Anti-Gang Sales Tax Measure's Future Uncertain

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Sacramento city council has taken a very tentative step towards placing an anti-gang sales tax on the November ballot.  The measure is the brainchild of county supervisor Roger Dickinson, and would fund gang prevention, intervention and enforcement efforts.  But its future is highly uncertain. 


One of the nearly 50 people who came out to support the measure at Tuesday night’s meeting was Charday Adams.  She’ll be a junior at Grant Union High School in the fall.
Adams: “The young man with the dreds in sagging pants running the streets?  He’s asking for your help. But us?  When we stand here before you tonight and tell our tales of struggle and sorrow?  We’re begging for your help.”
But Brent Myers with the Sacramento Police Officers Association said his union has some concerns.  The police and fire unions have worked with the city on what they call “master plans” for the next several years – plans they hope to fund with a different tax measure at a later date.  So...
Myers: “We do not believe that the time is right for this measure.  It needs to be talked about and studied more and become a component of the master plans.”
Most of the council members who back Mayor Fargo’s re-election bid this November support the tax.  Those who prefer her challenger, Kevin Johnson, oppose it.  Throughout his campaign, Johnson has said the city should fund gang prevention efforts.  But on Tuesday, citing the poor economy and the lack of law enforcement support, he said he doesn’t favor an anti-gang tax – at least, not right now.
Johnson: “Unfortunately, Roger Dickinson took a shot and we missed it; it didn’t work out.  And now the mayor’s rebounding and trying to throw it back in.  I think we need much more information on this.”
But Fargo said the bad economy makes helping Sacramento’s youths even more important, since programs that rely on state and federal funds are taking big budget hits.
Fargo: “So if we think this is a real issue that needs real money, that needs real effort from the city, we’re gonna have to look at what we can do ourselves."
The council voted 5 to 2 to ask city staff to prepare the measure.  Next week, it’ll take six votes to place the tax on the ballot.  Absent council member Steve Cohn has previously said he’s against the measure, so council member Lauren Hammond appears to be the swing vote.  Hammond said Tuesday night she “absolutely opposes” the tax, but then said she hasn’t made up her mind yet – and in the end, she abstained.  She now has one week to decide whether to send the measure to voters in November.