Screen grab from the “Yes on Z” website.
Measure Z, the countywide half-percent sales tax, goes into effect tomorrow. The first payments are expected to roll in in June, with revenue during the first year projected to reach $8.8 million.
The county received more than twice that amount in requests, with government agencies lining up like kids to tell Santa what they want for Christmas. A citizens advisory committee has been assembled to help county supervisors decide which requests will get funded. Meanwhile, the Outpost dug through those requests and found some that don’t quite match the sales pitch.
As you may recall, Measure Z was dubbed “Humboldt County’s Public Safety/Essential Services Measure,” and it passed in November with 55 percent voter support. The Yes on Z website featured harrowing photos and messages: firemen responding to a car crash, emergency personnel at the bottom of a rocky cliff, and a man in handcuffs representing “Humboldt County’s growing meth and hard drug problem.”
And indeed, some of the requests for money fall along those lines: The Sheriff’s Office is asking for $3.5 million to fill 30 frozen or unfunded positions, including frontline deputies and support staff. The Humboldt County Fire Chiefs Association wants $2.6 million to help local volunteer fire departments. And the Hoopa Valley Tribe is requesting money to improve and sustain law enforcement dispatch and ambulance services.
Other requests, meanwhile, are probably not quite what voters had in mind. Here are a few:
- The City of Rio Dell wants $25,000 to build an “Avenue of the Sculptures,” which is exactly what it sounds like. The application says the idea is to place artist’s sculptures in the city’s landscape medians, parks, at City Hall and “hopefully at the two Highway 101 off-ramps” by way of transforming Rio Dell into “a must see community.”
- The County Administrative Office is asking for $78,000 to study the feasibility of a food-packing facility for such local products as Larrupin’s Mustard Dill Sauce, Humboldt Hot Sauce and Diane’s Sweet Heat. Helping out these sauce companies, reasons the Administrative Office, will strengthen the economy, “which is essential to a safe community.” Watertight logic, that.
- A grassroots coalition from Garberville called CHILL (Community Help in Living Locally) is requesting $6,000 to help deal with the migrant workers who show up each year for marijuana growing season. “Many are here to enjoy the redwoods and the laid back atmosphere of small town north coast hospitality,” the application says. “Many are here as part of the greenrush, hoping for employment, legal or illegal.” Either way, it’s putting a strain on the region. “Misunderstandings and hostilities between town and traveler have sometimes erupted, endangering public safety.” CHILL wants to build a “respite center” offering food, water and direction to “confused newcomers.”
- Again from the County Administrative Office — an $18,000 request to produce Go Local workshops. These will allegedly help local businesses land contracts with the likes of HSU, St. Joseph Hospital and the county itself. Go Local is an economic development and marketing campaign with involvement from business owners and local chambers of commerce. Again the justification here is essentially, “mo’ money leads to mo’ tax revenue, which can fund … public safety!”
- One more from the CAO: A whopping $2,750,000 request to replenish the county’s General Reserve account for “future needs.” The General Reserve, which functions as a savings account for the county’s General Fund, has been depleted in recent years, falling below the recommended balance of eight-to-10 percent of annual revenues. Essentially, then, this is the county asking to take Measure Z revenue and put it in the bank for a rainy day.
- The Humboldt County Assessor is asking for $54,000 to pay the salary of a full-time appraisal technician. This person would be charged with discovering un-permitted construction across the county. Not as heroic as charging into a burning building, perhaps, but charging fines for un-permitted wood sheds and the like will bring in revenue, which, as we’ve learned, equals safety.
- Eureka Main Street, a nonprofit business coalition, is requesting $75,000 to purchase and install 12 or 13 video surveillance systems at various Old Town businesses. The group plans to ask for another $30,000 in each of the next four years to finance a total of 20 more surveillance systems. Asked how this relates to public safety, the group instead mentions the bottom line: “Old Town … has been plagued by a rash of largely unsolved, early-morning glass-break commercial burglaries over the past year resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in lost merchandise suffered by small businesses.”
- The County Auditor-Controller is seeking $52,414 to promote one of his accountants, hire an assistant and buy that assistant a computer to meet the increased workload that will come with processing the new Measure Z revenues. “The primary benefit of this proposal would be improved public confidence that the Measure Z money is being accounted for and utilized appropriately,” the application states.
Feel free to check out the full list of requests here, in case you’d like to read the public safety justifications for tree trimming at the airport, roadwork on McKinleyville’s Central Avenue or online profiles of abandoned mill sites.