Setting the record straight: Sales tax, homelessness and cops
Not to tread on voiceofsandiego.org’s fact-checking territory, but three bits o’ news today need some clarification:
* Folks have been tweeting about a comment from Lincoln Club president and No on D committee chairperson T.J. Zane on Fox 5 News this morning. Zane said that Prop. D’s half-cent sales-tax increase will impact families who can barely afford groceries. Mayor Jerry Sanders, who supports the ballot measure, countered that groceries aren’t taxed. That’s true. The California Board of Equalization has a handy list of what’s taxed and what’s not taxed. Food-wise, here’s what’s exempt from sales tax:
Cereal and cereal products, milk, milk products and anything that contains milk, meat and meat products, fish and fish products, eggs and egg products, vegetables and vegetable products, fruit and fruit products, spices and salt, coffee and coffee substitutes, tea, cocoa and cocoa products, sugar and sugar products, baby foods, bakery products, marshmallows, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, coconut, flavoring extracts, flour, gelatin, jelly powders, mustard, nuts, peanut butter, sauces, soups, syrups, yeast cakes, olive oil, bouillon cubes, meat extracts, popcorn, honey, jams, jellies, mayonnaise, popsicles and snow cones, all beverages whether liquid, frozen, powdered or concentrate (carbonated drinks are taxed).
* This morning on KPBS, anchor Dwane Brown said San Diego Police will be allowed to start ticketing the homeless for illegal lodging. That’s not quite accurate. According to the terms of an amended settlement—that’s yet to be approved by a federal judge—between the city of San Diego and attorneys representing a group of homeless people, police can ticket someone in the Downtown area only if there’s a shelter bed available Downtown and the person refuses to take advantage of it. Right now, there are no emergency shelter beds in San Diego for general-population adult males, except when the city’s winter shelter is open. Currently, in Downtown San Diego, the street population exceeds shelter beds by roughly 1,000 people, according to a survey conducted last month. There are a little more than 500 beds planned for Downtown, but it’ll be at least five years before they’re all available. So, in other words, it’ll be a long, long time before a police officer can ticket someone for refusing shelter between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.
* A story in today’s U-T says that San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne has proposed laying off “108 police officers, 30 detectives, 20 sergeants, two lieutenants, a captain and seven dispatchers.” That’s not accurate. According to a list of proposed budget reductions that Lansdowne made available to the media (I only have a hard copy but will try to get a digital version), only 108 sworn police officers will lose their jobs. The reductions of a captain, two lieutenants, 20 seargants and 30 detectives come from cutting positions that are currently vacant. One dispatcher will be laid off and six vacant dispatcher positions will be elimintaed.
Regardless, laying off 108 officers will be a hit to public safety. Lansdowne said yesterday that he’s proposed closing two of the department’s 10 stations and officers currently assigned to special units—like the Homeless Outreach Team, Gaslamp bike patrol and gang suppression unit—would be reassigned to regular patrol. While San Diego indeed has a low crime rate—we’re the sixth safest big city in the U.S.—Lansdowne said yesterday that if he’s forced to make these cuts, “The crime rate is going to move if we start losing more people.”