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Mayor Soiseth: Measure L is an investment, not simply a tax (Part 1)

POSTED October 14, 2016 8:10 p.m.

As we approach the Nov. 8 general election, I wanted to speak to my friends, family and neighbors not as your mayor, but as a concerned citizen of Turlock. For far too long, Turlock’s roads have dropped drastically in quality and safety with no end in sight. There is, however, a great opportunity to reverse our history of neglected roadways by voting in favor of Measure L, a countywide initiative dedicated to fixing our local roadways.

What exactly is Measure L? It’s a 25-year half cent sales tax that will generate an estimated $960 million to be divided among the county and cities based on sales tax generation. 

Of Turlock’s share (which would be upwards of $140 million), 50 percent will be designated to fixing current roads, 10 percent will focus on improved traffic signals, and 5 percent will be dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian safety projects. An additional 28 percent of our share will be used on significant projects in Turlock of regional importance, specifically the West Main Interchange at Highway 99 here in Turlock and a new auxiliary lane on Highway 99 between Keyes Road and Taylor Road. The remaining 7 percent will be spent on transit services for Turlock’s senior citizens, veterans, students and persons with disabilities. 

Within this expenditure plan, no more than 1 percent will be allowed to actually administer the expenditures, and this will be a firm cap that will be fiercely guarded by a Citizen Oversight Committee. 

As with all expenditures at City Hall, I have scrutinized Measure L. As Turlock’s representative on the Stanislaus Council of Governments, I was able to sit at the table on behalf of our city to make sure we received our fair share of the revenue generated by the tax. 

For example, I argued that Turlock is the economic engine of our southern county, if not the region. We may be only 13 percent of the county’s population, but we generate over 15 percent of the county’s sales tax revenue. Based on this, I made it a requirement for jurisdictions to receive their share of Measure L revenues based on any sales tax revenue generated, not just population. Because of this simple move, Turlock will receive an extra $20 million more for road improvements. 

Because roads also deteriorate at a rapid rate the longer we neglect them, I will ask the Council to exercise its option to frontload our share of revenue to fix as many existing roads as possible in the first seven years, which means 80 percent of the tax generated in years 1 through 7 will go only toward overlays, slurry seals and micro-surfacing. If we do this, our oldest neighborhoods will be fixed even quicker, which will include improvements to Orange Street, Park Street and Denair Avenue (just to name a few of the more than 1,000 local road projects; a full list can be found at www.stanislaus-localraodsfirst.com/turlock). 

When we crafted this measure, I also made it a requirement that Turlock be able to first repair roads that have not only been neglected the longest, but are also used the most. In the first three years, roads like East Avenue, West Main Street, Golden State Boulevard, Olive Avenue, Geer Road and Taylor Road will be tackled. 

We will invest over $14 million in new traffic signals at 18 key intersections, while also widening streets and synchronizing existing traffic lights—specifically on West Main Street between Turlock and Patterson—to keep traffic flowing efficiently. We will invest in safer routes to school, much like our plans to improve areas surrounding Cunningham and Wakefield elementary schools. And we will guarantee safe and reliable transportation for some of our most vulnerable citizens.  

Bottom line: Measure L is a game changer for Turlock. In part two of my editorial next Saturday, I will tackle the reasons why residents in assessment districts (those Turlock residents who pay a higher property tax for their neighborhood streets) should also vote for this critical measure. 

In the meantime, visit www.stanislaus-localroadsfirst.com/turlock  to learn more about this initiative. After reviewing the measure, I hope you join me — along with the entire Turlock City Council, every Stanislaus County elected official, the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, countless Chambers of Commerce, both the Stanislaus County Republican and Democrat Parties, and even the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association — in voting YES for Measure L.

 

 

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