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Letters to the Editor for February 9, 2024

Alameda Post - Letters to the Editor

Comments on Fernside Boulevard improvements

To the Editor:

Regarding the recent article, Transportation Commission Hears Fernside Update: With approximately 85% of the traffic on Fernside Boulevard going to and from Harbor Bay, the Harbor Bay residents perhaps should be included in this discussion.

It’s really between Encinal Avenue and Tideway Drive. From Encinal Avenue to High Street there are two crosswalks with stop signs. Those crosswalks provide flags that people can wave. We really do need flashing yellow lights that are on less traveled streets, one at Central Avenue and one at Garfield Avenue. Perhaps speed bumps, too—one on Central Avenue outbound towards High Street and one inbound towards Encinal Avenue. That will definitely slow down traffic.

Leave the lanes between Liberty and High Street, which are classified as section B. Leave the parked cars along the curb and the bike lane on the other side of the cars. The vast majority of people back out of their driveways. If the traffic pattern changed, many more accidents could happen. Remember the majority of residents use many delivery services. Those vans typically double park. Also on Monday, ACI has three different garbage trucks doing pickups. The street could get very clogged.

Jeanne Allen,

Measure E is unfair

To the Editor:

AUSD is again seeking an unfair parcel tax. I am a member of a group that has fought these taxes for 15 years. What makes it unfair is the cap. A building of half a million square feet or more pays the same tax as one that is a little over 27,000 square feet. While this might not be the most regressive tax in the history of mankind, it is close to it.

So why do we have the cap? We don’t know. When we asked the school board they said they could not get it passed without the cap. Huh? There are not enough owners to sway an election, and most probably do not reside in Alameda. Income taxes are not capped. In fact they are progressive. Transfer taxes are not capped either, and they are also progressive. (Which is unfortunate because they are not indexed for inflation.)

It is simply not believable that the corporate owners of large parcels cannot pay their fair share. So why the cap? The school board needs to be forthcoming on why this tax is capped!

We urge Alamedans to say no to the cap and vote no on measure E.

Edward Hirshberg,

I support Measure E — I just wish I hadn’t read it

 To the Editor:

I support Measure E the way you would love a teenager who gives you legalistic correct answers about what they are doing, but not the whole truth. I wish I hadn’t read the Measure E ballot language. I am a member of the current parcel tax oversight committee, so I have seen how the sausage is made.

My volunteer job is to review Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) compliance with the terms of the parcel tax measures. What is Measure E? As AUSD tells us, Measure E is just a combination and extension of the current Measure B1 and Measure A. It is a $0.585 per square foot parcel tax. The problem is that most of the specific language that directs how the parcel tax can be used under Measure B1 and Measure A have been removed. Vague and general ballot measure language means there is no direct line between what voters thought they were buying and how it is spent.

Explaining school finance is like giving a short course on brain surgery—it is complicated. Most school funding comes through the state based on attendance, with additional funds if the students are low income or English learners. Since school funding is based on the State economy and State revenue collection, which is volatile, this has led to dramatic ups and downs in school funding. The only way school districts can get additional funds is with a parcel tax for operations or a bond for facilities. Measure E is a parcel tax and all the revenue raised will go to AUSD. Measure E will raise about $24 million, which is about 20% of the AUSD budget.

Now, let’s take an example of how ballot measure language can affect how funds are spent. The current Measure B1 has $1.7 million allocated to close the achievement gap. I grew up in a Black public housing project in Detroit and attended a poor performing school, so I was particularly interested in how the achievement gap would be addressed. In AUSD, 36% of third graders are not reading at grade level. The language of Measure B1 allows the funds allocated to close the achievement gap to be used for professional development, so the funds are being used to reinstate five teacher training days lost in a round of budget cuts.

There is no data on how this closes the achievement gap, but use of the funds did follow the use allowed by the ballot measure language. It seemed like a missed opportunity. The latest Measure E campaign mailer says one of the uses of the funds will be to “support teachers and counselors in keeping struggling students on the right track.” I support this idea wholeheartedly, but it is vague enough to justify spending the funds on a whole array of things.

Let’s take one more example. The current Measure B1 has $1 million for Advance Placement Courses and secondary school choice. This funds Advance Placement Courses and Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), a magnet school. I attended a magnet high school in Detroit, so I see the importance of this investment in our high-performing students. In Measure E, the language is changed to “Sustaining strong academic programs in reading, writing, math, arts, and sciences, including Advanced Placement Courses.” No mention of ASTI or specific commitment to Advanced Placement courses.

Currently AUSD has no data on how many students apply for advance placement classes and what the gap is between need and availability, nor are there any academic requirements for applying for Advance Placement Courses. I don’t know what the funding for ASTI or Advance Placement Courses will be under Measure E—and the ballot measure won’t tell you.

I don’t think we do enough to fund public education. I want schools to have more funding, but I wish Measure E had more accountability for how it is spent. I am all for giving AUSD $24 million, but I am not counting on specific outcomes or programs being chosen for funding. Like that teenager borrowing your car, anything can happen. How the money is spent will depend on Superintendent Scuderi and the School Board. If particular programs or schools are important to you, then pay attention, advocate, and vote.

Joyce Boyd,

Editor’s note: Impartial information about ballot measures and candidates in the March 5 Primary election is available from our Alameda Election page.

Editorials and Letters to the Editor

All opinions expressed on this page are the author's alone and do not reflect those of the Alameda Post, nor does our organization endorse any views the author may present. Our objective as an independent news source is to fully reflect our community's varied opinions without giving preference to a particular viewpoint.

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