Calling San Mateo County's proposed half-cent sales tax increase a "jail tax" that will help pay for a new jail, a small group of protesters Tuesday urged the Board of Supervisors not to place the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The board unanimously voted to do so anyway.
The group, which included "Occupy" activists, said the county knows that if it called the sales tax a jail tax, voters wouldn't support it. And because the ballot measure doesn't specify how the extra tax dollars will be spent, nothing could stop the board from funneling the money toward construction of a new jail on Chemical Way in Redwood City.
Board Vice President Don Horsley disputed the idea that the tax increase is intended for the jail, telling the speakers that the revenue is desperately needed to maintain a multitude of county services.
The tax increase is projected to generate an additional $60 million a year for the county. Although the proposed measure's wording suggests the extra money could pay for jail staffing, parks, children and family programs, emergency services and even a seismic upgrade of Seton Medical Center in Daly City, the supervisors ultimately would decide how to spend it, according to the ballot language.
Earlier this month, the county broke ground at the site of the proposed $160 million jail, which Sheriff Greg Munks has said is needed to alleviate overcrowding at the main jail in downtown Redwood City and to accommodate the influx
After the board vote, Shaunn Cartwright, a member of Occupy San Jose, said she remains convinced the tax will be spent on the new jail if approved by a majority of voters.
"If it's not for the jail, tell me what it is for, specifically," she said.