Modesto’s Measure G – safe neighborhoods – heading to defeat

Voters are rejecting Modesto’s second request in two years for a sales tax increase for public safety and other services.

Measure G – a one-half percent general sales tax – had received 44.4 percent in support, or 4,455 votes, versus 55.6 percent in opposition, or 5,573 votes, in Tuesday’s election, with 69 percent of the precincts counted, according to the Stanislaus County election office. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.

This comes after voters rejected Measure X, a one-percent general sales tax the city put on the November 2013 ballot. It received 49 percent of the vote.

Mayor Garrad Marsh, who led the efforts to put both measures on the ballot, said he was disappointed with the latest defeat. He said the city will continue to balance its budgets but it will not have additional money to hire more police officers or for other increases to public safety. He said it will be a struggle to keep Fire Station No. 6 in northwest Modesto open after the current budget year, which ends June 30.

He said current public safety spending is not adequate for Modesto’s level of crime. City officials say Modesto ranks in the top five among California’s biggest cities in property and violent crime.

As a general tax, the city could have spent Measure G funds on any general government purpose, but city officials had said they intended to spend the tax on implementing the city’s Safer Neighborhoods Initiative, which primarily called for increasing public safety as well as strengthening neighborhoods. The tax was expected to raise $14 million annually over its eight-year life.

The measure did not have the support of many of the candidates running for mayor and three City Council seats.

Nick Bavaro, who led the campaign for the tax increase, said the measure was hurt by low voter turnout and the difficulty of getting voters to approve any tax increase. But he challenged council candidates Mani Grewal and Doug Ridenour, who appeared headed to victory Tuesday, to provide leadership on how to make Modesto safer. The two opposed Measure G, but Bavaro said they made public safety a top issue in their campaigns.

“I want to see what their plan is,” Bavaro said.

Kristi Ah You, the third candidate who appeared headed to a council victory, supported Measure G.

Many council and mayoral candidates said voters were telling them they did not trust City Hall with a general sales tax.

They continue to put in these sales tax initiatives in these elections and continually say they are for public safety but the money will be put in the general fund to be used at their discretion. This is the 2nd time they have done this in two years.

They will not put the initiative on the ballot for a dedicated public safety fund as that would require a 2/3 vote and would require more work on their part. I personally would endorse a dedicated tax for public safety but all they want is more general fund money to play with and their actions over the last few years does not make them deserving of our blind trust.

The last time this was defeated, Measure X, the mayor was very outspoken and critical of the voters who turned it down. And it may have been a coincidence but there were many city managers who left right after that failure. Appearing there may have been promises made for that money.


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