax in Calif to fund SPECIFIC highway improvements in Santa Clara County to combat horrible congestion.

Now a congresswoman in Washington, Ms. Lofgren in 1984 spearheaded the Measure A highway program. and raised in excess of a $ billion to fund that program of highway improvements, collected the tax for 10 years, then sunsetted. The program was wildly successful. It created the Santa Clara County Traffic Authority run by a three member board of elected officials, One of the Santa Clara County Supervisors (Zoe), a Councilman from San Jose, Ca and a rotating seat for one of the other councilmen from the remaining cities in the county. The Measure A tax law also created a citizens oversight committee to assure that the funds raised could only be spent on the SPECIFIC projects detailed in the law and had to be completed by date certain and the tax then sunsetted. Ted was initially the deputy program manager and eventually the Program manager for the program working for Bechtel hired by the Santa Clara County Traffic Authority.

Ms. Lofgren’s advice to me later as to why the sales tax program was so successful was, first get citizens advisory groups together to determine what are the specific projects that they want solved and funded by the law (Specific Highway interchanges x, y, z. Soundwalks x,y, z, Highways x miles from here to here. No generalities like we are going to work on highways or parks.) This must be done in advance of any Measure vote and the projects list must be written into the Measure. Second, determine how long the citizen’s would support a tax (number of years). Polling was done before voting on the initiative to determine what tax duration was required to raise sufficient funds to build the projects chosen by the citizens. It was shown that citizens would support a tax duration up to 10 years, no longer. Third, designate an independent government entity and specify it in the law, responsible to implement the projects with stakeholders vested in the specific projects  success and fourth, establish a citizen’s oversight committee to verify monthly that funds are only being spent on the projects specifically listed in the law.

Ms. Lofgren created the Santa Clara County Traffic Authority to be the implementing entity, who hired Bechtel to be the program manager and created the oversight committee. In today’s $$, $2 Billion worth of projects were implemented.

Contrasting Congresswoman Lofgren’s advice for a Tax Measure’s success above with our Measure, Measure 15-214 would be doomed to fail. Why:

  1. Advisory group has not established what “specific”projects tax funds should be spent on, and written them into the Measure.
  2. Consulting the community as to the duration of a sales tax that the can be supported by the community has not not been done. Polling of citizens as to tax duration support has not been done.
  3. Designating an independent government entity to be responsible for implementing the SPECIFIC projects in the tax law has not been done.
  4. The Measure does not Establish a citizen’s oversight committed to monitor monthly expenditures against only the specific projects listed in the law.

Measure 15-214 is 0-4 as measured against congresswoman Lofgren’s advice.

Definitely Vote NO on Measure 15-214.