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RTC Approves Ballot Tax Measure

Transportation proposal clears hurdles and wins coveted endorsement

The day after approving a sales tax measure, the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) got word that its recent mailer definitely did not violate any state election rules.

A complaint filed this month by the state’s Fair and Political Practices Commission (FPPC), alleged that the RTC had improperly promoted an upcoming sales tax measure by letting county residents know about transportation woes, as GT reported last week. But the FPPC responded last week to the report, which was submitted by anti-highway activist Rick Longinotti, saying that the mailer was not campaign-related because it did not advocate for a ballot measure—or even identify one.

The RTC Commission finally gave the much-discussed measure its blessing on a 9-2 vote on Thursday, June 16, with Randy Johnson and Greg Caput—two of the more conservative commissioners—dissenting. Johnson, a Scotts Valley city councilmember, complained about the railroad allocation of the measure, and Caput, a county supervisor, criticized cash slated for highway widening, and went into a lecture about taxes.

The $500-million tax measure would need two-thirds voter approval come November. Thirty percent of the 30-year tax would go to neighborhood improvements and local roads, and 25 percent to Highway 1 merge lanes from Santa Cruz to Park Avenue.

The commission has tinkered with some details of the measure, adding more dollars at the 11th hour for transportation for the elderly and disabled, as well as taking a few dollars away from rail corridor improvements. Commissioners promised 20 percent of the money for buses and Paratransit, 17 percent to the coastal rail trail and 8 percent to railroad maintenance and analysis.

Bike Santa Cruz County’s steering committee voted that same day to support the measure and will work on a letter to address some members’ conflicted feelings about it, in light of the projected increase in greenhouse gas emissions from highway improvements.

The Campaign for Sensible Transportation, which has been generally critical of the plan, met on Monday night to draft long lists of possible reasons to support, oppose, or stay neutral on the measure. Perhaps, some activists suggested, it might be nice for a group of ardent environmentalists to support something for a change. 

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