City's O'Keeffe Blames Chamber Of Commerce For Defeat
Dawdling, and opposition from the Chamber of Commerce are why a major tax hike was torpedoed May 18, according to City Manager Patrick O'Keeffe.
According to a post election memo Mr. O'Keeffe penned analyzing the lopsided drubbing, the measure failed because of delays in getting it on the ballot and because, "members of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors that were opposed had time to organize commercial and residential properties against the measure." The internal document, dated June 22, was distributed to a handful of select city officials, and obtained by The Tattler.
The measure, which would have established a "Landscape and Lighting District," and collect $1.2 million annually to maintain parks and streetlamps, was rejected by an overwhelming 91 percent of voters. It was the widest margin in Emeryville election history. Park and lighting costs have thus far been paid by the city's general fund. A new tax district would have freed up that money for other purposes.
Only property owners were permitted to vote in the by-mail election. Votes were weighed by the size of a voters property, such that, the preference of an office building owner was worth hundreds of times the choice of an individual homeowner.
Mr. O'Keeffe's missive is almost certain to partially disrupt the cozy relationship between to the City Hall and the Chamber. In the memo, Mr. O'Keeffe absolves himself of any resposibility for the loss and shifts the blame to the Chamber of Commerce. He previously said the Chamber supported the measure and warmly welcomed their support. O'Keeffe had earlier assured both the Chamber and the Council that voters would easily pass the tax.
Before the measure failed, the Council gave $35,000 of taxpayer funds to a political consulting firm to perform a pre-election voter survey, hoping it would build voter support.
Another Roll Of The Dice
In a related story, the council is gambling that Emeryville voters have had a change of heart. In what could prove an even more embarrassing replay, the Council has been assured that its glory project, the $95 million school bond initiative to build a "Center of Community Life" campus, will sail to victory with 65 percent of the vote. The measure will be on the ballot November 2. To help goose public support, the Council has lavished more than $1 million on campaign consultants and associated costs.