It was a cliff hanger vote count, but Wildomar’s Measure Z did achieve the required supermajority necessary for passage of the new and excessive parks tax. Taxpayers will now be stuck with having to pony up their collective $350,000 each and every year starting with our 2013-2014 tax bills.
Passage of the measure was helped along substantially because the city wisely decided to follow the suggestions of concerned citizens (people so often called “naysayers” or labeled “parks haters”) to use a simple, straightforward parcel tax rather than the generally despised Mello-Roos CFD with its costly administrative overhead and annual escalation clauses.
Sadly the council made this decision only after paying dearly for consultants to prepare yet another Mello-Roos-based proposal thus adding more to wasteful spending.
Campaign efforts were also helped along when council threw caution to the wind one more time, and used legally questionable judgment in spending $58,500 of taxpayers’ or public funds to run a super slick campaign full of highly emotional hooks and implied promises. There are some lingering questions about these expenditures that will have to be sorted out by proper authorities.
Not surprisingly proponents are in a state of giddy euphoria rushing to outdo one another with self-congratulatory statements in the media. Their open-ended opinions about what their victory really means have already produced more questions than answers.
Some of what city council members and their non-elected surrogates are saying is already producing worrisome inquiries to city hall, not the least of which is that these people seem to feel they have some sort of all-encompassing mandate for rapid expansion of parks and programs.
Even $350,000 a year can only buy so much! The council has used up most of their good will and emotional advantage on the campaign for Measure Z. They had better plan to spend the revenue carefully and not count on voters being receptive to more and larger future taxes. That kind of oversight has been lacking during the last four years.
Even if very questionable methods were employed to accomplish victory for Measure Z, we need to turn our attention to how the city will accept the many responsibilities that come with this “big win”. It is in executing those duties and obligations that the Wildomar City Council members and their staff so often fall down on the job.
The plan of action for Wildomar's parks is clearly spelled out in the language of Measure Z. It couldn’t be clearer. Voters agreed to pay a parcel tax of $28 per year for stated goals and services. If the city wants to retain the good will of all these YES voters, they had better deliver on their promises, and not squander time or money going off on tangents and pursuing brainless schemes for self-promotion.
Below are the six items the voters agreed to support. Special attention should be paid to Item #1.
1) To reopen closed community parks.
2) Prevent closure of Marna O’Brien Park.
3) Restore funding for recreational services/community events.
4) Maintain safe playground equipment, clean public restrooms, sports fields and youth/children’s recreation/afterschool programs.
5) Restore park security patrol/safety lighting.
6) Remove graffiti.
The city is due to get, in 2014, revenues that will be TWICE what they got from the old illegal parks tax assessment. With that they are supposed to reopen and/or restore our three existing parks - not embark on some complex and grandiose new plan for more parks and recreational programs that only serve a small portion of the population.
In the past Wildomar’s parks and programs have had a lopsided focus - concentrating on kids in organized sports leagues – often to the exclusion of many other age groups. Now that we all have to pay the new tax, the city needs to guarantee taxpayer supported parks and recreational plans serve the entire community.
With over 3,000 voters opting to vote NO on Measure Z, it should be apparent there are far more than just a handful of Wildomar’s citizens who opposed this new tax. The city should keep these people’s interests in mind when making their plans and forming the Parks Oversight Committee.
If balanced representation is not achieved on this Committee by the council appointments, the city should expect that a community based oversight group will be formed to protect the public’s interests. The council could make a good start by ensuring parks planning and oversight agendas are posted on the City's website and those meetings are open and welcoming to the public.