Magazine article American Libraries

San Diego Voters Trounce Library Sales-Tax Measure

Magazine article American Libraries

San Diego Voters Trounce Library Sales-Tax Measure

Article excerpt

Disappointed San Diego County Library boosters are chalking up voters' resounding defeat of Proposition L on March 2 to bad timing and a lucky anti-tax opponent. The measure, which would have infused $423 million into the holdings and technology of the 79-branch system over the next five years by raising the sales tax a quarter-percent, garnered a 50.2% yes vote, but a supermajority of 66% is needed for passage. A similar November 1996 measure got 58% of the vote.

"The in thing to do was to support Proposition L," San Diego City Council member and Regional Library Authority chair Judy McCarty told American Libraries - that is, until a series of unrelated, ill-timed events surfaced several weeks before the election that "changed the message from a vote to improve your neighborhood library to a vote to increase taxes."

Among the circumstantial blows was taxpayer anger over the San Diego Padres baseball-team owners trading four star players five months after voters agreed to underwrite a multimillion-dollar expansion of the Padres stadium. Then there. was the suspicion with which taxpayers eyed Mayor Susan Golding's failed attempt to earmark $130 million of the city's anticipated $312-million portion of the tobacco-lawsuit settlement for a new municipal main library (AL, Mar., p. 14-15), a project that branch-loving suburbanites opposed in the first place. Although the new main's construction costs weren't included in Proposition L, "the public said, 'Why should I increase my taxes if you've got $300 million in tobacco money coming?'" McCarty explained.

"I really believe the vast majority supported Proposition L but didn't trust local government," agreed "Yes on L" spokesperson Scott Maloni, citing a series of polls taken by the campaign. Even Proposition L's chief opponent, Richard Rider, insisted that "Our explanation all along was that we're not opposed to libraries. We're opposed to the tax increase."

Rider told AL that voters rejected the proposition because they saw through the "misrepresentation" that there are no viable funding alternatives. The day after the measure failed, he noted, the same local politicians "who say there is no Plan B" proposed that state legislators reintroduce a bill then-Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed that would give libraries the extra property taxes the county is currently reaping from a housing boom. But McCarty contends that's no answer, at least in the city of San Diego, since "our property and sales taxes combined do not even pay for public safety."

Two candidates for the 2000 mayoral race have also weighed in. …

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