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Measure Z: Read their lips, if you can follow

Will passage of Measure Z mean more taxes for Huntington Beach? It depends on which side you ask.

October 31, 2012|By Mona Shadia | By Mona Shadia

Proponents of Measure Z say the opposition is misleading the public with the "no new taxes" message on campaign signs citywide.

"When you print a sign that says 'no on Z, no new taxes,' I think it's not a stretch of the imagination to infer that they're misleading the public into believing that a yes vote somehow means a new tax," said Mayor Don Hansen, who initiated the movement to repeal the tax and led the efforts that gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the November ballot.

But those against the measure, which seeks to overturn the collection of a penny and a half on every $100 of assessed property value, say Measure Z would leave the city with a $4.2-million shortfall, a gap that would have to be closed somehow.

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The city, they assert, has few options: shut down libraries and eliminate police and fire services or raise fees and taxes to make up for the loss, said Councilman Keith Bohr, who is one of two council members and about a dozen former mayors leading the anti-Z efforts.

"It's not a new tax, it's an old tax," Bohr said. "If you get rid of the old tax and you don't want to get rid of services, then you're going to need new taxes or new fees; ... most people say fees are new taxes."

Bohr said that as soon as enough signatures were gathered to place the measure on the ballot, some council members were suggesting raising the hotel bed tax, or TOT, to make up for some of the loss.

"[Councilwoman] Connie Boardman proposed to increase the TOT by 2% to replace this should it go away," Bohr said. "We held off until the election."

But Hansen said it's simple: A yes on Measure Z repeals the tax, which goes toward safety employees' retirement benefits.

"Yes on Measure Z gives the voters the chance to speak up loud and clear that it's time for the employees to pay their fair share, and it's time for these threats to end," he said.

Hansen said the measure's opposition is stretching the facts and using scare tactics to lead people into believing that everything will fall apart, including things that are not even within the scope of the city budget, like Fourth of July celebrations put on by the city.

"They know what they were doing," he said. "It's intentional, and it's just one piece of their campaign of misinformation ... "

Hansen said that nowhere in their materials do the opponents of the measure say that getting the employees to pay their fair share of retirement costs would close the gap.

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