Means for Democracy (Tools for Better Self-Governance)

Building an Environmentally Sustainable, Spiritually Fulfilling, and Socially Just Community.
Ballot Recommendations About Us Issues in Milpitas, CA How can I help?

Most city revenues depend on a strong local economy. By maintaining and building infrastructure (like schools and transit), we can recruit and retain local businesses. By keeping money in the local economy, our local economy remains strong.

After reducing City staff by 20% - 25%, the Council continues to rely on a recovering economy to replenish City coffers. Instead of hoping an improving economy will solve our financial problems, we could press for one money-saving and two revenue-enhancing changes that would help balance our budget and restore services.

One potential source of savings overlooked by our Council is a single-payer healthcare system that offers universal coverage. Not only would our community benefit with a healthier population, the City government could save millions of dollars on health care costs for our employees.

Secondly, we could press to reform Prop. 13 which is largely responsible for financial problems in Milpitas and the State. Prop. 13 is both un-democratic and creates loopholes that companies exploit to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The burden of making up the difference falls on homeowners. Let's support a statewide effort to level the playing field. (See Free-Loaders #11 below.)

Third, we should recover costs that huge corporations dump on our community and environment. People and local businesses pay to have our trash hauled away. But huge corporations that create polluting products are permitted to dump their trash in our community without charge. If they pay for their trash like the rest of us, we can raise revenues needed to restore City staff and services that have been cut over the past several years.

Recover Costs from Polluters and Free-Loaders

Let's press for a public process to craft one or more ballot measures to recover costs from polluters and other free-loaders. Residents, local business owners, and City staff can work together in selecting which revenue streams they prefer. Below is a preliminary list to start the discussion. A mere 1% or 2% fee on such products will pay for some of their societal and environmental costs without hurting local businesses. Most of the following could be called "pollution fees". The dual objective is to 1) raise funds for public services and 2) reduce costs to our community and environment by discouraging certain products. After a community discussion about which fees to implement, a simple majority vote of the citizens would make it official. Here is a suggestion: divide the potential fees into 3 categories - those the community generally endorse (like carbon fuels), those where the vote could go either way, and those with less than a 50% chance of passing. Then place all 3 categories as separate measures on the ballot.

Recover Costs from Polluters

  1. Diesel fuel sold in Milpitas (40 carcinogens, PM2.5/asthma, NOx, CO2) (Toxic pollution causes asthma, lung disease and cancer.) The evidence has compelled government action.
  2. Gasoline (1% sales tax will generate about $500,000/yr: $0.04/gallon x 600 gals./year x 20,000 cars) (National averages: 21.0 m/gal. X 534 gals. = 11,218 miles) (carcinogens, CO2, energy insecurity)
  3. Tax carbon emission from Natural Gas
  4. Fracking pollution fee on Natural Gas
  5. Place a small sales tax on carbon fuels (gasoline, diesel, and natural gas). A 2% sales tax on gasoline sold in Milpitas would generate $1M in revenue to the City. A 2013 poll showed 72% of Americans had a favorable response to a carbon tax.) (Boulder, CO, has used its carbon tax since 2006 to pay for efforts that encourage energy efficiency in homes and buildings, a switch to renewable energy, and a reduction in vehicle miles traveled.) A revenue-neutral carbon tax is favored by 2/3s of Americans; revenue would be returned to the citizens of Milpitas.
  6. Diesel engines registered in Milpitas (40 carcinogens, PM2.5/asthma, NOx, CO2)
  7. Sodas containing "caramel color" - According to a Swedish study from Lund University recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a single daily can of soda increases a man's risk of prostate cancer by 40 percent.
  8. High-fructose corn syrup (linked to obesity and pregnancy/baby problems).
  9. Sodas and other sweetened beverages are linked to obesity. State Senator Monning proposed a one cent per ounce tax and the consumption of sweetened beverages in SB-622.
  10. MSG (linked to obesity and headaches).
  11. Bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides. (European Union bans the world's most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees.)
  12. Endangered-species-killing pesticides chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion. (Chlorpyrifos banned by Hawaii.)
  13. Atrazine (environmentally toxic chemical banned in Europe).
  14. Roundup weed killer (glyphosate causes autism, birth defects, kidney problems, liver problems, cancer, other health problems, and destroys and/or alters the microbial biodiversity of the soil).
  15. 100% tax on barbecue briquette lighter fluid and pre-fueled briquettes (Los Angeles bans both).
  16. Fox News ( misinforms viewers and pollutes our democracy). (2014 link) (2017 link) ("The Brainwashing of My Dad") (2-minute Thom Hartmann version) ("Fear & Unbalanced: Confessions of a Fox News Hitman"). "Fox News is a hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists — it’s designed to turn us against each other, risking life and death consequences, to provide cover for the corruption that’s rotting our government and hollowing out our middle class." - Elizabeth Warren, May 2019
  17. GMO foods, especially corn and soybeans (Europe bans them; see the movie "Food, Inc.").
  18. Meat with high bacteria count (i.e. most meat and chicken sold in America).
  19. Meat (e.g. up to 80% of pork produced in the U.S.) treated with the chemical additive ractopamine, a livestock growth drug so dangerous that 160 countries worldwide have banned it.
  20. Tuna caught off the Pacific coasts that are tainted with cancerous Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 (from Fukushima pollution).
  21. Bisphenol-A, (BPA is used in many drink containers and banned in WA, MD, WI, MN, CT) (Estrogen-mimicking BPA, while mostly banned in Canada and Europe, is widespread in the American food supply; and Americans, particularly gun-loving Americans, seem to have a strong affection for foods that contain it. Read the Article)
  22. Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI) class of anti-depressant drugs (Prozac, Paxil, etc.). (Lewis Mehl-Madrona, Peter R. Breggin, M.D. Claim SSRIs don't work and lead to more suicides.)
  23. Alcohol (Alcohol-related accidents, injuries, hospitalizations and damages cost about $1000/Calif. resident)
  24. Cell-phone driving: The National Safety Council estimates that at least 1.6M crashes (28% of the total) are caused each year by drivers using cellphones. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently noted that driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
  25. Cigarette fee/tax on each pack (supported by most voters in March 2012 before tobacco company propaganda killed statewide proposition)
  26. $5/pack on cigarettes with sweet or candy flavors.
  27. Gun shootings are now the third leading cause of death for kids ages 1 to 17. (Instead of a direct fee, impose an insurance requirement as we do with cars.)
  28. 2% fee on pool chemicals and lawn chemicals.
  29. Five Messed-Up Things That Are in Your Food - Azodicarbonamide in Bread, Plastic Microbeads, Brominated Vegetable Oil in Soft Drinks and Beverages, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Artificial Sweeteners in Soft Drinks, and Transglutaminase Also Known as "Meat Glue" Learn more.
  30. Chemicals that disrupt young brains - heavy metals, fluoride, chemicals like PCBs, toluene, solvents, flame retardants, BPA, phalates and pesticides. While autism rates in Europe have remained virtually flat for the last decade, the US has seen them rise from 1 in 10,000 in 1981 to 1 in 68 in 2014. Many studies point to the prevalence of toxins in our environment as the culprit.
  31. Gas-powered lawn mowers without catalytic converters (noise and air pollution).
  32. Classic cars without catalytic converters. [Just because they have polluted for the past 40 years does not guarantee unaccountability in the future.]
  33. Packaged foods without GMO labelling (primarily affects GMO-containing foods).
  34. Hormones in beef (banned in Europe).
  35. rBGH used on dairy cows and in their milk (banned in Europe).
  36. Processed meats are ranked as group 1 carcinogens
  37. Mylar foil balloons are not just an environmental pollutant, they also cause short circuits on high-voltage lines that often shut down electricity supply to people and businesses.
  38. Noise from non-essential helicopters flying over Milpitas is an externalized cost of those flights that we must endure, but not for free!
  39. Part of why housing is so expensive in the Bay Area is foreign investment. Ownership rules need to be examined to see where additional fees could dampen foreign demand.
  40. [Suggestions welcomed.]
  41. [Suggestions welcomed.]

Like cigarettes, many of the above could be classified as public nuisances under California Penal Code, TITLE 10. OF CRIMES AGAINST THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY, Section 370:
Anything which is injurious to health, ... so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by an entire community or neighborhood, or by any considerable number of persons, ... is a public nuisance.

Recover Costs from Free-Loaders (As our society has evolved, some suggestions below have become moot.)

  1. Fee on products sold in non-recyclable packaging.
  2. Single-use plastic shopping bags (banned by San Jose and most cities in the County).
  3. Take-out food containers made of Styrofoam/EPS (banned by San Jose and other cities in the County).
  4. Fast food (leads to obesity; use revenue to support locally-grown fruits and veges).
  5. Follow the lead of Oakland by passing a tax on fast food restaurants to pay for litter clean-up. The most common items found in Milpitas creeks are plastic bags and convenience food items like cups, straws, lids and wrappers.
  6. Devise a wealth tax appropriate to our area. At the national level, Elizabeth Warren wants to tax individual wealth that exceeds $50M. While most residents pay a wealth taxes in the form of property taxes, some residents and corporations hold wealth to the detriment of our community. Why is it that average working people every year must pay an annual tax on the value of their primary asset (their home), when wealthier people whose savings are not in their home but in their stock portfolios or overseas bank accounts don't have to do the same?
  7. Follow San Francisco's lead in creating an “Overpaid Executive Tax” (2020's Proposition L) that charges any company that does business in San Francisco and has a top executive earning over 100 times more than their “typical local worker,”
  8. Milpitas roads are breaking down at the rate of $2M/yr, so let's charge heavy vehicles for their extra wear on our roads.
    • Overweight garbage trucks - Many streets are weight limited to prevent premature failure. Some cities report their limits are regularly broken by garbage trucks.
    • Charge an annual fee on vehicles weighing over 5,000 lbs for the added wear/damage they cause our roads.
  9. Cannabis (San Jose charges a 10% tax on medical cannabis; eventually legalize, tax and control like alcohol) (The New York Times calls for legalization citing health and justice reasons.) (For a wide-ranging discussion of medical cannabis listen to part 1 and part 2 of the Thom Hartmann Program from Dec. 18, 2014, that includes stories concerning cancer, asthma, pain relief, problems sleeping, epilepsy and MS.)
  10. Excessive electricity fee - The city of Arcata imposes a 45% electricity tax on households (except for medical reasons) that use three times the amount of a typical home (in order to discourage - or profit from - commercial cannabis grow houses).
  11. Plastic water bottles - Concord, Massachusetts banned the sale of plastic water bottles in 2013.
  12. Antibacterial soap offers no no provable benefit, but increases the risk of scrambling your kid's hormones and increases the likelihood of drug-resistant flesh-eating bacteria, drug-resistant pneumonia, and drug-resistant food poisoning.
  13. Raise taxes on corporate-owned and other business properties. Since the passage of Prop. 13 in 1976, there's been a change in who bears the burden of local real estate taxes. In 1977-78, the valuation in Santa Clara County, and with it the tax burden, was divided about 50/50 between single family residential/condominium owners and business/other collective ownership. In the Santa Clara County Assessors's Annual Report covering 2005-2006 fiscal year, that division has shifted to 67% of the tax burden falling on the home owner and only 33% falling on other holders.
  14. Annual parking space fee; may be limited to commercial properties in active use.
  15. Parking fee at the new BART station.
  16. Unlike homeowners and businesses, churches do not pay property taxes. That means the rest of us are paying their share of City services including police and fire protection. Perhaps it's time for them to pay at least some portion of taxes.
  17. 20-cents-a-pack fee on cigarettes to help cover the cost of removing them from streets and creeks. (Done in SF)
  18. Require gun liability insurance, like we do for car owners, or pay an annual fee to help deal with gun deaths in Milpitas.
  19. Walmart welfare tax. On average, each Walmart store costs taxpayers $1.1M in subsidies, mostly in foodstamps and Medicaid. We can require big-box retailers to pay a minimum wage of $15/hour or more.
  20. Public Health fee on all companies that don't provide paid sick leave for their employees (required of employers in 2 states and 17 cities).
  21. Commercial property transfer fee (helps compensate for Prop. 13 loophole. San Jose has had a "city transfer tax" for over 30 years, typically split 50/50 by buyers and sellers. There's also a County transfer tax which is less.)
  22. Consumer batteries that cannot be re-charged.
  23. Since many transnational corporations pay little or no corporate tax, a small loophole-plugging fee may be appropriate (especially for companies that have off-shored their headquarters to avoid paying U.S. taxes).
  24. Wall Street Speculation Tax - A half penny per dollar tax on financial transactions will generate $300B annually, or $64M/year for Milpitas if shared equally by population.
  25. Organic regenerative agriculture sequesters huge amounts of CO2, while "conventional" agriculture does not - so tax the latter.
  26. Lumber that is not sustainably harvested.
  27. Portland City Council Passes Tax on Companies with High CEO/worker ratio by Judy Bertelsen : Revenue from the new tax, which seeks to address income inequality, is intended to be used to pay for programs for the homeless.
  28. Housing prices are high in our area partly because of big banks and foreign investment So, place a tax on foreign buyers of CA real estate who are using it as a way to invest and not a place to live.
  29. Charge a "speculator's tax" that discourages landlords from allowing houses to remain unoccupied.
  30. Create a blight tax on vacant parcels. Oakland voters approved Measure W, the Oakland Vacant Property Tax, which establishes an annual tax of $3,000 to $6,000.
  31. [Suggestions welcomed.]
  32. [Suggestions welcomed.]

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