Editorial: Richmond voters should end labor unions’ grip on the city

If there was any doubt that municipal employee labor unions are running Richmond, consider the business tax measure the City Council placed on the Nov. 3 ballot.

In December 2019, the council directed city staff to examine possible “revenue enhancement” measures. But instead of doing the work themselves, the staff effectively outsourced the job to a coalition led by labor unions.

Businesses that would be paying the tax learned the details in a video briefing by city staff only eight days before the council voted to put Measure U on the ballot. When asked during that briefing how rates in the ordinance were established, LaShonda White, acting deputy city manager, had to defer to a union representative to explain.

Measure U is a significant tax increase for many businesses. How many is unclear. That’s because there was no analysis of the effect of the measure on companies, the potential loss of jobs when they leave the city or the effect on rents when landlords pass on the costs to tenants.

It’s a shameful abdication of professional responsibility by city staff — enabled by a City Council majority that’s more concerned with revenues for municipal government employees than the greater good of the city.

Voters should reject Measure U. And they should elect council members who care more about preserving Richmond businesses that are struggling and the jobs they provide residents than placating labor union supporters.

Eleanor Thompson (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

That means that, as the city holds its first district balloting for council members, voters should elect Parks and Recreation Commissioner Eleanor Thompson in District 1, human resources executive Ahmad Anderson in District 5 and former Councilman Vinay Pimplé in District 6.

Taxing struggling firms

For decades, Richmond officials have spent beyond the city’s means, while letting debts continue to mount. Their reckless behavior has at times left the city on the brink of insolvency. Now, the city faces a roughly $14 million average annual shortfall over the next six fiscal years.

Ahmad Anderson (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Even when the economy was strong, the city ignored its mounting debts. The shortfall in the city’s pension and retiree health plans for its workers kept growing, from $446 million in 2015 to $613 million in 2018 — to over $700 million today.

City officials would have voters think they lacked for revenues.  This despite a special tax to help cover city employees’ pensions, a tax on property sales that dwarfs almost all other cities in the state, two half-cent sales taxes, three utility users taxes and the business license tax.

Vinay Pimplé (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

It’s the business license tax that, under Measure U, would be permanently converted to a tax on gross receipts ranging from 0.06% to 5%, which the city estimates would bring in an additional $6 million annually.

Sure, why not tax struggling businesses more in the middle of the economy’s pandemic contraction? And why bother talking to businesses before ramming it down their throats?

Backers of the measure …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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