Alameda County Measure C for child care wins legal victory

OAKLAND — An Alameda County judge ruled that 2020’s Measure C — a half-cent sales tax measure that would provide $150 million a year for pediatric health care, education programs preschool and affordable child care – may come into effect, after two years of legal debate.

However, opponents of the Alameda County measure say they intend to appeal the decision, and an appeal could still prevent tax money from being spent. The tax has been collected since last July, but the funds are on hold pending the outcome of the legal challenge, according to county reports.

“As a society, we have failed to fully fund early care and education for decades to the detriment of providers, the workforce and families,” Kristin Spanos, chief executive, said Thursday. of First 5 Alameda County.

“The pandemic has made the challenges even more acute and deepened the inequalities that have plagued low-income families and families of color for far too long. These public resources are needed now more than ever to support and strengthen our county’s early childhood system, especially from an equity perspective,” Spanos said.

In a decision released Wednesday, Judge Jeffrey Brand rejected arguments from the Alameda County Taxpayers Association, which had challenged the validity of the measure.

The measure passed in the March 2020 primary election with about 64.35% of the vote, according to the county registrar.

Although the measure was spearheaded by current Alameda County Supervisor Dave Brown — who was the late Wilma Chan’s chief of staff at the time — it was seen as a citizens’ initiative, put on the ballot only after enough signatures have been collected to support it. .

Alameda County officials argued that because it was a citizens’ initiative, it only needed a simple majority vote to pass, which it far exceeded.

But the Taxpayers Association, represented by attorney Jason Bezis, sued the county, arguing that the measure should have been required to obtain a two-thirds majority to pass because it is in fact a county government backed ballot measure. State law requires that tax measures proposed by governments meet this threshold.

“The lead campaign officer was Dave Brown, Wilma Chan’s chief of staff. So is it really a citizens’ initiative or is it an initiative orchestrated by the county? Bezis said Thursday in an interview.

Bezis said the county attempted to pass a similar early education and child care measure in 2018, called Measure A, but failed without two-thirds support.

Bezis argues that the county, in order to pass Measure C, “reached an agreement with Oakland Children’s Hospital” to contribute more than $1 million to support the signature collection initiative and the measure of vote, with the understanding that the hospital would get 20% of the proceeds of the measure for pediatric healthcare when it passes.

“Because the county was so deeply involved in this so-called election initiative, it should be subject to the two-thirds threshold,” Bezis said.

Bezis said his clients would appeal the decision.

“This means that while this appeal is ongoing, Measure C funds will not flow to programs,” he said.

Partly because of Measure C, Alameda County now has the highest base tax rate of any county in the state, 10.25%, Bezis said. Many cities in the county have even higher rates up to 10.75%.

“The purpose of this case is to invalidate (the measure) and refund the money that was collected,” Bezis said.

Supervisor Brown did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night, nor did county attorneys.

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