Despite Deceptive Editorial, SD CityBeat Supports Sales Tax Increase

Bradley J. FikesBradley J. Fikes 23 Comments


In a recent editorial, San Diego CityBeat’s staff claimed to oppose Proposition D, the sales tax increase on the November ballot. But the purported opposition is just a convenient fig-leaf for the tax-and-spend CityBeat “liberals”, as they prepare to endorse the sales tax hike. The “liberals” (I don’t like calling them liberals, as they’re not – they are leftists) rule out cuts while stressing their eagerness to raise taxes and fees. Then after having ruled out any other way of closing the budget gap, they pretend to oppose a tax they’re going to support.

Let’s start from the editorial’s conclusion:

Look, we’re easy targets for the opponents of Prop. D. Even we liberals don’t want to pay more in sales tax than we have to—even if it’s just 20 cents on a $40 purchase. But time is of the essence. We need to know exactly how much each reform will save taxpayers each year, and we need to know that each reform stands an excellent chance of being enacted, legally and/or legislatively. And we need to know this before November.

That deception is straight out of the left-wing playbook on raising taxes: They claim not to want to raise the sales tax, while advancing many reasons to support it. The incremental increase is just 20 cents on 40 dollars. You’ll hardly notice it! That line of argument explains how taxes got so high in the first place. On the sales tax, we should be looking at the entire burden of a 9.25 percent sales tax, not just the 0.5 percentage point incremental increase. And they say they can only think of the sales tax as a way to close the budget gap. San Diego CityBeat sounds so Richard Rideresque in its passionate aversion to higher taxes!

Show us the money, and our opposition to Prop. D just might stick.

“Show us the money,” is another dead giveaway about the “liberal” mentality at CityBeat. The editorial candidly admits how the CityBeat “liberals” are fixated on shoveling more money into San Diego city government through taxes and fees:

We have said several times now that the city should have begun pulling the levers years ago on two revenue sources that would net about $65 million per year: imposing a trash fee for single-family homes (putting them on par with apartments, condos and businesses) and raising the storm drain fee that all property owners pay (recovering the full cost of clean-water mandates). If the city were to raise its real-estate transfer tax to the California average, another $41.4 million would be added to the general fund. And there you have a possible total of $106 million, eclipsing the $103 million that the sales-tax hike would generate. But raising the trash and storm-drain fees would take two years to implement. The city should still initiate that process, but it likely wouldn’t provide budget relief until 2013. That leaves us back to square one for next year.

Libertarians such as myself say, “show us the reduced spending,” but the CityBeat editorial rules out spending reductions, and trots the usual scare stories, as if public safety is the only place left to cut:

No, we don’t think the city would choose to lay off hundreds of cops— the city’s cop-citizen ratio is already among the lowest compared with other large U.S. cities—or shut down fire stations. But it will have to find $72 million (or more) somewhere, and in the past year, during which the city had to find more than $200 million, it took more than $100 million from onetime-only sources. The city has streamlined much of its bureaucracy and cut employee compensation by 6 percent. City leaders have been through numerous rounds of budget balancing in the past few years—if there’s tens of millions of dollars worth of bureaucratic fat left to be liposuctioned out of City Hall, no one seems to be able to locate it. We don’t want any more services cut.

So the CityBeat tax-and-spenders say they don’t want to raise taxes, but rule out spending cuts, and claim no one had identified enough “bureaucratic fat” to be cut to make a difference. But they still oppose Proposition D!

I’ll make an easy prediction about the CityBeat soi disant tax-skeptical “liberals” — They will soon say their impossible demands haven’t been met, so they’ll “reluctantly” endorse the Proposition D sales tax hike, as long as it’s seen as having a chance of passage. Or, if Prop. D. is heading to certain defeat, CityBeat may drop the issue. But if passage seems feasible, you can bet that CityBeat will be out there banging the drums for raising the sales tax, with all the pretended fervor of a convert.

SD CityBeat’s crude and transparent ploy is to make its later endorsement all the more dramatic, because of its former “opposition.” As the editorial admits, the CityBeat “liberals” know they are easy targets for Prop. D. opponents. If they had endorsed Prop. D early on, it would be easy to dismiss them as the tax-and-spend leftists they are. Pretending to oppose the sales tax hike gives the CityBeat “liberals” more credibility with the gullible. Don’t be fooled.

Rush Limbaugh likes to say that “liberals” always have to lie about their true goals, because the people would reject them. I don’t entirely agree with Limbaugh, because there are many honest liberals who don’t practice deception to advance their agenda. But the San Diego CityBeat editorial is the product of the kind of “liberals” El Rushbo is warning against.

I know some Rostrafarians have struck up transideological friendships with the CityBeat “liberals,” but I personally can’t have warm feelings for people who dissemble like that about their true motives. If they just honestly stated their support for the Prop. D. sales tax hike, I’d respect the CityBeat “liberals”.


Comments 23

  1. Post
  2. Oh my god, Brad, your hair’s on fire! Someone do something! Brad’s hair’s on fire!

    Dear boy, you may well end up being right. We might end up supporting the sales tax increase—just like our editorial said. Gosh, I think the piece was pretty straightforward: If we don’t think reforms will get the city close to closing the budget deficit, we’ll probably support it. But, no, we don’t *want* to pay more for stuff anymore than you do. Well, actually, that’s probably not true; I’m guessing you *really* don’t want to pay more. That’s probably why your hair’s ablaze.

    We’re also open to spending-cut suggestions, but every time I ask a tax opponent what more should be cut, there’s no answer. So, Brad, where should we cut, and how much money will your suggested cuts save? I’m all ears.

    As for all the “deception” you see, I don’t know, man, I think that’s all in your head—which is on fire! Good lord, won’t someone do something about the conflagration atop Brad’s noggin’?!

    Dave Rolland, CityBeat editor

  3. Taxes..’smaxes”…I hate to be a “no taxes” party crasher here.
    They’re coming our way whether we like it or not. Just go back in history…or our City, County, State and Federal Government.

    We’re moving into fire season. Reality will begin to kick in as folks peruse their insurance policies and realize that their rates have gone up…a lot since the last fires of 2003 and 2007. And we moan and groan about it. We are in the “shake and bake state”.

    Maybe we need to ask ourselves how far we want our services cut before we come to the realization that in a fire, earthquake or civil emergency, we just don’t have the manpower or resources to handle an emergency. Then we will bemoan the fact that we were not prepared…. all because our fire and other emergency personnel were not prepared or understaffed.

    Having a well staffed, prepared and supplied fire and emergency staff is like insurance against catastrophe. Sure we don’t like to pay those increased fees, but ask what is worse. Being prepared for a price or not being prepared at a higher price with increased loss of life, property, infrastructure, wildlife habitat. etc.

  4. I personally am open on the issue. I’ll let Rolland decide whether to respond to the rest of your post.

    I will say this: If CityBeat supported the sales tax full throttle, I think the editorial would’ve just said. I think the editorial is clear that the paper is leaning towards the sales tax, but the endorsement isn’t a sealed deal.

    I think a lot of people will remember that CityBeat surprised some folks with the last set of endorsements, especially regarding the previous Prop D.

    Thanks for admitting you’re a hack.

  5. First, I admit I have not yet read every word of the post above or the CityBeat article, but so far have only skimmed through them.

    I’m guessing Bradley’s point, which I, a reader of SD CityBeat and SD Rostra, tend to agree with, is that the proposed “reforms” that would trigger the tax increase are insufficient.

    There do not seem to be any teeth in these reforms. Rather, they are promises from politicians (and no matter what publication or blog we read/support/work for, it seems our lack of trust in politicians is one thing we have in common) that increase the tax rate before any of these reforms are actually implemented.

  6. Mr. Fikes:

    Welcome to the Last Angry Man alumni association !

    As a fully qualified new Member you will receive our
    popular , “I SURVIVED THE ANGRY FLAMES”, tee-

    Please wear it with pride. And again, congratulations!

    p.s. It could be worse. You got off with being a “hack”.
    Some of the rest of us got, “moron” and “liar.” 😉

  7. “Some of the rest of us…” No, that was just you, Sills.

    For the record, Thor gave me a final warning on using terms like “moron” on Rostra, which is why I cannot use it to describe anyone else.

    Of course, I can tweet it elsewhere if it would make you feel better, survivor.

  8. Post

    Hey Jim,
    I don’t mind the epithets. I throw epithets, too, so that’s fair game.

    What’s more interesting is how the San Diego CityBeat staff has failed to challenge my article’s main premise. That being, SD CityBeat’s purported opposition to the sales tax increase is just a clumsy charade by tax-and-spend “liberals”, who plan to endorse it anyway. What’s worse than being lied to is being given a lie that is so transparently fake it insults the intelligence. Of course, “liberals” think they’re smarter than anyone else.

    As I said earlier, I much prefer authentic liberals. In particular, I was thinking of Donna Frye. Even when I disagree with Frye, I respect her honesty and clear thinking. Not a mendacious bone in her body. She would have been a much better mayor than Sanders.

  9. Post

    Dave Rolland,

    Your editorial was anything but straightforward: you nominally claim to oppose the sales tax hike while saying you can’t imagine how the budget can be balanced without it.

    We’re also open to spending-cut suggestions, but every time I ask a tax opponent what more should be cut, there’s no answer.

    Aren’t you a “tax opponent”? That’s what you said in the editorial. So you tell us what can be cut.

    But, no, we don’t *want* to pay more for stuff anymore than you do. Well, actually, that’s probably not true; I’m guessing you *really* don’t want to pay more. That’s probably why your hair’s ablaze.

    Thanks for the tacit admission your editorial is “probably not true.” That’s a start at honesty.

  10. Post

    Dave Maass,

    I think the editorial is clear that the paper is leaning towards the sales tax, but the endorsement isn’t a sealed deal.

    Here’s the last line from the editorial:

    Show us the money, and our opposition to Prop. D just might stick.

    You’d have been better off talking to your boss Rolland to get the party line, because you just admitted what I had said is accurate. And for being right about SD CityBeat’s deception, I’m a political hack. From the likes of you, I’ll wear that title proudly.

    I will say this: If CityBeat supported the sales tax full throttle, I think the editorial would’ve just said.

    You conveniently ignore my claim that CityBeat is pretending to oppose Prop. D because it’s sensitive about being seen as just another group of tax-and-spend lefties. Pretending to oppose Prop. D. will upset that stereotype. OMG! The liberal CityBeat opposes the sales tax!

    Then when CityBeat turns around and endorses the sales tax, it’ll be noteworthy, instead of just another tedious example of alt-weekly paleoleftism.

  11. Post

    D7 Voter,
    My point is in the headline — CityBeat’s supposed opposition to Prop. D. is fake. Dave Maass admitted as much in the comments. Maass said CityBeat is leaning in favor of Prop. D, but could be convinced otherwise. But the editorial said the exact opposite! In his anger, Maass let the mask slip.

    As for the sales tax increase, I’m opposed to it. However, I just might be persuaded to support it. That is, if it included ironclad, permanent reforms, and dropping unnecessary expenses such as the schoolbrary and mandating that authorizing a new City Hall is prohibited until after the sales tax expires.

    The key point for me is that ironclad, permanent cuts would be an acceptable trade-off for a temporary sales tax. And also, I want to make sure that stuff like a new City Hall, schoolbrary, let alone a new downtown stadium, are not paid for with sales tax monies. Prohibiting the approval of such projects until the sales tax expires would accomplish that goal.

    Of course, given those provisions, the City Hall politicians would find it impossible to fulfill their edifice complex. The money simply wouldn’t be there.

    Now if I were like CityBeat, I’d say I’m in favor of Prop. D. But I’m going be be honest and say I’m opposed to it unless the very strict steps I’ve laid out are enacted. Of course, City Hall would never go for that, because it would make their great legacy buildings virtually impossible.

    But I’m not against all large public construction. I’d favor a potable reuse sewage plant, using the water that now goes out to sea off Point Loma. It would be very worthwhile for water-short San Diego. However, that’s too unglamorous for our vainglorious City Hall leaders.

  12. Here’s how I read it: CityBeat’s default position is to oppose it. However, the paper’s leaning towards supporting the measure in the absence of answers from the tax’s opponents.

    I mean, don’t you also want data, science writer?

    You ask me to deny your claim that CityBeat’s pretending something. I don’t think we’re pretending anything. I can vouch that the issue is one of regular debate in the office.

    Here’s why I called you a hack: Rather than take us at our word and engage in dialog that would help us all make informed decisions, endorsements, votes, you fly off the hook with right-wing conspiracy theories. Here’s a little quote from Eisenhower:

    ‘Never question another man’s motive. His wisdom, yes, but not his motives.”

  13. Is it inappropriate for a paper to initially oppose a measure, and later go on to support it due to a lack of any better proposals? I would argue this happens often. It should indicate to the reader a willingness by the paper’s editorial staff to actually engage in real problem-solving, and not just beat the drum of empty political rhetoric.

    However, I can see how that type of sincerity would very much bother those who peddle in empty political rhetoric.

  14. Inappropriate? No more so than a politician changes his/her mind. Some call it flip-flopping, some call it…well, changing one’s mind…based on new info, or lack thereof. And, no, unless someone believes the media police should be monitoring such activity. A new federal czar maybe.

    I also agree with Seth on the political rhetoric question. I much prefer those who deal in the full-of-it variety, as opposed to the empty kind.

  15. That sound you hear is the Libertarian Lass clapping her little hands together in glee. Any dialogue on this issue however “spirited” (in the way parents call ill-behaved toddlers “spirited”) is a net plus. Enjoy yourselves and please disagree without being disagreeable, boys.

  16. Gayle, for the record, Gwendolyn is a girl. Not sure of the gender of Spin Zone, although it smells a bit like the writing style of Jantz.

  17. Brad, I’ll try to explain it again since you’re having trouble:

    We’d rather not have to pay more taxes. That’s why the default position is No on Prop. D.

    But we acknowledge all that the city has done to cut costs, and we don’t clearly see large chunks of the budget that can easily be cut.

    Opponents of Prop. D say taxes don’t have to be raised because cost-cutting and pension reform should do the trick.

    To that, we say, “Awesome!” Just show us where these costs can be cut from the budget, and tell us exactly how much money can be saved through pension reform.

    But we have to know before November, because that’s when we’ll have to say yea or nay to the tax increase.

    If opponents can’t assure us that their plan will work, we’ll likely support Prop. D, because we’re worried that drastic service cuts will worsen the quality of life in San Diego.

    You see, Brad, there’s nothing “deceptive” about any of that. The editorial was clearly skeptical of the claims being made by the opponents.

    So, now, instead of squawking ceaselessly about how CityBeat is trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, why don’t you go down a more constructive path and offer your specific ideas for cutting the budget by $72 million? Then we can have a useful debate for a change.

    Dave Rolland

  18. Dave Rolland,

    Sorry for the delay in responding; I’ve been a bit under the weather.

    Your claim to oppose Prop. D simply isn’t credible. The bulk of your editorial was given to reasons why we need a higher sales tax. The claim to oppose it was perfunctory, a transparent attempt to avoid the tax-and-spend label SD CityBeat has spent years burnishing. After years of advocating higher taxes — as the editorial admitted — CityBeat is stuck with its record.

    If Dave Maass is right that most people at CityBeat support the sales tax, the editorial just should have said that. After all, the editorial was signed by CityBeat staff.

    As for what to do, I think we ought to take a serious look at municipal bankruptcy.

    There are two possibilities here. One is that there really is nowhere to cut without harming essential public safety services. Then that’s a strong argument for bankruptcy. But if there is money that can be cut without harming public safety, then the bankruptcy opponents should show where that is.

    If you haven’t, you should look at Sunday’s Union-Tribune story about the pension mess. Among other things, it says that in 15 years 47 percent of the city’s operating budget will go toward pensions. That is clearly unsustainable.

  19. REALLY, Dave? You can find no opponent of higher city taxes who can say where the “cuts” should be made? REALLY???

    Ever broach the question with Carl DeMaio?

    This is a small audience, so I can’t spend much time on this here, but let me touch on just a few points.

    1. DON’T cut city services more. THAT’s not where the money should be saved. These cuts are the local version of the smarmy “Washington Monument” tactic — the FIRST thing the feds close in a budget impasse is the highly symbolic (and cost insignificant) monument in an obvious attempt to get public support for higher taxes and bigger government.

    2. DO cut compensation for almost all city employees — starting with nonunion employees TODAY. Cut, cut and then cut some more — until we can’t find qualified people to hold the jobs because we pay too little. That tipping point is FAR below present compensation levels for most city occupations.

    3. Contract out very possible government service. Not police, and probably not fire fighters — but put everything else out to bid. Not only would the city save TONS of money — it would gut the city labor unions that now effectively control city hall.

    4. Supplement city workers with volunteers. The libraries have many lovers who would step up to volunteer more if necessary.

    5. In particular on using volunteers: We have a volunteer reserve police program — why not the same for fighting brush fires? 72% of the nation’s firefighters are volunteers. Cities in Germany and elsewhere supplement their ff pros with a volunteer reserve ff force. So should we.

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