Transcript of June 20, 2000 City Council Agenda Item 22

Councilman Ray Grabinski's agendizing memo states:

"I respectfully request that the City Council review a community compromise for a 5% Utility User Tax to be phased in over a seven-year period"

Mayor O'Neill: Yes, Councilman Grabinski.

Grabinski: Yes, Madam Mayor. I promised the Mayor about two weeks ago that if I brought this up that I would make every attempt to get five or six votes for this. And I know there are some of my colleagues who will be kind of chuckling to think that Ray Grabinski is bringing a compromise forward that's very much the same compromise we had before, and I'm finding out compromise is not the easiest thing in the world.

However, I would like to at least entertain the idea that unless there's something coming, the only thing that we have facing us right now is one initiative. And I had heard several weeks ago that there was something in the works that might change something, and I'd like to just very quickly review what this is all about.

The reason I call it a community compromise is because it's a half a percent for four years, one percent for three. The half a percent is similar to the first proposal that was brought to us almost a year ago, I guess it is, which was from the Mayor and it was a half a percent for ten years which meant it was a five percent reduction.

And the reason we even dealt with that was because one of our colleagues brought up the issue of the tax reduction, in response to the public going forward and starting to get the signatures. So I suppose the best way to say this is that we watched all of this take place. We watched the group develop. We watched them gain strength and commitment. And we watched them get the votes, get the signatures.

And even after they did that we tried to come up with some compromises, so very quickly what I'd like to do is run down some of those before we take any kind of testimony. I want to say up front that I have not asked anyone to come down here to testify for or against this issue because I believe that this issue is going to be solidly decided upon by the ten people behind the rail.

And as I said, the first proposal was the five percent reduced for ten years at a half a percent per year, and the Mayor has never yielded in her support of trying to come up with something that would work. We established, she established a committee of three people on the City Council who worked very hard trying to come up with an alternative, and they did come up with an alternative. But I don't want to talk about those individual alternatives. I want to just kind of just very quickly go through this.

My colleague in the first district [Oropeza] has been right on target, has not varied her view from the very first time we had this issue on, and I respect her for it. And she's not only kept everybody's feet to the fire on it but she's actually gained support for her position, and I want to compliment her on that, and her position is no cut at all. And I understand that because once we have a revenue stream coming in, it's hard to think that it's not always going to be there. And as the city's beginning to heal, I think my colleague who is going to be a big asset to us in Sacramento, feels like we needed a few more years of the healing before we began to go back to where we were.

My colleague in the second district [Baker] brought up one of the first compromises, brought it forward and has worked extremely hard at trying to find a solution, and I think is still working on some other ways that this thing may be accomplished.

My colleague in the third district [Colonna] was the first one to bring the cut forward to the Council. He's been diligent at supporting not just supporting one plan but two. He's worked very hard at trying to put together a successful proposal, and like all the rest of us, we've come up empty.

My Councilman [sic] in the fourth district [Roosevelt] not only supported a compromise, he did the tough work. He negotiated part of that compromise when it didn't look like it was going to work and he did a great job, worked with the Mayor, and that's probably the compromise that came the closest, that was four votes and obviously we need five. And I want compliment him on that.

My colleague in the fifth district [Kell] polled her district like she always does, she knows, you know, what the sense is out in the district and she has been open to all the different proposals that have come along. She worked on the committee, the committee of three, and I want to thank her for that, and I know she has been supporting, or trying to support, a proposal that might be some kind of an alternative. And I deeply appreciate her listening to some of these possibilities, especially this last one.

My Councilman [sic] in the sixth district [Topsy-Elvord] proposed a four percent proposal and said she would listen to new proposals, and good to her word, she has. Doris I think believes like Jenny that we work real hard and should not have to cut it right now because these are difficult times. This is kind of the diamond point, we're not over the hill yet, and I have great respect for her.

The guy in the seventh district is just no ears, doesn't listen, that would be me, and actually went for a compromise not once, but twice. And I'm finding out once again that using my bulldog attitude leans me towards one thing and I fight like hell. But in this particular case, I thought there was some common ground. And when I say common ground I don't mean just with the folks who sit here. The compromise that we talked about talked to the people who brought the initiative up the first time, which I think is significant because it's the first time we've done the big L word, where we listened to the people, and that's why I want to compliment my colleagues who worked on that compromise because that's the first time in a long time I think we've made that kind of an effort and I think it's worthwhile even if the compromise doesn't happen.

My colleague in the eighth district [Kellogg] was and is still supportive of a compromise and I want to compliment him because even though sometimes we differ in our politics, I think our commitment to the city is very, very strong and I think Jeff is still open to some kind of a solution that would work.

And my colleague in the ninth district [Shultz] I think is as close to me as anybody I know in terms of his, when he's got a position he's got a position. I mean he doesn't shake off of it easy. And he had a very strong position some months back about working something out and I think he came to the conclusion, and that's why I want to compliment my colleague from the first district, I think he came to the conclusion that there is a possibility that this thing can be won by winning it at the ballot box.

I'm here to say that I don't like rollin' the dice. One of the things I've learned in elections is there's winners and there's losers. I've done both. Winning's better. You win when you know that you got the odds in your favor. And I'm sitting here telling you that the odds are not in our favor in this particular instance.

And part of the reason I asked the Mayor, and I appreciate her allowing me to bring this issue up, part the reason I asked her is because I think there's still people on this City Council who would like to find something that we can agree on. We've not been able to, and I'm sorry about that, because I'll tell you point blank I love the way our system works, but I don't like the fact that the initiative process may be setting policy for this city because we didn't. That's not a healthy city, and that could be a real dilemma, because if it worked once, it'll work twice, I mean on other issues.

So I want to thank my colleagues for hearing it out and I want to thank them for all their hard work. I wish that we could have come up with something, it's pretty obvious that we haven't, and maybe there's something good yet to come, I don't want to preclude what might happen, there may be some suggestion out there that still works. I just do want to say that given the set of circumstances we had, the length of time we had to look at this challenge, this may the biggest issue that we had some influence on.

We had no influence in 1986, 7 and 8 when we had a $40 million deficit and we had to claw our way through that and we had to stop delivering services and all the rest. So I'm gonna let anybody speak who wants to. I want to conclude by saying I deeply appreciate once again the fact that people would revisit this issue, because I know it's been painful, and I want let everybody out there know that the people behind this rail have worked real hard on this issue, the Mayor probably as hard as anybody, and I want to take this opportunity to thank her again.

So I've tried to compromise twice [Grabinski laughs] and I don't want you to think that I'm going back to not compromising at all. I'm finding changing my ways can be a little bit painful.

Mayor O'Neill: Actually, I think we've brought this to the Council about four times, three or four times with different proposals. Councilmembers, are there any questions that you have at this time, or would you like to hear from members of the community? OK, Mr. Sturm.

Jim Sturm: ...I'm wondering why Councilman Grabinski is even bringing this up. I would be opposed to you passing any kind of an ordinance because it would be superceded I believe, unless I'm otherwise incorrect legally, when the initiative passes...

Thomas Murphy: ...Why would you [Grabinski] want to bring up the utility tax at the present tax regarding this Council be phased in over a seven year period?,,,The Councilmembers who previously after heated debate couldn't come to any rightful conclusion no matter how much give and take from divided Councilmembers...It was then that Norm Ryan stepped up to the plate and secured after considerable work, expense and harassment, secured enough signatures for it to be put on the November ballot...Let the voters decide, Ray. They are the ones paying the bill, so let the chips fall where they may.

Mayor O'Neill: ...We'll bring it back to Council. Councilmember Grabinski, would you like to make a motion?..

Councilmember Grabinski: I would like to make the motion as this is a compromise, even though I know it's not going to pass because I did bring it up so that people would remember that we did have an opportuni...[begins colloquy with some off mike Councilmember] bet it calls the question because some of the people aren't going to be here if this passes and all those people who were sittin' out here from the Strategic Plan are going to want things to happen, so you can make a substitute motion to receive and file it, but I'm making the motion that we go with this.

Councilman Kellogg: Second.

Mayor O'Neill: It's been moved and seconded. Let me remind you that we have discussed, this is, well this is similar to one that was last fall, but we have had several on the agenda...

Grabinski: Since then...

Mayor O'Neill: ...and I think that all of us wishes that we had the answer for this. We have not done well in trying to come together for an answer on this because there are such divergent viewpoints on it. So, are there any other comments? It has been moved and seconded that we request the City Council to review a community compromise for five percent utility users tax to be phased in over seven years, that would be half percent for four years and one percent for three years. Please record your vote. Oh yes, I'm sorry Jeff...

Councilman Kellogg: ...I continue to support this proposal that was introduced months ago and you're correct, there have been many different compromises that have come up and I've always been supportive of this and will continue to do so. But I always, part of my last pitch, that I'd encourage the new Council [after July 2000] to incorporate a reduction in the utility tax in the upcoming budget proceedings. I believe that is the one way of getting some credibility with the community that we are serious, and we can do that, so I would encourage that during the budget process. I will not be here, but I simply said because if the Council does not take steps to cut the utility tax, the public will do it for you, and I've always said that and I believe that strongly.

Mayor O'Neill: Thank you very much. Please record your vote on the motion.

City Clerk: The motion lost six to two. (Yes: Grabinski, Kellogg. No: Oropeza, Baker, Colonna, Kell, Topsy-Elvord, Shultz. Absent: Roosevelt)