Opinion

Measure P — what’s it all about?

The election really is right around the corner and ballots are already being mailed out. In my house we’ve been deeply interested in the presidential and congressional elections, and anxiously await Nov. 3 and the results that will bring to our country. But there are vital measures that will affect us on the state and local levels as well.

As we usually do, my husband and I sort through our sample ballot material and discuss each and every ballot measure in advance, discussing the pros and cons usually reaching agreement. This year Pasadena has just one measure on the ballot. It’s called Measure P. P, like Pasadena, pretty crafty, eh? 

But when we got to Measure P things got confusing. Yes, I understand it, and I support it, but even I, who know as much or more about the need for it as anyone, find the ballot language confusing. So what I want to do here is to tell you what Measure P is and why we should all vote for it. 

Pasadena’s Charter, since 1934 has called for an annual transfer of net revenues from the power fund to the city’s general fund. In a way, it’s a payment the utility makes to the city because it doesn’t pay any taxes to the city. Another way to look at it is as a dividend the utility pays to the residents of Pasadena. And with that “dividend” we have more money to pay for city services. This annual transfer of funds has gone to the voters seven times and been supported every time. 

So why are we putting it on the ballot now?

Outside groups are challenging Pasadena’s transfer provisions on whether the portion of the electric rates is a tax and has met the requirements of voter approval called for in Proposition 218 and Proposition 26. Yes, after having been in place since the 1930s and been passed by the voters seven times, it is being challenged. So that’s why we’re putting the continuation of the transfer on the ballot. To have the voters confirm, for the eighth (and hopefully final) time, that we want these funds to be available for use in the general fund to support all city services. 

The city isn’t asking for a new tax, or an increase in an existing tax. It’s simply asking our residents to confirm and continue the annual transfer as has been occurring for over 70 years. Pasadena is 134 years old, our infrastructure needs continual repair and maintenance, like our sidewalks, streets, parks and fire stations. COVID-19 brought a $30 million financial hit to our city. The funds from the annual transfer are more important than ever to ensure we have a balanced budget and continue to provide the services our residents expect. A yes vote on Measure P means approximately $18 million a year to support city services. We have counted on these funds year after year, as set forth in the city Charter and we can’t afford to lose that money now, especially with future financial impacts from COVID-19 still unknown.

So what does the city do with the money? The answer is…..regular old Municipal Services. The money is used to support city services, parks, recreation, public safety, police and fire, programs to address homelessness, sidewalk repair, public health services, and infrastructure programs. Real bread and butter municipal work that doesn’t get a lot of press, but is essential to the quality of life we enjoy as Pasadena residents. Pasadena residents demand a lot from their local government, and they should.  Measure P will ensure we have the funds going forward to provide the levels of service you’ve come to expect. Please support our city and vote YES ON MEASURE P.

Margaret McAustin
City Council Member, District 2
Chair, Municipal Services Committee

October 16, 2020

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