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A path forward

Measure G-20 is the affordable road to SLO city's COVID-19 recovery

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COVID-19 has slammed the brakes on our local economy, sending our community into a vicious economic and psychological tailspin.

The resulting whiplash could be chronic, long-term pain—more lost jobs, more shuttered businesses, more homelessness, and an alarming degradation in San Luis Obispo's quality of life—unless we pull together and help ourselves.

That's why we urge SLO city voters to approve Measure G-20 on this fall's ballot.

Measure G-20 is affordable and strategic. It calls for a net increase of 1 percent in the local sales tax rate—a mere penny on the dollar added to the existing half-cent rate.

Thanks to the high volume of visitors to our city, the cost is spread out and the pennies add up quickly—to a projected $20 million annually that will bolster city services and programs that residents have identified as crucial to our quality of life, among them:

• Support for economic recovery.

• Retention of local businesses and assistance with job creation.

• Preparedness for wildfire and natural disasters.

• Timely responses to public health and safety emergencies.

• Repair of potholes, reduction in traffic congestion, and expansion of bike lanes.

• Preservation of open space and natural areas as well as protection of creeks from pollution.

• Implementation of climate action policies.

• Support for homeless prevention programs and local nonprofits that assist our most vulnerable neighbors.

While much of SLO's recovery will depend on the ingenuity and perseverance of the private sector, success hinges on high-functioning city services for all of SLO's residents. This is another reason Measure G-20 represents a crucial step forward toward our collective recovery.

And because visitors pay 70 percent of sales tax revenue, Measure G-20 is the fairest and best way to invest in our city without overburdening residents.

It's also affordable. For example, if a family spends $25 at the hardware store, the extra tax will be a mere 25 cents. Collectively, those 25 cents will add up and enable the city to fulfill its responsibilities to all residents, including our most vulnerable neighbors.

Measure G-20 revenues will support a broad array of programs including after school child care, homeless services, affordable housing, and more. Meanwhile, essential purchases like groceries, prescription medications, medical devices, gasoline, utilities, and housing will remain exempt from this sales tax.

Consider that family and its $25 hardware store bill: If that family were to use the city's after school child care, they could save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on services that they might not be able to afford if they had to hire a babysitter every day, or use private child care facilities.

In short, Measure G-20 spreads the costs more fairly.

In addition, Measure G-20 guarantees local control. We will not have to share the money or the decision-making with Sacramento or Washington.

Built into Measure G-20 is a high level of transparency and accountability: Measure G-20 requires an independent oversight committee, annual audits, and community input to ensure wise spending. If the City Council fails to manage it responsibly, voters can repeal Measure G-20.

Opponents of Measure G-20 acknowledge that these are extraordinary times, and that the pandemic has damaged our community's economic and social well-being. But they have not offered a credible path forward.

Indeed, these are extraordinary times, and extraordinary times demand action. Measure G-20—a mere penny on the dollar—is an affordable path forward, a way to help ourselves, and to control our destiny.

After all, San Luis Obispo's remarkable quality of life is not an accident. It's the product of our residents' strength, compassion, and resiliency, and it requires continuous investment.

Please join us and vote yes on Measure G-20 for a healthy San Luis Obispo. Δ

Kevin Harris is managing artistic director of SLO Repertory Theatre. Hillary Trout is chief financial officer of iFixit and Dozuki. Eric Veium is chair of the SLO Climate Coalition. The authors represent SLO Citizens for Measure G, a coalition of business and civic leaders passionate about San Luis Obispo's long-term vitality. To see who is endorsing Measure G-20, and for answers to frequently asked questions, please go to slomeasureg.com.

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