Once again, Lafayette voters have rejected an infrastructure tax. And once again the city has to plan for a future that does not include new money to repair its streets and storm drains.
Measure G, which would have raised $10 million for road and drain repair, failed Tuesday at the ballot box with 58 percent of the vote, short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
The loss is the third in less than a decade for Lafayette infrastructure taxes. Measures in 2004 and 2007 also failed to reach the required supermajority.
City leaders say Measure G's defeat surprised them, given the support they received during the campaign and the lack of formal opposition.
"We didn't hear a lot of folks indicating they were going to vote against it," said Lafayette Councilman Brandt Andersson.
The measure called for an $89 annual parcel tax for single family homeowners, and more for owners of commercial and multifamily properties, for 10 years to fund road and storm drain repairs. Backers estimated it would raise $10 million over that time.
The City Council pledged $20 million of city money, $17 million from the general fund and Measure J and gas tax money plus $3 million from the city's general fund reserve.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission rates Lafayette's roads highly compared to other Bay Area cities, but Measure G supporters say that analysis belies the fact that a quarter of the city's streets are "failed."
The parcel tax had the support of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Homeowners Council, school district and Taxpayers Association, and faced no formal opposition.
But a number of opponents waged a letter-writing campaign urging residents to vote no, saying the city had shirked its responsibility to repair the roads in order to fund nonessential projects like the new library.
Parcel tax backers say they will study the election results closely in the coming weeks, but several believe the down economy combined with a general skepticism of government, from the federal down to the local level, contributed to Measure G's defeat.
"Until the times change I think we'll have to make do with what we already have," Andersson said.
The City Council will continue devoting whatever general fund and grant dollars it can to road repair, council members say, but will have to re-evaluate whether to spend the reserve money.
"We were willing to move that out of the reserve if there was a solution to this problem, but now we need to see ... would it be more valuable in terms of maintaining our credit rating or the like to keep it as reserve," said Mayor Carl Anduri.
More than 80 percent of the 5,909 ballots cast were done so by mail, and mail voters supported Measure G at roughly the same rate as voters who filled out ballots the polls Tuesday. The highest percentage of "yes" votes came from the Happy Valley and Northridge neighborhoods, where 63 percent of voters approved the tax.
Overall, slightly more than 36 percent of Lafayette's registered voters cast ballots.
"The undecided vote was probably the thing that made the difference in the election," said Measure G campaign co-chairman Guy Atwood. "We had a good feel for a high percentage of the 'yes' and 'no' votes, but we didn't really know how the undecided vote was going to go, and if it had gone the way it had gone in prior votes, then we would have won the election. It didn't do that."
Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.
Ten-year, $89 parcel tax for road and storm drain repairs in Lafayette. Needed two-thirds voter approval to pass.
Yes 3,413 57.76%
No 2,496 42.24%