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Quentin at VFW Memorial
Photo courtesy Jewish News of Northern California

Spring Collection

• • • • • • • • • • June 2023 • • • • • • • • • •

Acollection of quips includes a 1930s question: “If Congress can pay farmers not to raise crops, why can't we pay Congress not to raise taxes?”

Taxpayer protection will be on the state's June 2024 ballot. Some of those significant protections include:

1) All new taxes enacted by the California Legislature must be voter-approved by a majority;

2) Two-thirds voter approval is required for all new local special tax increases;

3) Whether a new charge to taxpayers is a fee or tax must be clearly defined for voters;

4) New tax proposals must be truthfully defined and legislators must clearly identify for voters how revenue will be spent before any tax or fee takes effect.

Such initiative amends the California Constitution and overrides any conflicting court rulings based on a disputed interpretation of the state constitution's current language, such as a 2017 State Supreme Court decision that some local taxes for special spending had passed, although obtaining less than the two-thirds voter approval required by Proposition 13. If voters approve by majority vote, many such existing taxes would need voter approval again by two-thirds of state voters, I can hardly wait.

Watch City Hall try to defeat it just as it allows the S.F. Municipal Transportation Authority, which hasn't ever seen a tax it doesn't like (See, e.g., the Central Subway fiasco) to extend metered parking to Sundays and 10 p.m. on all weekdays and Saturday. As retired Chronicle columnist Leah Garchick remarked last month in a letter to the Comical editor, making parking “less available” &lsqio;;. . . will be a knife the makes another wound in our already bleeding downtown,” and also neighborhood restaurants and stores.

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Do you remember when boys, not telephones, delivered the news? I do, but I'm probably older than any readers of this monthly excursion. As one smart-aleck observed: ”If you don't stand for something, you will likely fall for anything.”

One of the most despised levies on residents is the utility tax. In late April, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Nancy Fineman ruled Menlo Park has been illegally collecting a 3.5% tax on electric, gas and water users and 2.5% on cable, wireless and telephone usage since 2017 because the City Council didn't renew it in 2016. Menlo Park collected $1,400,000 from such taxes in 2022 and 2021. In San Francisco, I wrote a Charter Amendment and led the campaign for voter-approval on November 3, 1987 while I was a State Senator. The utility tax hasn't raised its ugly head since then.

The Tennessee House of Representatives in April expelled three members, all Democrats, for disrupting and stopping a House session by shouting and using bullhorns to condemn fellow members for not supporting strong gun safety laws. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, thereafter requested the U.S. Attorney General to investigate whether such expulsion violated the U.S. Constitution or federal law. The three miscreants halted all legislative business in the Tennessee House. Had any member in the California legislature done this in my 12 years as a State Senator, he or she would've been removed from the chambers by our Sergeant-At-Arms, but Washington Democrats consider this a peaceful, legal protest. As the Wall Street Journal commented on April 20, 2023: “Democrats have spent years presenting themselves as democracy's last defense. But when two of their own grab a bullhorn and bring the people's business to a halt, it's heroic if the cause is right. The problem is, someone will always believe the cause is right.”

A Bay Area News Group column last month by an assistant professor of history at Hillsdale College, Michigan, notes that since 2004 the number of Americans identifying as political independents “has skyrocketed.” Almost two-thirds of registered voters were then Democrats or Republicans. In May 2023, less than 50% are Democrats or Republicans. There are now more Independents than Ds and Rs. As a registered Independent since 1985 after 39 years of Democrat Party registration, I'm delighted even if the fearful California legislature and Governor Jerry Brown changed the Election Code so others and I are deemed “No Party Preference” voters in order to minimize the language effect of being an Independent candidate against them.

Speaking of candidacies, Michelle Obama, the Princeton and Harvard Law School graduate who received a Princeton scholarship, and has been mentioned as a replacement candidate for Joe Biden, declared after her husband was elected president in November, 2008, that it was the first time in her life, she was “proud of my country.”! A wag in Bakersfield, Calif. commented in the Wall Street Journal on May 18th: “I can hear Mrs. Obama's victory speech now: 'For the second time in my adult life, I am proud of my country'.”

Sunset resident Robert Guichard who led the successful ballot measure in 1980 to repeal district election of Board of Supervisors members, reports that a controlling Santa Monica legal case regarding which the California Supreme Court granted review last year, will be argued on June 27th. The Santa Monica City Council has refused to substitute district election of City Council members or at-large voting. A neighborhood association sued to force the Council to do so under the California Civic Rights. Both the Los Angeles Superior Court and Court of Appeal have rejected the Association's contention. If the California Supreme Court does, too, expect Mr. Guichard and others to qualify an initiative next year restoring at-large election of our City Hall “beauties.” I can't wait!

Expect also more corruption cases at City Hall this month or next, which remind me of one-time Democratic Congressman Adam Clayton Powell (1949-1971) when Republican Congressmembers accused him of corruption. Powell, who represented Harlem, responded: “I'm not doing anything that you guys aren't doing.“

Do you remember when boys, not telephones, delivered the news? I do, but I'm probably older than any readers of this monthly excursion. As one smart-aleck observed: “If you don't stand for something, you will likely fall for anything.”That's a wrap.

Judge Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, SF Ethics Commission member and retired Superior Court judge who was president of the California High Speed Rail Authority governing board, 2006-2008.

June 2023


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