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OPINION: Council Does a Bait and Switch With Sales Tax Revenue

By Mathew L. Millen

August 8, 2017 -- The City Council wanted to raise funds for low income housing. The Council put two measures on the November 2016 ballot. Measure GS increased the sales tax to 10.25 percent.

Measure GSH was an “advisory” measure that stated in summary, if GS passed the City would donate one half the revenue to the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District [SMMUSD], and use one half for low income housing."

The City asked the Registrar to designate the sales tax increase as GS and the “advisory” measure as GSH.

Yes on GS and GSH campaign

A council member then spent about $90,000 of her own money to promote GS and GSH. In her campaign literature the letters GS stood for Great Schools and GSH meant Great Senior Housing.

The voters took the “bait” and in response to the promise that half the money would go to the SMMUSD and half would be used to develop Great Senior Housing voted to approve both measures in November 2016.

On July 25th the Council did the old “switch.” Instead of the Great Senior Housing they promised to the voters (the bait) they engaged in the classic “switch.”They switched and put the money in the Citywide Housing Trust Fund.

They took the sales tax money that was supposed to be for our elderly senior citizens, primarily women on Social Security and SSI and instead will use it to develop any type of low-income rental housing project.

Money in the fund can be used for Community Corp of Santa Monica [CCSM ] multifamily housing, more OPCC homeless shelters, and more Step Up housing for L.A. County mentally ill.

In addition, the Council increased the amount of money the City Housing Manager can give to the above mentioned developers to $25 million.

The City Council also voted to provide NO citizen review of the decision of the Housing Manager in what housing projects would receive money.

One council woman supported NO review in summary stating: if public review was allowed the residents might object to the projects being built in their neighborhood.

The Council broke their promise the tax revenue would be used for Great Senior Housing. The result of the Council bait and switch is that for example the Housing Manager can give Step Up $20 million to develop low income housing for mentally ill across from an elementary school and the residents have no right to object.

The City developed over 200 low income rental units surrounding Edison Elementary School. If the Housing Manager wanted to repeat that type of over concentration at Roosevelt and Franklin schools the residents cannot object.

If you think half of the sales tax money should be for Great Senior Housing and that the residents should have input into low income housing development decisions before they are made, exercise your 1st amendment rights and contact the Commission for the Senior Community and all seven council members and let your voices be heard.

Editor's note: Mathew L. Millen is an immigration attorney and long-time political activist

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