October 2, 2008

Ken Hambrick


THE TIMES GOT it all wrong in its recent editorial recommending the passage of Measure WW, the East Bay Regional Parks District's $500 million bond measure on the November ballot.

It's time to tell the EBRPD that enough is enough. Let's look at the facts:

-- EBRPD now has 98,000 acres (153 square miles) under its control. The vast majority of this is not open to the public and probably never will be.

-- Additional private property purchased with Measure WW's $500 million would no longer generate tax revenues for police and fire protection, local schools, hospitals, or libraries.

-- EBRPD wants the land of family farmers -- who manage their property responsibly, providing healthy foods and wildlife habitats, and pay large taxes rather than consume them.

-- Further land set-asides make housing even more unaffordable. Contra Costa County's 35/65 ordinance already mandates 65 percent open space.

-- Prominent conservation organizations and local governments recognize that rangelands and their critical species habitats "largely persist today due to positive and experienced ... land stewardship practices" of private owners/managers, not government bureaucracies like EBRPD.

-- Many conservation and environmental groups like the Alameda and Contra Costa Farm Bureaus and the East Bay bicyclists (see www.noonmeasureww.org) oppose Measure WW and say "We're just a group of East Bay hikers, mountain bikers, and environmentalists who can no longer support the EBRPD with our money because they are terrible stewards of our public lands."

-- EBRPD is falsely claiming that this is not a tax increase. These are bonds and bonds are a form of taxation. You pay for them on your property tax bill. These bonds, if passed, will cause us to pay for them for at least 20 years. While the bonds are for $500 million, the total cost to pay them back will be over a billion dollars of taxpayers money

Now, economically, is not a time to burden taxpayers with a half billion dollars of new debt for questionable purchases of unneeded land. The real estate market has plunged, financial institutions are going under, unemployment is rising, the stock market is in flux, etc.

This is another blow to folks struggling today to make ends meet. The park district isn't managing and utilizing the property it already owns. This raises the question as to whether this amount of money couldn't be better spent on fixing our water supply and other badly needed services and facilities. More park land, not to be utilized by the public, just doesn't rank high on the priority scale in today's short money environment.

These are uncertain economic times and EBRPD should not be expecting to increase the public debt with this ill-advised bond measure. So the Times got it wrong and should have opposed it as each of us should do.

Hambrick is chairman of the Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers.

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