Measure U Advisory Committee Meeting Highlights Concerns Over Accountability, Process & Power Over New Tax Revenue
In what could be a sign of increased accountability over pubic spending, Sacramento’s Measure U Community Advisory Committee yesterday deferred action on a $3 million funding request by the City Manager’s office. City staff said the funds were needed for “Community Predevelopment and Strategic Site Acquisition.”
However, several members of the Advisory Committee expressed hesitation over approving the funding request. When the $3 million dollars came up for a vote, no members expressed a desire to move forward with approval. Specifically, several members indicated the need to know the exact purpose for the funds. Additionally, members indicated a transparent approval process was also needed.
In response, City staff said the funds were for “signaling,” rather than for specific projects. Staff added that any specific projects funded by the $3 million request would come back to the Advisory Committee for review. Later, however, staff indicated that there were in fact specific projects at various stages of consideration, but did not elaborate on their scope.
The Advisory Committee voted to defer action on the funding until the next meeting on October 24th.
Funding and Questions Over Funding
Likewise, Advisory Committee members expressed concern over the unknown amount of revenue or expenses collected and spent by the city to date and in relation to Measure U. Several members indicated a reluctance to approve any funding without this piece of information. Presumably, that information is available. It is important to note that the extra tax revenues generated by Measure U go into the City’s General Fund. By design, there is no separation between the two.
Other members raised concerns over the process for vetting potential projects. Concerns centered around whether the Advisory Committee would review all Measure U related projects, or only those pre-screened by the Inclusive Economic and Community Development Investment Committee. At a prior meeting, staff indicated the Advisory Committee would, in fact, see all projects. However, yesterday’s staff report painted a different, even unclear, picture of the process.
City Staff and Investment Committee Vetting: Investment applications will be screened
by city staff and vetted with the Investment Committee. Investments of Measure U
funds will be forwarded to the Measure U Citizens Advisory Committee.
Advisory and Investment
Sacramento voters narrowly approved the Measure U sales tax increase in 2018, as an extension of a similar Measure approved in 2012. The increase went into effect in April of this year. Purchases of food, transportation, and household goods are the top 3 sources of sales tax revenue, according to a recent budget report. The tax is a general tax, meaning the funds “can be used for any municipal purpose,” according to the City’s website. While campaigning for the tax increase, Mayor Darrell Steinberg made a number of promises regarding the spending of new tax revenues.
Local activists fought for and won the creation of a new Measure U Advisory Committee, prior to the Measure’s approval. Upon approval, the City of Sacramento announced creation of yet another committee, the Inclusive Economic and Community Development Investment Committee. The Investment Committee also has influence over how Measure U related funds are spent.
Because it is a public body, the Advisory Committee must follow a public process for its decision making. On the other hand, the Investment Committee is not a public body and is not bound to follow the public process. There is also overlapping membership between the two bodies. At least 2 members of the Advisory Committee also serve on the Investment Committee.
The Investment Committee consults with the City Managers office on economic development related decisions that may or may not include funds raised by Measure U.