To the Editor:
I have monitored the proposal for a meals tax which apparently was initiated by Supervisor Hyland. The Board of Supervisors (BOS) organized a committee chaired by past Chairmen Tom Davis and Kate Hanley to provide the BOS the recommendation as to whether to seek a voter referendum. The committee provided the BOS its report which did not include any recommendation regarding whether to conduct a voter referendum but provided comments intended to guide the BOS in its deliberations.
Last week, BOS Chairman Sharon Bulova indicated it is unlikely a referendum would be scheduled on the meals tax prior to the 2016 general election and that she would oppose scheduling it earlier. The reason why is obvious. In the November 2015 election, all the supervisors are up for election. Chairman Bulova would obviously prefer to be re-elected before the meals tax issue is taken up by the voters. No doubt other supervisors agree with this thinly veiled political tactic.
I disagree. If supervisors want taxpayers to vote on a meals tax referendum, that vote should be coupled with taxpayers' decision as to whether to re-elect the supervisors. In order to place the meals tax issue on the ballot, a majority of the supervisors must vote to do so. Their votes on the issue will be public knowledge and taxpayers can take those votes into consideration when deciding whether to re-elect them. Failing to include the meals tax referendum on the same ballot as the 2015 supervisor elections would be cowardly and would evidence that supervisors believe the issue would adversely impact re-election prospects.
If the BOS wants taxpayers to vote on a meals tax referendum, the only appropriate date for the referendum is the November 2015 election. That way, the referendum will also be a partial referendum on whether to re-elect the supervisors. Those voters who favor the proposal would be more likely to vote to re-elect their supervisor and the chairman, particularly if their supervisor and the chairman had voted to place the referendum on the ballot. Those who oppose it would be less likely to vote to re-elect their supervisor and the chairman, particularly if their supervisor and the chairman had voted to place the referendum on the ballot. Let the voters decide whether to enact a meals tax, and at the same time, whether to re-elect supervisors.
H. Jay Spiegel