The LookOut Letters to the Editor
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Attacking the Messenger, Tax Options and Doomed Quixotic Quest

October 27, 2002

Dear Editor,

I read Paul DeSantis' Article attacking the Santa Monica League of Women Voters and found it very telling ("S.M. Board Did Not Follow League Traditions," October 24, 2002). If Paul believes in the merits of VERITAS, then he should be defending the measure.

When Paul thinks it is necessary to attack the League, instead of just defending VERITAS, as he did, it raises suspicion in my mind as to the true merits of VERITAS. When Paul considers some of the tactics used by the group that put VERITAS on the ballot, you would think he would be smart enough to stick to the issues and not go on a mud-slinging campaign.

I know most of the officers and Board Members of the League, and especially know one very well, my wife Karen, the President of the SM LWV. While I may be biased, I believe that most people would agree that there is no doubt that the leadership of the League is the most balanced and fair group of individuals you can ever meet.

I can also unequivocally state that anyone that knows Karen knows she is one of the most honest and fair people you can ever meet. If she did not believe in the defects of VERITAS, she would never have signed the ballot measure against it.

To say she did so based on politics or improper motives is truly absurd. Paul should be ashamed of himself for stooping this low, unless this is the best he can do to defend VERITAS. The good news is that anyone who knows Karen or the other members of the leadership of the SM LWV would know how desperate Paul has become and will easily see through his article.

Neil Carrey

October 27, 2002

Dear Editor,

A number of EE proponents have been quoted as saying a parcel tax is the only means available to raise school funds. This is not true.

"Special taxes" such as a sales tax, ad valorem taxes, Mello-Roos taxing, developer fees and a variety of parcel tax configurations are available to school districts.

Suggesting that a parcel tax as measure EE is written is the only answer also is not correct.

Parcel taxes come in many forms. Berkeley, Davis, Palo Alto, Piedmont, Albany and other school districts have written many different features into their tax measures which are widely considered to be more equitable than the proposed measure EE.

Berkeley, for example, taxes the structures on the parcel. It has a tax of 4.5-cents per square foot tax on residential structures and a slightly higher amount on commercial structures. In Berkeley a 1,000 square foot home or condo would be taxed $45, not the $300 per annum tax of EE. One of Santa Monica's oft vilified luxury hotels, at say 50,000 square feet, would pay $2,500, not $300 as proposed in EE.

The Albany School District differentiates residential from commercial and uses a square feet formula with a minimum tax for all.

Davis Unified taxes per dwelling unit, but lessens the tax for apartment units. If this idea were to be proposed in Santa Monica/Malibu it has the potential of raising more money than EE. There are 32,000 land parcels in our school district. BUT there are some 64,000 taxable entities if you tax per dwelling unit. Do the math -- you can lower the tax, even the distribution and still come out on top.

Many school parcel taxes exempt seniors or those with low incomes. Many do not have yearly cost of living increases. Most districts have parcel taxes that last only four, five or six years for better accountability.

EE will tax tenants in a wildly uneven manner. In a large luxury apartment complex such as Santa Monica Shores with 100s of units, tenants will pay cents a month, while my low income senior neighbor in a duplex will pay $12.50 per month.

Owners should pay particular attention because EE taxes property in a wildly uneven manor. A Pico neighborhood condo pays the same as a Malibu mansion or the entire 17-acre Water Garden Office complex.

Voters should be aware that there are existing working models of school support taxation that work for the schools and work for the community.

Peter Tigler
Santa Monica

October 27, 2002

Dear Editor,

There are some alternatives, should Prop JJ pass, that might be explored or considered. For one, restaurants could begin collecting a "service charge" on every check, instead of just on parties of five or more. If it's called a service charge, rather than a gratuity, the owner can retain all or part of it. In effect, however, the way it would likely work is to have the owner distribute most of the service fees back to normally-tipped employees, servers and car parkers.

Chez Panisse in Berkeley has collected a service charge for many years, and people keep coming back. (Of course, there aren't any restaurants in Santa Monica that command the respect that Chez Panisse does.) There, waiters went from making $400 to 700 per shift to making $20 or so per hour. They all quit, and were replaced by eager and willing servers. The owner used the remaining service charge to reward the cooks, with the result that those cooks and chefs, arguably the true stars, have the highest salaries in the nation.

A service-charge-included restaurant check is a little unnerving at first, but one can get used to it, when one realizes that almost every diner rounds up when including the tip (except in large parties, which is the reason for including it now). Nothing prevents a particularly well-served diner from adding money on top of the service charge.

Michael Sieverts

October 26, 2002

Dear Editor,

Well cock-a-doodle- to you "Super Majority" council members who have received a rebuke from the courts on the ATM fee ban you imposed here ("Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down City's ATM Fee Ban," October 26, 2002).

Many thousands of dollars in our tax money were squandered on your Quixotic quest to supercede the federal government's authority in bank regulation to further your national agenda!

Get back to serving the People!

B. Sudovar

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