This afternoon: Call SFBoS to demand a clean Caltrain tax

This afternoon, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will decide whether to advance the Caltrain ballot measure.  Please call if you can this afternoon (see the instructions below), and forward this to your friends/colleagues/family to call in.  Let them know how you depend on Caltrain, and that you want to see “a clean resolution that is legal and can pass.”

We need your help to get a clean measure on the ballot (and if that doesn’t happen, we need to show that there is a powerful force to keep Caltrain service alive).

Caltrain has said that without this funding it faces a potential shutdown this fall, since its revenues are being devastated by the pandemic and its public funding partners including SFMTA are facing their own budget crises. Without funding, the timing for service restoration would be unclear, and the region risks cripping traffic when the pandemic eases.

Fortunately, thanks to your demands and the glare of the public spotlight, Board President Yee and the Board of Supervisors have brought the ballot measure back from the dead. Unfortunately, the version of the ballot measure resolution that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will consider this afternoon has complicated conditions that are legally dubious. See below for an explanation of the problem and the need for a clean ballot measure.

Here’s what to do this afternoon: The section of the agenda starts at 3pm, the Caltrain tax is items 36 and 37.  There will be a land use agenda item right before the Caltrain tax starting. You can watch online here and when it is time for public comment,  call this number to comment: 1 (415) 655-0001 / Meeting ID: 146 626 3696 # #

Or, send us your email or mobile number and we will email/text you when the item is ready for comment.

If you can’t call in the middle of the afternoon, then please call your supervisor or send one more letter to the Board of Supervisors demanding a clean ballot resolution.

Why we need a clean, legal measure

The very short law that authorizes the ballot measure says that its aim is for ”net revenues from the tax to be used by the board for the operating and capital purposes of the Caltrain rail service”.  

But, the version put forward in San Francisco would use 35% million of the tax, for up to two years, for Caltrain, and put the remaining money in an escrow account, pending a supermajority vote of the board, and after that, the use of the tax is undefined unless there is an agreement of the board or a new state law to reorganize Caltrain’s governance.  <- that is complicated and pretty different from the law’s requirement for the funding to be used for Caltrain rail service

Jerry Hill, the state senator who wrote the law, says that this version does not comply with the law he wrote.  California has many anti-tax groups that litigate tax measures. A tax that is illegal would get struck down by a judge.  A ballot measure that is complicated would be harder to pass.

Friends of Caltrain supports upgrading Caltrain’s governance to meet the needs of the future. We do not support conditioning a tax which is vital to maintain and improve Caltrain service with a boat anchor of legally dubious conditions.

If you can make it, we hope to hear you on this afternoon’s call. And if this ballot measure does not go forward, we will need your help to keep Caltrain service and hold our leaders accountable to maintaining and not destroying our public services.