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Napa Open Space District responds to criticism of proposed sales tax

Napa Open Space District responds to criticism of proposed sales tax

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Editor's Note: This is a response to a letter by Napa County Taxpayer Association President Jack Gray,critical of the proposed new sales tax to fund open space preservation. That letter is published on the same day in print, Sept. 20, and can be found online here.

The Napa County Taxpayers Association is correct that the permanent protection of Napa’s Skyline Wilderness Park is the top listed priority for the Napa Open Space District’s Measure K, the quarter-cent sales tax proposal which will be on the March 2020 ballot ("Return of the Zombie Sales Tax," Sept. 19).

The association clearly recognizes the value of Skyline Park to the community, for which we are grateful, but I am perplexed as to why they are so unconcerned about the park’s future. The land which the park occupies is owned by the state and has been leased to the county since 1980. During that time the state has attempted to sell the property for quick cash at least twice. They were only unable to do so because the county refused to let the state break the lease. Now the lease ends in just 10 years, 2030.

The state has made it crystal clear that they do not value Skyline Park, and it will be sold or leased to developers as soon as the county’s park lease expires. Just a few weeks ago the state issued a new proposal to carve out 20 acres of the park to develop dense public housing. Unless we purchase the land from the state and do it soon, Skyline Park will be lost forever.

Just-approved legislation by Senator Dodd authorizes the Napa Open Space District to purchase Skyline Park, but to do so we must have adequate funding.

The assertion in the association letter that only three of the five elected directors of the Napa Open Space District supported placing Measure K on the ballot is misleading. All five directors have publicly and repeatedly stated their strong support for the ballot measure, even though two of the directors were unable to attend the particular meeting when the formal request was made that it be placed on the ballot.

The legally binding vote by the Napa County Board of Supervisors to place Measure K on the ballot was unanimously approved by all five supervisors.

The association letter is similarly loose with the facts when they say there have been three failed measures to fund the Napa Open Space District. There has only been one measure to fund the district, in 2016. While that measure fell just short of the supermajority 66.67% approval that California requires for tax measures, the 65% voter approval it did receive would usually be considered a strong endorsement and overwhelming mandate.

The simple truth of the situation is that a vast majority of Napa County voters marked their ballot in favor of funding for the Napa Open Space District in 2016. The other two measures the association is apparently referring to were on the ballot many years before the Park and Open Space District even existed, and were for very different proposals.

As for the implication that Measure K will go on forever, it’s simply not true, Measure K will expire in 15 years. It cannot be extended or modified in the future without voter approval.

And as for my mom, she’s still not a fan of taxes, but she’s concerned about the direction of our country and the future of our community; in March 2020 she’ll be voting yes for clean water and clean air, yes for habitat for wildlife, and yes for public parks where our ever more crowded populace can recreate and seek spiritual renewal. She tells me she’ll be voting yes on Measure K.

Brent Randol, president

Napa Open Space District

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