Questions need answers before voting for tax

Most of the letters and mailers supporting Measure H have been long on emotion, but short on information.

Now that the proposed state budget restores the Proposition 98 school funding, do we need this much additional revenue, especially considering it is for four years? What will they use it for if there are no deep budget cuts? A rainy day fund, which is what I would hope, or creative bookkeeping to allow restored budget funds to be used in other areas?

Will the oversight committee have any real authority, since they can only advise? How will the school board be held accountable once the election is over and they aren't under a spotlight?

Recently the mayor asked us to spend more money locally to increase the city tax revenues. She also supports Measure H that will reduce my discretionary spending in Alameda. This seems counter productive. Is the city willing to guarantee that if this passes we won't be subjected to additional tax levies for current obligations, such as the cable venture, the hospital or the downtown development, or will that be the next shoe to drop?

Without some answers, this seems like the wrong solution.

Lon Elledge

Alameda district works with little fat


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In response to our support of Measure H, we have been getting a "thumbs up" from nearly everyone. The Community of Harbor Bay Isle Owners Association is the largest home owners association in Alameda, representing approximately 10,000 residents living on Bay Farm. The board of directors advocates a yes vote on the measure for economic reasons. The property values of all Alameda homeowners are at stake. A small number of people though are bothered by the question of whether AUSD has cut all of the fat that it could.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was hired to join the management team of another school district in our county that had fallen under state control. That district had failed to live within its means, and one of the more prominent tactics the state-appointed administrator used to correct the situation was to restructure some staff in ways that emulated more financially successful districts elsewhere. For example, employing a single personnel director, rather than the common practice of having one for teachers and another for non-teachers, was copied from the Alameda Unified School District. Being a smaller district, AUSD generally staffed functions in a more efficient manner, and low turnover meant that employees were very knowledgeable and were adept at multi-tasking.

If you walk into the administrative offices of the AUSD, you'll see a lot of empty desks and very few staff. AUSD has cut positions in the past to stay viable. Some of those cuts are clearly hurting our children. One of the trustees of the Peralta Community College District recently told me that they are dealing with growing numbers of Alameda students who are adversely impacted by our local schools having too few high school counselors and other specialists.

Cut the pay and benefits of the teachers, you say? AUSD teachers and administrators were and still are consistently among the lowest paid not only in Alameda County, but within a 25-mile radius. It seems apparent that the question of whether there is fat or not is a non-issue. Please vote yes on Measure H.

Mike Robles-Wong

Board President, CHBI

Save sports, the spirit that unites island residents

My name is Becky Sotello, and this is not propaganda, this is real life:

It is a perfectly crisp evening. Benches filled with screaming fans, painted the colors of pride, pump fists and stamp feet as our boys score a touchdown. Cheerleaders lead the crowd in a familiar cheer, rooting friends and fellow classmates on. Everyone is together, even though the sides are opposed. The spirit on that field is unbreakable, as is the love felt on the bleachers, from both sides. This is the one night where our island gets together to celebrate tradition, to celebrate victory and to celebrate the love of the game. This is the one night I feel the proudest to be a Jet.

Without sports, this spirit which possesses the island will be crushed. This is no numbers argument, this is just a plea from a girl who cannot fathom a high school without the sports that her island loves so much, especially the one rich in history and tradition. This is a plea from a girl who comes from a school that thrives on this pride. This is a plea from a girl who does not want Alameda's Big Game to be just a memory.

Vote "yes" on Measure H to keep the pride alive.

Becky Sotello

Who is financing Measure H campaign?

No one has yet asked the logical question: Where did all those expensive lawn signs and four-color brochures promoting Measure H come from? Did AUSD have that kind of contingency fund, or did those fancy promotionals come from the teachers union? There is, of course, no similarly-funded taxpayer opposition to Measure H, only a lot of fed up Alamedans. The fact that the supporters push on, in the face of the governor's restoration of funding, is criminal.

Dennis Green

Former Alameda student credits schools with success

I am a third-generation Alamedan, a member of the Encinal High School Class of 2000, and a 2004 graduate of UC Berkeley. As a student in Alameda, I was blessed with numerous opportunities including Advanced Placement classes, sports team membership and participation in the dramatic arts. It was a culmination of these factors that made me a competitive, responsible and confident individual — prepared for college and adulthood.

I arrived at UC Berkeley with half a year of credit due to my Advanced Placement courses. The AP curriculum at Encinal taught me to think analytically, write critically and manage my time wisely. These three skills were invaluable to me during my freshman year of college and beyond. The softball team taught me accountability and teamwork — both of which were instrumental to my success in the college classroom and in my first job out of school. And, finally, the dramatic arts provided me a creative outlet and instilled in me the belief that fun is necessary. These experiences gave me the tools for success and enabled me to become the first person in my family to graduate from college. Thank you, AUSD.

The wonderful thing about my story is that it is not unique. The district is filled with students like I was — eager to learn and yearning to succeed. Yet, it must be noted that the college application process becomes more cutthroat every year. If the proposed cuts are enacted without anything to counter-balance the impact, the children of this community will not be afforded the type of opportunities I was so fortunate to experience. This will translate into a significant disadvantage as they compete with applicants from across the globe for limited spots on university campuses.

I believe that there is a battle to be waged with Sacramento over the state budget and I intend to march onward. In the meantime, Alameda's students should not pay for this crisis with their futures. We have a responsibility to take care of our own.

Vote YES on Measure H.

Leslie Fales

Education is key to successful society

Quality public education is the foundation of any successful society.

Every one of us benefits from having a better-educated work force. I am dismayed by the letter writers who seem to believe that because they don't have kids in school, they should not be expected to pay any more for education.

Did they all receive private educations? Did their parents and their children and grandchildren all attend private schools? Has every employee they've ever hired gone to private schools? Have all the doctors and nurses and other professionals upon whom they rely received private educations?

The point I'm trying to make is that every resident of our city benefits from public education. If the state of California is unwilling or unable to provide the level of funding required for good public education, we must take matters into our own hands. A yes vote on Measure H will do just that.

Jill Staten

Numbers don't tell the whole story

So, if you were to know precisely what each teacher, administrator, custodian and classified employee is currently receiving as compensation, would you be able to do the necessary comparables analysis and finally assess better whether to support Measure H? Those who protest that Measure H is too costly would likely be equally noisy if all AUSD staff had taken pay cuts over the last several years, or if the measure called for $2 a month rather than $10. As with any straw-man argument, it really doesn't matter what these numbers are. Were the numbers really so out of balance, those opposed to the measure would provide this information themselves, rather than providing misinformation through empty rhetoric.

The facts are that the AUSD, serving a city with high property values and students who deserve just as much as other Alameda County students, is behind the rest of the county in student support, a legacy of having lost our naval base among other factors, and not contracts and dental benefits.

Its teachers (who in the judgment of the anti-measure authors are unworthy of appropriate compensation) do enjoy contract-based increases in compensation, but these increases have occurred at a rate consistently behind those of other districts.

Those opposed to Measure H say it is really about teacher compensation, rather than being about the students. They fail to mention, however, that student support means having teachers to teach them. Do not forget that the lack of that support means that at a minimum music and athletics will be cut. We all know that this type of compensation will be repaid to us, our children, and our community, many fold.

Ray Chavez

Favor local business support for Measure H

This Sunday as I was walking down Park Street I noticed several businesses have Yes on Measure H signs up in their windows. As an Alameda resident and a supporter of Measure H it makes me feel good that businesses are coming out showing their support for Measure H. It's great they care about our schools and they value our community.

Michele McCampbell

H means investment in customers, community

As a local businessman I am puzzled by the opposition to Measure H that some of my peers are voicing (Alameda Journal, May 27).

Strong schools are highly correlated to strong property values and higher incomes. I don't pretend to be happy about tax increases, but Measure H isn't another blank check to Sacramento's bureaucrats. It's an investment in our community, which means an investment in our customers. The business people I know all want prosperous customers and a growing local marketplace. It's a bit jarring to hear that some want the opposite.

David Hart

Ross, Sinclaire & Associates

Member, Park Street Business Association

Think beyond pocket to see benefits of parcel tax

For those people who remain undecided about Measure H, I'd like to suggest that voting your pocket book is short-sighted. As a small business owner, I'm very aware that the economic health of any community is tied to the health of the schools. Underfunded schools mean lower property values. Period. A strong real estate market helps residents and it helps the businesses that serve the residents.

Regardless of whether you have children in Alameda's schools, we all enjoy the benefits of living here. And one reason why Alameda is such a wonderful place to live is because of our schools. Beyond all the altruistic reasons for supporting public education (and there are many), we all benefit from living in a community where the children are thriving, have a future and are occupied (during the day and after school at various activities). The police will tell you that a community with good schools is a safer community. Whether you are a business or a property owner, good schools benefit the entire community.

Even in our current real estate environment, Alameda's property values have not plummeted because our schools continue to draw buyers. Voting no on Measure H will certainly mean that our schools will be compromised. At the end of the day, $10 a month is a cheap insurance policy to maintain the value of your home and the quality of life on this island. A yes vote on Measure H is good for Alameda.

David Thorne

Thanks for the article on veterans' honor guards

The members of American Legion Post 647 thank the Alameda Journal for the fine article by Peter Hegarty in the May 23 issue recognizing the American Legion veterans who serve as volunteers in honor guards at the funerals of veterans in Alameda County under the auspices of American Legion District 10, and for publicising the annual Memorial Day Ceremony held May 26 at the Veterans Memorial Park, Alameda to remember those who sacrificed and gave their lives to protect our freedoms and our way of life.

Jim Sweeney

Commander, American Legion Post 647, Alameda

Business owners support schools and Measure H

We support Measure H! Businesses in Alameda are blessed with a wonderful community and we need to give back to the community as best we can. The schools are certainly an asset to Alameda and we can not imagine them losing millions more per year in funding from the state. We know it will make the next four years a bit tighter, but if schools close, customers move away and take their business with them and then, where will we be as business owners?

It is simple to us: Pass the emergency Measure H to support our community and customers. We hope all of Alameda will support Measure H.

Daisy's — Barbara Mooney

Tucker's Super Creamed Ice Cream - Kate Pryor

Elks Lodge is exempt from Measure H tax

It is unfortunate that some wires have gotten crossed about Measure H's potential impact on the Elks Lodge and other civic organizations. On the county tax rolls, the Elks Lodge parcel's use code is 6800 (Institutional; Clubhouse or Lodge) so they fall outside the 3000/4000/8000/9000 series use codes the county assessor determines for properties that are the commercial/industrial uses that Measure H specifically calls out. The Elks and other similar organizations with 6000 series use codes will not face a tax increase.

Taxes aside, it needs to be said here that Elks have a century long history of outstanding public service in Alameda and we are lucky to have such a fine organization in our community.

Ron Mooney, Treasurer

Keep Alameda Schools Excellent

Governor's financial shell game hurts students

Recent headlines reveal our governor is "committed" to meeting minimum funding levels required by Proposition 98 in his May Budget Revision. Do not be fooled. The education funding crisis is far from over.

In January, the governor quoted a state budget deficit of $14.5 billion for next fiscal year. In his May revise, the budget deficit climbed to more than $17 billion. Assuming California's economy is unlikely to dramatically improve in the next month, it is possible the state's deficit will stay the same, or worsen, by the time the budget is approved.

After preliminary analysis of the revised budget's impact on AUSD, the district will continue to see similar multi-million dollar cuts directly impacting Alameda's students. Every cut (athletics, AP classes, class size reduction, etc.) proposed over the next two years still must be implemented under the governor's revised "best case" scenario, including his lottery gamble. Despite assertions that the budget meets Prop. 98 minimums, large portions of the "new money" come from changes in projection assumptions (phantom income) and moving pools of money around.

Here's how this shell game plays out in our district:

  • The new budget eliminates a $300,000 reduction in special education funding for Alameda. The district was never going to receive more monies for special education. The new budget actually reduces $445,000 that Alameda should have received for maintenance.

  • The district will see a 6.5 percent reduction in monies to pay for K-3 class size reduction and other major educational programs, a net loss of $200,000 just for the K-3 program alone.

  • The new budget does not allow any additional equalization funding, keeping our ADA funding per student the lowest of 17 districts in the county.

  • Alameda will not receive any cost of living (COLA) increase though utility expenses, health care and other essential expenditures continue to climb upward. These increases will have to be absorbed by the district.

  • Alameda will not get anywhere near full reimbursement for all mandated programs required under state and federal laws.

    The bottom line: Our district will not witness a huge benefit from the May budget revision. These "optimistic" numbers will undoubtedly change to the detriment of our schools as other major interest groups try to recoup funding at the expense of education.

    We, as a community, must ignore the misleading information and fight to support the students of Alameda. Vote "YES" on Measure H.

    Bill Schaff

    President, AUSD board of trustees

    Financial information available online from state

    In response to Ronald Wimer's letter claiming a lack of available financial information. Among the many sites providing public information, The California Department of Education Web site provides financial reports — including salaries and benefits, number of teachers and student enrollment —— in the available data and statistics by district. Annual financial information can be viewed online for school years dating back as far as 1992-93, teacher salary and benefits from 1998-99 forward. What you will not find on the site is teachers also make payroll contributions for their medical and retirement benefits with family medical coverage ranging as high as $800 a month.

    He also states that Measure H is about teacher compensation not "about the students," and there has been "grandstanding" about cuts in sports, arts and music. I believe it has been very clearly reported we are looking at elimination of teacher and classified staff positions, loss of advanced placement classes, elimination of class size reduction in K-3 and 9th grade, closure and consolidation of schools in addition to the loss of sports, arts and music programs. All of these clearly impact students, as well as our community.

    The suggestion that AUSD emulate Piedmont suggests a real disconnect with our community demographics. Piedmont's 2006-07 student population include 3 percent English Language Learners with .03 percent qualifying for Free/Reduced Meals. Alameda's student population was 22 percent and 33 percent, comparatively. Clearly, Piedmont is a unique community and any comparison is unfair and unrealistic. As pointed out, Piedmont has a "significant" parcel tax, it ranges from $1,200 - $1,900 per parcel, annually. Since it would be illegal for Alameda to charge "student fees" as Mr. Wimer proposes, instead we should follow Piedmont's lead by generating local revenue to compensate for the state's inadequate funding with our only legal option: a local school parcel tax.

    Our entire community benefits from having an excellent school district. Voting "Yes on Measure H" on June 3 will ensure the excellence continues.

    Anne DeBardeleben

    President-Alameda Education Foundation

    Everyone benefits from good public schools

    We strongly disagree with recent comments that only those who use public schools should pay for them and that it is not "fair" that people like us with kids in independent schools are being asked to pay more taxes to support public schools.

    Americans pay taxes all the time for public services and infrastructure. Some of these have direct benefits to us (e.g. fire and police protection), some less direct benefits to us immediately, but may serve us in our old age (e.g. Medicare). Nevertheless, some services are paid for with a mix of taxes and user fees. which shift some of the financial burden to individual users who benefit directly. But user fees are only appropriate when we can isolate the direct benefit to a user. True public goods like national defense and, yes, education have benefits that flow throughout society: employers looking for educated workers, residents hoping the kids next door are learning jobs skills at school rather than robbing their neighbors' homes and older citizens who depend on trained care givers.

    Even those who hate paying more taxes cannot deny that an honest accounting of education's direct benefits reveals that most of us, at some time or another, have been or have family who have been in the public school system: grade school, high school or college. Is someone paying more taxes to help subsidize something you enjoy?

    We support public education for a variety of reasons, some selfish (it's good for property values) and some altruistic (it's good for kids). But mostly because we believe the children of our community are the future. They will benefit from the smart choices we make on their behalf and they will pay for the poor ones. Please support them now when they need a hand.

    Christopher Wornum and Anne Cook

    Alameda Theatre revives memories, hope for future

    May 21, 2008 is a day that will go down in history for us Alamedans. The re-opening of our Historic Alameda Theatre and the addition of the cineplex and parking garage was something I hope all of you by now had the opportunity to see for yourself. If you haven't, go check it out and I know you will feel as proud as those who stepped inside and were taken back in time to the grandiose of the early '30s and the technology of today.

    For me personally, it was a night I will never forget. It was 58 years ago on that very night that my husband first went to Alameda Theatre. He was 13 days old and it was his mother's birthday. That is where she wanted to go for her new mom's first night out. As I stood on the stage on behalf of PSBA to welcome the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex to our district, I could feel her spirit with me. And for my husband to now have the opportunity to be able to take his grandchildren there has a special significance.

    Across the front of the doors as you enter the lobby it says "Take the Magic with You."

    My feelings as I read that was thank you, Kyle and Elgina Conner of Alameda Entertainment Associates, for bringing us the magic.

    The future children of this town now have a wonderful place to make their own memories.

    As we all know this parking garage and theater project came with controversy. Not everyone agreed on the way it was to look or the size it was to be. Now that it's here, the healing begins. Let's all join together and wish Kyle and Elgena our heartfelt congratulations, our sincere best of luck and tremendous success as they start their new business in our district.

    Debbie George

    Park Street Business Association

    Vote for Measure H, help our kids compete

    We need Measure H to ensure that Alameda's children will be competitive in the Bay Area job market. One of the things that makes living in the Bay Area great is that it is home to so many cutting edge industries and that there are so many career opportunities to choose from. I hope that the children of Alameda can continue to receive a high quality public education that can help them compete in the increasingly global job market while remaining in Alameda if they so choose.

    Ensuring many future generations of Alamedans only happens when there are opportunities for people to thrive locally. Let's not let Sacramento decide our future. Vote Yes on H.

    Michael Chae

    Good schools help develop good towns

    Have you ever heard anyone say of their town, that it was" too safe, the streets were too clean and the schools were too good"? I haven't, so I just shake my head when I read editorials and letters stating that Alameda schools should get by with less then they have now. Alameda kids could probably scrape by in a school district operating under a bare-bones budget, but they should not have to. Such an education does not create the kind of town that people are excited to live in.

    I have found Alameda to be a wonderful place, and we need to do everything we can to keep it a place to brag about.

    Until we can say of Alameda that it is better than excellent we still have to work to make it better. We cannot afford to lose ground. Measure H will help maintain the status quo, which is the very least we can do for our town. I'm proud of our community, and will vote Yes on Measure H. Please join me.

    Heather Hildreth