PD Editorial: Yes on A: A measure of trust

For all the debate surrounding Measure A - the lone item in today’s election - most people seem to agree that Sonoma County’s roads are a mess.|

For all the debate surrounding Measure A - the lone item in today’s election - most people seem to agree that Sonoma County’s roads, including those in Santa Rosa, Petaluma and other incorporated areas, are, by and large, a mess.

They need help. And the $20 million a year generated by a quarter-cent sales tax, as Measure A proposes, would go far in bringing the roads, including 1,384 miles of unincorporated thoroughfares, up to shape.

This issue is trust. Should voters put their trust in the Board of Supervisors as well as the city councils in the county’s nine incorporated cities, all of which will receive a share of the funds, to spend the money the way it is intended? Or are they more likely to spend it on pet projects and other needs, such as paying down unfunded pension liabilities.

As readers know, we have written extensively about the pension crisis facing Sonoma County and many of its cities. There is no question this is a major challenge and will continue to be in the years ahead.

But we don’t believe the solution for Sonoma County residents is to consign themselves to driving on cracked and pothole-laced roadways until that problem is resolved. Voters have a chance to address this roads crisis on their own terms by approving Measure A.

This is to say that we believe voters can move forward with confidence that Measure A money will be spent on roads, with 10 percent, in some areas, going toward transit programs such as free bus fare for veterans and students.

Opponents argue that elected leaders are not to be trusted and that it’s better for voters to wait until they are asked to approve a specific tax which would assure the money is spent on road repair.

But in our view, that’s a greater risk than trusting Sonoma County officials to spend the money correctly. Getting two-thirds of voters to agree on a tax measure is very difficult, which is why the majority of such measures, including those designated for road improvement, fail in California.

As we’ve noted, given that supervisors already have committed to this project and designated more than $40 million in general fund dollars to upgrade roads, given that the tax is set to expire after only five years and given the unlikelihood that supervisors would be able to siphon these funds for other purposes without the public noticing, we encouraged voters to support Measure A.

We also want to remind voters that under a new state law, they’re allowed to mail in their absentee ballots on election day. It just needs to be postmarked by today and be received within three days. For others, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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