The following analysis is of the official arguments for and against Orinda's June 2016 Measure L road bond. This website provides its own critique of Measure L and alternative for funding Orinda’s road repairs and ongoing maintenance.
There is really not much argument that we need money to fix our roads. Both those FOR and AGAINST Measure L agree on that. Those AGAINST, in their argument, say that we don’t need any more money yet (we should use what we have), but then in their rebuttal they say we should “support repairing Orinda’s crumbling roads soon.” So if everyone is for fixing our roads, why don’t we just to commit, fully commit, to doing it? Instead, those FOR fixing our roads say we should only partially commit (with Measure L’s $25 million when we need $47 million) and those AGAINST say we should commit to the full $47 million but wait a little bit.
Those FOR list several points regarding the safety of the funding (it will be used for roads) and no one argues with that.
Those FOR also claim that the idea for Measure L’s form (an Ad Valorem Tax) and amount ($25 million) was derived after a “number public meetings” while those AGAINST say the $25 million is a “piecemeal approach”, that the Ad Valorem Tax will “overtax newly purchased homes”, and that this plan was “rushed forward without the necessary homework”.
This website agrees with the AGAINST crowd in all these respects.
As reported here, the “piecemeal approach” includes the real danger of never finishing the job because after the proposed $25 million is spent or committed, the number of bad roads remaining will likely, according to Council Member Gee, the Council’s road expert, result in not having enough voters to pass the final $22 million needed.
The Ad Valorem tax is unfair to the “new”, in most cases younger, Orinda homeowners. Not only do they pay a large portion of the tax currently, because of Prop 13’s effect on assessed values, they pay the tax for a full 20 years while older home owners will most likely leave long before the bond is paid off and ultimately pay a small fraction of the obligation they created.
As for the FOR claim that Measure L was developed after “numerous public meetings”, this is just not true. The CIOC came up with a cost ($66 million for roads plus $14 million for drains) to bring all of our roads up to a condition of “Good” (over PCI 50); determined that we had secured $33 million in funding and thus required another $47 million to bring all roads up to 50 PCI; further determined that it would cost $3 million to maintain the roads at a 50 PCI minimum ($2 million more than is currently budgeted); and recommended this to the Council. This was accepted by the Council at their Nov 17 meeting.
At this point the Finance Advisory Committee calculated what various funding options would cost to raise the additional $47 million for repairs and $2 million for maintenance. They presented this information to the Council but gave no recommendation as to what funding would be best. At the Council meeting the costs were presented, there was no discussion of pros and cons of the various funding options.
The Council then decided to conduct a telephone poll of about 400 “likely voters” to see what their appetite for new taxes would be. No public discussion of the options or the pros and cons of the various options was held prior to the poll.
The poll results were presented to the Council on February 2nd and there was discussion as to whether a full funding of $47 million or a partial funding of $25 million should be considered. Two weeks later, with no public discussion in the interim, the Council decided to put a $25 million bond, to be repaid by an Ad Valorem tax on the June ballot. The $2 million maintenance funding deficit was not addressed at all.
There was no real public discussion and the AGAINST statement that “Orindans deserve a real dialogue about their roads” and “not some plan rushed forward without the necessary homework being done” is valid.
The argument AGAINST claims that the City engages in “defective design”, that a “capable manager is urgently needed”, and that the “CIOC’s members lack the road-engineering skills required.” This is not true. Council member Darlene Gee is a professional transportation engineer with 35 years of experience. She might not a “road designer” per se, but she certainly knows her way around roads and knows how to evaluate whether the designer is competent. And until recently, the CIOC also had Dennis Fay as a member. Mr. Fay has a masters of Transportation Engineering from MIT and worked for years as the Transportation Planning Manager for Alameda County. There has been technical knowledge of road maintenance and repair on the CIOC which opines on what the City’s staff, headed by Chuck Swanson with years of road maintenance experience, does. This might be a big project that requires effort beyond normal road maintenance work, but it is not rocket science and for Orinda it is a one-time project possibly not worth reinventing the wheel and certainly not worth denegrating those currently doing the work.
In conclusion, everyone agrees that we need to fund road repairs, sooner than later. No one seems to still be claiming that the money will be coming from someplace other than new taxes. However, what taxes are appropriate and the need to fully commit (and danger of not fully committing) need to be discussed by the community, not just imposed upon the voters with a simple "up or down / take it or leave it" vote. We do have some time to make the decision but not a lot before current funds are exhausted.