EL CERRITO -- Two members of the city's Citizens Street Oversight Committee have been stymied so far in their efforts to maintain funds from a 2008 bond measure exclusively for a narrowly defined group of street repairs.
Committee Chairman Thomas Miller and member Lynn Kessler have complained that the city has transferred funds from Measure A, a 30-year half-cent sales tax, away from their intended purpose of repairing and repaving streets and curbs to other projects, including traffic safety and landscaping.
Measure A was passed after a survey determined that El Cerrito streets were among the worst in the region, said interim senior engineer Jerry Bradshaw.
The city used the bond money collected over the first four years to repair or resurface about 70 percent of its streets, lifting El Cerrito into the top tier in street conditions in the Bay Area.
About 60 percent of the revenue from the tax is being used to service the bonds, leaving the rest for other uses, Bradshaw said.
Miller said the City Council has set up a "new entity" known as the "Traffic Safety and Management Program," contrary to the 2008 ballot language, which reads the sales tax proceeds would be used "exclusively for street improvements."
"This new entity has been used to hire consultants, buy (traffic) radar and other things way outside of what the voters voted for," Miller said.
As an alternative, Miller suggested creating an endowment with the extra money to do street repairs and maintenance over the life of the measure and giving the voters an opportunity to retire the tax early.
"Go back to the voters to terminate the Measure A tax instead of looking for all kinds of avenues for spending the money," he said.
Bradshaw pointed out that the ordinance tied to Measure A authorizes the City Council to approve "other such improvements as are deemed necessary ... for the benefit of the residents of the city."
The entire text of the ordinance was listed separately in the voter information packet because the ballot description of the ordinance was limited to 75 words, Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said previously the ordinance "was written fairly broadly, although the primary motivation was to fix the pavement."
Giving the city such broad powers renders the committee meaningless, despite the fact its creation was authorized in the ballot language and the ordinance, Miller contends.
Miller said he was involved with the Measure A campaign, and the city's interpretation is "the diametric opposite of what was presented to the voters" during the campaign.