Santa Paula Times

Council rejects lower age for Measure T sales tax committee, seeks applicants

March 01, 2017
Santa Paula News

You’ll have to be old enough to be able to vote the City Council agreed after a move to allow 16-year-olds on the Measure T oversight committee flopped at the February 21 meeting. 

In fact, according to one council member, volunteers have failed to step up for committee duty in spite of clamoring for such a panel.

Measure T, which adds 1 cent sales tax to benefit public safety, youth and roads, was approved by voters in November and is projected to generate about $2.1 million annually. As a general tax, subsequent spending priorities and practices could not be specified so the council committed to creating a committee that would monitor Measure T spending. 

Santa Paula Officer Chris Rivera, the newly elected Vice President of the Santa Paula Police Officers Association (SPPOA), told the council that a survey conducted during the formation of the measure showed that 79 percent of voters said it was “essential” to establish an oversight committee.

More than 20 members of the SPPOA actively campaigned for the measure, which could raise salaries for local police, among the lowest paid in Ventura County. 

Rivera said “mature and professional” members of the community should be charged with Measure T oversight, the lack of which could raise council accountability issues.

The committee, he added, is not the place to “gain life experience…”

And, said Rivera, “Your police department is in a state of emergency,” facing the loss of nine officers and two dispatchers looking for positions at other agencies due to salary disparity and other issues.

“We ask you to acknowledge the facts and listen to your employees,” he added.

“I think it was just a youth representative, you find that objectionable?” said Councilman John Procter.

“Yes, I do,” said Rivera, who noted that the SPPD has other serious needs including station maintenance: “We’ve repeatedly had leaks in our roof, now we’re down to the bare walls,” as repairs are being made.

“Youth can be engaged in other avenues,” he added.

Mayor Jenny Crosswhite said she was under the impression that it was not a youth “per se” sought for the oversight committee, but rather “someone familiar with youth programs” and youth related issues.

“Personally,” noted Vice Mayor Ginger Gherardi, “I do not support putting someone under 18 on the oversight committee. I think it should be people over 18 who vote…I don’t see in this particular instance giving kids the authority. I feel strongly it should be voters that are on that oversight committee.”

And, said Councilman Clint Garman, “If they’re not a participant in our tax base they’re probably not the right person.”

Procter said overall he would have preferred a seven-member panel rather than five members. 

“We do have to have fiduciary responsibility to the community,” but Councilman Martin Hernandez said the community has not stepped up to assure same.

“We have one application,” for the Measure T committee in spite of advertising, and “We need people to help us,” they requested to oversee financial matters related to the sales tax.