How the politicos got us on Measure W

April 2018

Meanwhile, Who is Looking Out for SSF Taxpayers?

Dear fellow South San Francisco resident and taxpayer, I have a question for you: Do you remember the time you voted for a 30 year, half cent sales tax increase to pay for a new civic center with a new police station and library? I don’t either and that’s because we didn’t. There is no other way to put it: we have been conned….again. The City Council, led by the City Manager, put Measure W on the ballot specifically to realize their ambitious plan for this new construction project but didn’t tell us honestly that that was what the measure was actually for. This is a classic “bait and switch” tactic and we fell for it.

I think it’s fair to say that most hard working taxpayers realize that city services and civic improvements cost money and that it is a cost we are willing to bear in the interest of quality of life in our city. So if you are a group of easily led, aged and/or naive City Council members, following the lead of a driven City Manager for whom SSF is a temporary stop in an upwardly mobile career arc, you take advantage of this taxpayer good will to raise the revenue for your ambitious construction plans. In a nutshell, that is what has been done to us, the taxpaying citizens of South San Francisco.

How did they do this? Although these government officials new all along that a new civic center was the real goal, they couched the wording of Measure W in the voter guide in such a way as to disguise their real plan and make it sound as though we were voting for general upgrading of city services and quality of life. Using buzz phrases like “fixing potholes”, “preventing streets from falling into further disrepair”, and “enhancing programs for seniors and the disabled” etc, the voter guide never once mentions that we’re actually voting for a bloated civic center project. I cannot stress this enough: it is crystal clear that the City Manager, in cahoots with the City Council, wanted to raise funds for a new civic center and Measure W was how they managed to do it. But just in case you have forgotten, here is how it was presented in the voter guide:

“As residents, we care about public safety and enhancing the quality of life in South San

Francisco. That is why we are voting YES on W. YES on W ensures our City can maintain rapid 911 emergency response times for police, fire safety services, neighborhood patrols, and crime prevention and gang suppression programs without worrying about public safety budget cuts.

YES on W improves the quality of life in South San Francisco by maintaining our streets that are in need of over $18 million in repairs, fixing potholes, and preventing our roads from falling into further disrepair.

YES on W maintains and enhances recreational and educational programs for senior citizens and disabled residents.

YES on W provides quality services for residents of all generations! YES on W expands safe recreational and library spaces for seniors and students, including after school and summer programs for youth and teens so important to keeping them off the street, out of trouble, and away from gangs and drugs!

YES on W keeps our taxpayer dollars LOCAL to fund OUR services and priorities! We need local control for local needs. Let’s keep OUR money in South San Francisco to maintain and enhance our quality of life, our services, and our community.

Measure W is fiscally accountable, including: Independent Citizens’ Oversight; no tax increases without voter approval; mandatory financial audits; and public reporting to ensure funds are spent on OUR priorities. By law, ALL funds from Measure W must stay in South San Francisco.”

As you can plainly see, ANY mention of the civic center project is conspicuously and quite intentionally absent. Our city officials new that selling an overblown construction project like their dream civic center would never fly with the voters if the voters knew of the real plan for the Measure W funds. And sadly, even the funds generated by Measure W are not going to be enough to cover this massive project, much less any of the purposes asserted in the voter guide.

In the November 25th, 2017 edition of the San Mateo Journal…well after the the passage of Measure W…an article about the civic center project states, “A majority of the funding for the center, proposed on city property near El Camino and Antoinette Lane, will be generated through Measure W, the city’s half-cent sales tax. [City Manager] Futrell said the project is expected to cost as much as $172 Million and the funding not covered by the tax will come from other city funds or private donations.” So they were well aware of the cost of this project long before Measure W was passed, and also knew that even the considerable funds generated by Measure W were very likely not going be enough to cover their grandiose civic center project. Quite clearly, everything stated in the voter’s guide meant to persuade us to pass Measure W was in fact a blatant subterfuge. There never was any intention of using the funds for “maintaining our streets”, or “fixing potholes” or “improving the quality of life” of the citizens of South San Francisco, except of course for a new city hall for our bureaucrats. Yes, it certainly improves their quality of life!

In a letter to ESC dated March 22, 2018, regarding Measure W and the civic center project, SSF resident Elise Warner points at that the rules were quietly changed to pass the Measure W from 2/3 to a simple majority because the City’s own polling showed that the initiative would not pass otherwise. As it was, the measure “….passed underwhelmingly in an off-year election, when the lowest voter turnout guarantees to pass unpopular tax increases. The community was never told it was for a library and a civic center and how much it was going to cost.” She goes on to say, “There was not ONE Town Hall Meeting ever PRIOR to discuss how the community was going to spend the money or that there was even going to be a sales tax increase to pay for it or that it was a planned project. The community at neighborhood meetings prior to the surprise Measure W initiative, expressed a long held desire for a new swimming pool at Orange Park. We’ve wanted one for over 20 years to replace the crumbling old pool. I think the community would rather have a new pool than a library.” She adds, “We are surrounded by libraries, why can’t we renovate the ones we have?” Regarding the City’s recent call for citizen input on the new project she states, “Now, after the fact, the City wants the community’s opinion, like it matters.” She ends her letter with, “More political tactics imposed on our small City courtesy of the politico City Manager and our aging City Council who have lost touch with working families about what is important in modern life.”

What about the lack of local parks, and the disrepair of the ones we DO have? Currently there is a petition circulating that states, “Residents in the Sunshine Gardens neighborhood have vocally petitioned for a local park for years and in recent years have watched their area become more congested with high density building creating more traffic congestion and they are left wondering – where are the kids to play? Where is their local park?” The simple ugly truth is, local parks don’t look impressive on the resume of upwardly mobile politicians…certainly not compared to shiny new Biotech buildings, state-of-the-art civic centers and the like.

By the way, what about those Biotech companies that our local officials are so fond of….the ones whose employees are causing huge traffic congestion and the housing development explosion….why aren’t they asked to help pay for the new civic center and library? Why are they not asked to contribute to a solution to the housing and traffic issues which they, along with our local officials, have created? After all, the Biotech companies and the city officials who are so love-struck over them, are the cause of the problems in the first place. Why do these bureaucrats always come to us, the taxpayer, for the funds?

Sadly, this is not the first time we voters have been duped by our local officials….and if we don’t start paying very close attention to these dodgy bureaucrats and what they are doing with our money….it won’t be the last. For a recent gold plated example of mismanagement of our tax payer dollar we need to go no further than Measure J, passed a just a few short years ago. Heralded by a grand sales pitch from city officials that touted improvement to our schools, the episode resulted in a court trial for the mismanagement of the funds. Along the way there were huge cost overruns, with the Measure J Citizen Oversight Committee strongly recommending an investigation of “misappropriation of funds”, a forensic audit that found an “$11 million shortage to complete projects”, “questionable practices used by District Representatives”, and probably the most depressing aspect of the episode, the building of substandard classrooms which had a lifespan of ten years….far shorter than the 40 year lifespan of the bonds issued to pay for them. After all, the upgrading of the “brick and mortar” classrooms was what Measrure J was supposed to be all about!

What is particularly annoying about this lamentable Measure J episode is that many of the bureaucrats responsible for this boondoggle, went on to higher office and were never held accountable for the fiasco.There are even several of those officials directly involved in the planning of this new civic center…and by the way, do you seriously think this new project will be completed at, or under budget? I think most of us have enough experience observing these massive government projects to know the answer to that.

So what lessons can we learn from this lamentable episode? There are at least two takeaways that come to mind.

The first is that the next time our city officials ask for a tax increase just remember this: no matter how high minded they make the purpose sound or how rosy a picture they try to paint, if the revenue generated by the tax is going into the general fund there is very likely some sort of shenanigans involved and we need to vote unequivocally NO!

The second is the recognition that, unfortunately, it all comes back to us the taxpayer, and I submit to you, that is the real source of the problem. We have allowed this to happen again and again and have never held politician’s tender feet to the fire. We are ultimately responsible for what these bureaucrats are doing to us, and with our money. We are simply not watching them and holding them accountable. They know this and that’s why it continues. The fact is, we let these charlatans run roughshod over us and we do nothing about it. Yes folks…..we have no one to blame but ourselves….and that’s what hurts the most.


Do not be duped again! Sign the petition to STOP the massive development proposed for the PUC property. Say NO to 6-12-story buildings in and near our residential neighborhoods!

Measure W propaganda – Don’t be fooled again!

Bus Tax survery results 2013

Who are the main actors behind Measure W?

Mark Nagales

Mike Brosnan

Kristy Camacho

Major donors include:

Karyl Matsumoto

Mark Addiego


  1. Linda Gomez April 16, 2018 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    That survey looks nice, but guess what? The City was ALREADY funding these programs. We voted to allow a 2nd Costco to pay for the police pension wen they had to hire a policeman and when we had the gangs ‘problem’.

    We are a small town, all the building doesn’t help fund the infrastructure, does it? More BS, sorry.

    Ask for the survey polling that asked whether the community would fund a new library,and repeatedly said NO

  2. […] in favor continues to be a pretty strong topic among many in our community as this article on SSFResidents4SmartGrowth website explores. With a thought to the City’s surveys Kerry M shared this memorable […]

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