National City delays ballot initiative establishing package tax

While walking through many National City neighborhoods, Barbara Avalos found several unpaved roads and broken sidewalks.

“I was brought up here. I’m 70 and the streets are still the same,” she said. The 79-year-old has spent the past few months knocking on doors collecting signatures for an initiative she hopes will finally fix neglected streets and parks.

She and other supporters, including resident Ken Seaton-Msemaji and council member Jose Rodriguez, collected more than 2,800 verified signatures from registered local voters. To qualify for the ballot, the measure had to be signed by 10% of the roughly 28,000 voters.

The initiative would establish an annual plot tax for landowners – with some exemptions – and generate $1.7 million just for “urgent improvements to city streets, infrastructure and parks that will improve the lives of everyone.” our residents now and for years to come,” according to the proposal.

“When I approached an alley near (Wilson and Harding Avenues), a gentleman told me that each member of the family had given him $40 to put gravel on the alley,” Avalos said. “Why should residents do this? This is why this initiative must be put on the ballot.

The measure will not appear on a ballot until at least the 2024 general election, following Tuesday’s 3-2 city council vote ordering staff to return within 30 days with a report on various factors, including the verification of the revenue the measure would generate, its effect on land use, the city’s ability to meet its regional housing needs and its impact on infrastructure funding, according to a city staff report.

That means the city will not meet the county Registrar of Electors’ Aug. 12 deadline to submit the measure to the November ballot. The council could hold a special election, which would cost more than $550,000, or wait until at least November 2024. Rodriguez and Vice Mayor Marcus Bush voted in opposition. They lobbied unsuccessfully for a superseding motion that would have placed the article on the November ballot for voters to decide.

For supporters, Tuesday’s vote was a disappointment.

“(Residents) didn’t sign it to postpone it for two years. It hurts democracy, it discourages people from participating in the process,” Seaton-Msemaji said. “Knowing it would raise their taxes, people signed that affidavit.”

Rodriguez, who is running for mayor in November, said his colleagues’ vote to delay the initiative meant “we’re not prioritizing” streets, parks, alleys and lighting. Bush said that with local infrastructure money set aside to fix streets and parks, the city could have qualified for federal matching grants sooner, but in the meantime, “this (funding) could go wrong.” exhaust”.

Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis and council member Ron Morrison, also running for mayor, and council member Mona Rios reiterated that their votes should not be construed as going against community concerns.

“It’s really about looking at all the options and providing a space where we can learn more,” Sotelo-Solis said. “If we’re basing that $1.7 million and really want to see what our financial impact is, then let’s get the real numbers.”

Under the measure, the tax rate would be based on the character of a property, such as $52 per mobile home, $75 for single-family plots, $365 for commercial and industrial land and up to $500 for multi-family. Exemptions would include eligible seniors, affordable housing projects, non-profit organizations, religious institutions and government properties.

If voters approve the initiative in a future election, the city must use at least 50% of the money for repairing streets, sidewalks, lighting and alleys, 20% for improving parks, 15% for the construction of new parks and open spaces, and the remaining 15% to be reimbursed for the collection and application of the measure.

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