May 19, 2006

Opposite sides debate National City’s tax sale measure

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

A local community group organized a forum where the National City sales tax was debated between the two opposing viewpoints.

On June 6, National City voters will need to decide whether to increase sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent for 10 years, making it the highest sales tax in the county.

SBF member Jose Preciado moderates the debate as Herman Baca makes his case before the 125 people in the audience.

Herman Baca, of the Committee on Chicano rights and a life-long National City resident and small-business owner, and National City Councilmember Ron Morrison participated in the debate organized by the South Bay Forum, an organization that promotes political participation in southern San Diego County, on Monday, May 15 at the Apostolic Assemby of National City.

The debate was moderated by South Bay Forum’s Jose Preciado.

Baca opposes the sales tax increase, while Morrison supports it.

If it passes, Proposition D is expected to generate 7 to 9 million dollars a year for National City.

Supporters say the tax sale increase will help get the city out of its financial crisis and would prevent basic safety services, such as police and fire, from receiving cutbacks.

But those who oppose the tax increase say that the move will affect the poor in National City, who will need to pay more for things they buy in their own city.

At forum, there were several National City officials in the audience, including Police Chief Adolfo Gonzales, councilmebers Frank Parra and Rosalie Zarate, and City Manager Chris Zapata.

Also, some audience members held signs in favor of Prop. D, such as “Save National City” and “Yes on Prop. D,” as well as against it, such as “No Tax –Resign Inzunza.”

During the debate, Morrison said that National City residents have two choices: either aprove Prop. D or prepare for more cutbacks in city services, including public safety, such as police and fire departments.

“There will be severe cuts”, he said.

So far, he said, from 2001 to 2006 there are 40 less public employees in National City. “The workload of those who have remained has increased 500 percent,” Morrison said.

National City residents defeated Proposition B last November, another tax sale increase measure.

“I’m here tonight representing the 57 percent of voters who defeated Prop. B. Been there, done that. What part of ‘no’ don’t they [the city council] understand?” Baca said.

“The public doesn’t trust the mayor nor the Chicken Little city council that goes along with the mayor.”

In what sometimes caused tension, as well as applauses, in the audience, Baca blamed the City Council for the financial crisis the city is going through.

“There has been overspending,” he said, using the Tagalog language lessons that National City Mayor Nick Inzunza used to receive paid by from the city’s general fund as an example.

“There’s a political disconnect between the people and city hall. There’s no more trust between city hall and citizens”, Baca said.

Baca said that the poor residents of National City will have to go shopping to nearby cities, such as San Diego and Chula Vista. Businesses in National City will suffer, too, he said.

“Are people from National City even going to buy in National City? It doesn’t make sense. It’s going to impact small businesses and poor residents.”

Morrison warned the public that the cutbacks taken place in the city would increase if Prop. D is not passed.

The measure needs 50 percent plus one vote in order to pass.

“The last thing we want to do is to cut, but there might be no other choice if Prop. D is defeated,” Morrison said.

Baca critiziced what he called the council’s ‘scare tactics.’

“[City officials] should stop using scare tactics. If police and fire services are going to be cut, let San Diego County take over National City. End of problem,” Baca said.

Morrison said that the sales tax increase will not apply on basics such as unprepared food and medicine. He added that for cars, consumers will pay the sales tax rate of the city where they live.

“This tax is not on the basics”, he said.

Morrison said that those who voted no on the last tax increase were misinformed. This time, he said, they should look at the possible consecuences of voting no.

“A lot of areas have been cutback, including salaries. What kind of level do we want for our city? On June 6, do you care to make a political statement or to create more benefits for your community?”

Bill Goulet, a concerned National City resident who was present at the debate, said that the mayor and the city council are responsible for the city’s economic situation.

“They squandered money on parties, hefty car allowances, excessive salary hikes and expensive consultants in almost every city department. This council and its mayor continue to demonstrate it has no idea on how to run a tight financial ship.”

Baca, who is one of Prop. D’s most active opponents, said that just like last November, the voice of the people is going to be heard.

“I predict voters are going to defeat Prop. D”.

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