Letters to the Editor, Sept. 18

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Sidewalks, yes; ‘wanton disregard for safety,’ no

EDITOR: I’m writing regarding the editorial about officers writing tickets to bikes on sidewalks (“City Cracks Down on Unruly Animals, People,” Sept. 11). It is 100 percent legal to ride your bike on the sidewalk.

Sonoma: Bikes are allowed on sidewalks but may not be operated “at such speed or in such manner as evidences willful, wanton or reckless disregard of the safety of other pedestrians in the vicinity.”

Brannon Fetzer


Missing Nita

EDITOR: As a friend of Nita Rothschild, I have been disturbed by the way she was represented during her murder trial “(Rothschild Defense Claims Emotional Abuse,” Aug. 24). Sadly, she is not here to defend herself or share her side of the story.

While we understand why her husband and murderer blamed the victim for his own benefit, those of us who knew Nita remember a lovely and calm woman who was soft spoken and kind.

We miss enjoying a glass of wine and appetizers with Nita at Tuesday night markets, we miss meeting up for morning coffee at Starbucks or lunch at Saddles, we miss Nita’s welcoming smile at holiday parties, and we miss joining Nita for a walk on the beautiful trails around Sonoma.

Precious are our memories of Nita - a beautiful woman who is no longer able to enjoy the pleasures of life in Sonoma.

Julie Bickford


Will parks tax put us at sales-tax ceiling?

EDITOR: It’s raining sales tax measures in Sonoma County. Proposals to add sales taxes to pay for everything from parks, to fire stations to public employee pensions are piling up across the county! There’s just one problem. As the 2016/17 Civil Grand Jury Report, entitled “County Sales Tax Limitations,” noted: We have run out of runway for countywide sales tax measures.

Statewide, sales tax is limited by law to 7.25 percent and counties or cities can add a maximum of 2 percent additional taxes for local purposes for a total allowable sales tax of 9.25 percent. If any jurisdiction in the county hits this 9.25 percent cap then the County is precluded from raising additional sales taxes on a countywide basis.

Cotati currently has a 9.125 percent sales tax rate and Sebastopol is at 8.875 percent with the cities of Healdsburg, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Sonoma at 8.625 percent.

The County has decided to replay the 0.125 percent County Parks measure that failed last year and is proposing this time that it be a countywide sales tax. If it is successful, that will trigger Cotati’s ceiling and the County will be unable to levy any further countywide sales taxes. Cotati will also lose the ability to levy future sales taxes for that city’s specific needs.

Regardless of whether or not the park measure passes, the newly proposed fire department 0.25 percent sales tax would run afoul of the ceiling even if approved by voters because it would cause Cotati’s sale tax to exceed 9.25 percent.

There is a way to preserve the County and cities’ flexibility to put sales tax measures to voters. The County can ask the Governor for an exemption. This is not unprecedented, 5 of 58 counties in California have asked for and received such exemptions. The Grand Jury report - to which the County has not responded that I am aware - specifically recommended three actions:

That the Board of Supervisors develop a formal process to work with cities and other taxing entities to coordinate future sales tax measures to ensure that revenues are maximized across all jurisdictions.

That the Supervisors initiate the process of filing a request for an exemption from the 2 percent ceiling.

That the Supervisors adopt a policy requiring that new sales tax measures submitted to voters be accompanied by a statement showing how the funding matches the Board’s funding priorities or, if not, why the priorities are being revised.

With the County, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Petaluma and fire districts all considering sales tax measures it seems that the Civil Grand Jury report was timely and deserves a response from the Board of Supervisors. At the very least citizens should know that, as it stands now, there is only room for a countywide 0.125 percent sales tax increase and any vote to approve a county wide sales tax that exceeds this limit might be unenforceable unless the County obtains a retroactive waiver.

Matt Stone

Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury

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