Lawrence: Why Measure RR Caltrain tax is a bad deal
Caltrain officials said ridership fell 97% in April due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Luke Johnson.

The CEO and board of directors of Caltrain are doing a major disservice to the residents of San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties.

Their proposal to address and remedy the Caltrain loss of revenue problem is to place on the backs of the total population another tax initiative while only a limited few will directly benefit.

First, the tax is regressive and negatively impacts the families with household incomes of $50,000 or less, which is more than two-thirds of families in these three counties, significantly harder than the families who would directly benefit from the measure.

Among Caltrain ridership, 80% have an annual household income greater than $200,000.

Second, the measure is asking the public to commit to this tax for 30 years. Caltrain is dying. A dinosaur. Even  before the pandemic ridership had been steadily decreasing. Now the world  has changed. We work from home, Bay Area companies will never return to employment levels pre-pandemic and  ridership will never approach yesterday’s numbers.

The bottom line is the board and CEO have failed their  fiduciary responsibility. They should have foreseen this coming at least five years ago. They did not and did nothing.

Now with their backs up against the wall, they offer a remedy that lacks any strategic thought, does not consider today’s technology direction and does not consider existing and future  work patterns. and the measure has no allowance for an independent oversight and reporting back to the public.

They chose to ignore the impact another tax has on the lowest wage earners, among others. And why is there no reduction in staff, salary expense or their fully-paid pensions and medical benefits?

We should not suck out of the public millions more in taxes to provide a service for less than 1% of the population.

Think of the impact these tax dollars could have on improving our school, housing, health care, youth employment training and programs, etc.

The key selling point of this measure is that it will result in less traffic on freeways.” No. Caltrain’s impact on reducing traffic congestion is and will be very minimal, less than a 1% reduction may be achieved if this measure passes. It is expensive to ride and inconvenient for the majority of us to even consider.

This Caltrain board and CEO have not demonstrated they are worthy stewards the public can trust. Proponents of this measure were not transparent in the prework/ surveys used  to gauge the level of public support. They did not inform the public they were seeking approval of a measure that will be law for the next 30 years. Why place this tax on the backs of our children?

The board should have the moral compass to withdraw this measure.

Jim Lawrence is a former mayor of Foster City.

 

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