This is a ‘Measure U’ Don’t Want to Vote For


By Craig Sherwood
Executive Editor,

ED NOTE: After first appearing in the Wednesday Leader, then being relegated to the back of the Sunday News Press, then having about a third of each column cut by the editor before then ultimately being fired completely, I decided to bring back the column on a ‘when I feel like writing it‘ basis.  Now that it is back here, maybe someone will actually be able to find it and read it.

I am embarrassed.  As a member of the Burbank news media, it is my job to try and be informed about what goes on here in the city.  Many times what I know, I can’t write, sometimes because I do not have the ‘smoking gun’ evidence to back it up, or because I have been told things ‘in confidence’ by the movers and shakers who run this city.  I still believe in some of those old reporter codes that the only way to get real information is to gain the trust of those who have it – and not burn them.

An example of this occurred last week when a retired Burbank Police Officer was involved in a shooting in Sun Valley.  We found out the officers name quickly and then we were asked by the police department to please not release his name by the retired officer’s request.  We have known this officer for over 20 years and I found no reason to violate his personal wishes because his name is not important.  His act of saving innocent people was.  A couple of days later a local Burbank newspaper decided to identify the officer (I still will not) and said Burbank Police Officials released his name.  Interesting that in every other story they have done they release the officials name who gave them the information ,but not this time.  This makes you think maybe the information really did not come from a Burbank Police Official who was allowed to comment.  I know that the Burbank Police Public Information Officer, Sgt. Robert Quesada, as well at the Chief, are not happy about it.  The information did not come from them, which means an end run was made to get information at any cost.

On the other hand, if the inside information is something that I feel I have a moral or professional responsibility to bring forward, I will.  If I had information about what happened in the City of Bell was going on here in Burbank I would not hesitate to report it, no matter the cost.  And while there is nothing close to Bell happening in Burbank, there is one thing that does bother me, in fact embarrassing me, because I was asleep at the switch.

So why am I embarrassed?  It’s because with the coming election (actually the election that is going on now, depending on when you mail in your ballot), I have completely dropped the ball when it comes to “Measure U.” To be absolutely honest, it was not until I saw the controversy on the Jim Carlile blog that I knew the local Burbank media (including myself) dropped the ball on this.  I went and got my ballot and had to look it up for myself.

Of course the first problem in trying to read this thing is that it is probably written by a team of lawyers who play a great game of stump the public.  Yes, when Dennis Barlow is in charge, what else would you expect? Expect diversions and misdirection.

Besides reading the blog with interest, I also talked to a couple of Burbank residents.  Most have no idea about it, but were willing to vote for it until I told them about it, and others had some thoughts that made a lot of sense.

On the outside, it looks like a way for the City to recoup money that is being lost because of what cell phones have become.  Let’s face it, people are not using their homes phones as much, while some have completely given up the service.  By extending the 7% tax to cell phones, the city would then make up the lost revenue.  For those of us like me who have both services, I was willing to pay the extra because we do need the revenue these days and it might keep other Public Works fees down.

What I did not read ‘in the fine print’ and what the blog pointed out, is this tax can be extended to any two way communications and here’s the kicker, to new technology that has not even been invented yet!  Are you kidding me?

So you know how television is now becoming ‘interactive’?  I don’t know about you people stuck with Charter Cable, but my DirecTV has interactivity.  This can now be subject to the 7% tax, which means an extra charge of about $10 a month or $120 a year.  You have an iPad or even an iPod with aps?  You know what I am getting at.

Then there is the part about technology that has yet to be invented.  Yikes, who knows what we will have in the 20 years.  Instead of taking things on a case by case basis, we will now be taxed on any whim of someone who deems something a communication device.

I was talking with a resident yesterday and he has a real problem with the money collected from this new tax just being put in the general fund.  Basically, this tax money can be used for anything! We could use it to stick another jet airplane in the ground at another park.

The 7% tax goes into the Public Works Department and it is used in theory to help maintain and replace parts of the system that decay in time.  It is a way to keep things ‘self sustaining’ and be proactive with maintenance.  But wait, there is nothing to maintain with wireless, or with future technologies that have not even been invented (yes, this means the transporter system from Star Trek, but probably not flying cars).  There is nothing brick and mortar about these items, so there is nothing to maintain.  The money will just sit in the general fund until a councilperson decides to use it for a personal earmark.  Very dangerous.

So for the 15% of you who actually decide to vote, READ Measure U (if you can) and then cast your vote against it.  When the City comes back in another election and asks us to vote on a tax that covers cell phone use ONLY, then approve it.  This kind of ballot measure in Burbank does nothing but start creating a slush fund here in Burbank and we all know what happened in Bell when they had extra money laying around.