Photo By: Creator:Snty-tact (User:Snty-tact) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo By: Creator:Snty-tact (User:Snty-tact) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hilbert Morales

What transportation programs will really be funded and implemented by the 2016 Measure B sales tax revenues which will be managed by the County of Santa Clara’s Valley Transit Authority (VTA)? This 2016 Measure, approved by 72% of those who voted last November 8, 2016, will add an additional 0.5 cents sales tax burden to all existing sales taxes. The total sales tax burden is now very close to 10%.  Now, for every dollar spent on taxable goods & services, ten cents is going towards taxes. Economists classify the spirit of this tax as ‘regressive’ because it impacts ordinary folks the most…especially those having incomes below the median income for any micro-economic community. In Silicon Valley, that means those of us whose incomes are less than $85,000 per year.

Most ordinary citizens who faithfully and reliably pay their personal income taxes annually, traditionally due on April 15th of each year, both state and federal, are now not thinking of those 2016 Measure B revenues which ‘We, the People’ will pay during the next 30 years. Measure B revenues are projected to be $6 to $6.5 billion per year. All who pay sales taxes when making a purchase become stakeholders who need to be kept informed regarding how these funds are expended.                     

This Measure B included a mandate for the VTA’s Board of Directors to establish a process for the creation of their 2016 MEASURE B CITIZEN’S OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE.  APPLICATION DEADLINE IS APRIL 21, 2017. Those interested may learn more by googling “2016 Measure B, County of Santa Clara”. EO hopes that more than a few East Side Latinos apply because this is a very good OPPORTUNITY to learn project budget management, accounting, Robert’s Rules of Order (a decision making tool), and get started in a personal career of public service which benefits you and your community.

My recommendation is that the Santa Clara VTA consider paying any Transitional Age Youth (TAY, ages 18-26) $250 per month for attending both VTA Board meetings and Measure B Citizen’s Oversight Committee meetings. This allocation ($3,000 per student intern) would enable very low income individuals to consider this public service. As a volunteer, I have never received any emoluments though being a volunteer required me to pay the usual and customary expenses related to being a volunteer.  Fortunately, my personal earnings enabled me to volunteer, however, I am aware that many TAY youths are not encouraged to have these public service experiences because of their limited family budgets.

I bring up this consideration because 2016 Measure B was crafted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (Carl Guardino, CEO and President) who looks out for SVLG’s membership’s interest’s. Some 450 corporate individuals (per the Citizen’s United Supreme Court Ruling), who already benefit from ‘corporate welfare’ and tax avoidance practices. Which is why comprehensive IRS tax reform is needed.  Long ago I realized, as a Latino, that when I served on any governance board, the perspective and practices of that Board changed to include the disadvantaged and marginalized community which I represented just by being involved and present. If ever Silicon Valley management and executive levels are to become sustainably diversified, it is these sort of paid internships on boards which will enable  Latinos to begin to have access to corporate experiences.

Let me get back to 2016 Measure B programs: Nine (9) have been proposed: 1) $1.5 billion to extend BART, Phase II, to Santa Clara and Downtown San Jose; 2) $250 Million-Bicycle & Pedestrian  Programs which close gaps, improves connections; 3) Caltrain Corridor Capacity Improvement $314 million; 4) Caltrain Grade separations- $700 million; 5) County Expressways-$750 million; 6) Highway Interchanges-$750 million; 7) Local Streets and Roads-$1.2 Billion for repairs & improvements; all cities receive funds; 8) State Route 85 Corridor Transit Study-$350 million-transit & congestion relief study; 9) Transit Operations-$500 million: Increase bus frequency; first-last mile connections; Programs for Seniors, Disabled; Low-Income, Students.

Interested residents could ask ‘how will these projects be prioritized? Should Project 7 have a higher ranking? Shouldn’t Project 8 be done by the appropriate state agency? What is the justification of providing $500 million peer year to the VTA administration (transit operations)?’

A total of $6,314,000,000 (SIX Billion, three hundred fourteen million dollars) are projected which already exceeds the $6 billion estimated annual revenues (the lower estimate). Over 30 years that would amount to (30 years x $314 million= $9,420,000,000) in deficit spending. VTA’s executive management must instruct staff to keep project expenditures below $6 billion per year….or better yet…to actual levels of authorized revenues in hand. Why? Simply because the local micro-economy will not perform at a predictable uniform level which meets optimistic projections used.

I wonder if local individual sales tax payers would want to know the annual amount of local sales taxes which are paid by those corporate individuals who are members of SVLG? It would be in the interests of documented fairness to know that local corporations paid their fair share of 2016 Measure B project costs which improve the transportation infrastructures all of us use daily.

Another issue is about the County of Santa Clara and its VTA …Is there a requirement for the employment of local work force members? East Palo Alto has a standard of 30% local resident work force employment goal, which Facebook recently faced and requested a variance (relief) therefrom. This 30% local work force use and inclusion may lead to diversity goals of local multi-national corporations. The issue of ‘equal pay for equal work’ may be also addressed and is of great interest to women and ethnic minorities in the local labor force.

While local governments, especially the County, are responsible for addressing the welfare of their indigent constituents, it has some responsibility to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth which is created and enabled by its working class residents.

It is as an advocate or working class residents that I make this report. The community must monitor and perform oversight to ensure that these 2016 Measure B funds are used as proposed and not diverted to other undisclosed projects. I highly recommend that the East Side San Jose community be committed to the monitoring and oversight of the VTA and 2016 Measure B’s sales tax revenue.