Decision pending on transportation tax vote

03/16/2014 4:55 PM

03/16/2014 4:56 PM

A telephone survey gauging people’s attitudes toward a transportation tax wrapped up Sunday, and feedback could help leaders decide Wednesday whether to put the matter before voters in November.

Stanislaus County supervisors and all nine city councils have endorsed the idea, which would bump sales tax throughout the county by a half-cent for transportation projects. That high-level support is considered crucial to Wednesday’s decision, but so are results of polling 600 people last week.

“They’re going to be hot off the press when I present the information Wednesday,” said Carlos Yamzon, executive director of the Stanislaus Council of Governments. He will have been briefed by the polling company, Oakland-based EMC Research, the day before.

StanCOG leaders say the tax could raise $970 million over 25 years, with 47 percent slated for road repair, 47 percent for new expressways and 6 percent for train and bicycle projects and to help senior and disabled riders.

Similar efforts failed in 2006 and 2008, the last by a whisker.

Leaders could opt to wait until their April 16 meeting to decide whether the time is right to try again. People wanting to hear the presentation and discussion Wednesday may have to wait awhile into the evening, however.

The meeting will kick off with an informal chat with U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock. Then the StanCOG policy board will go behind closed doors for an undetermined time to discuss undisclosed “anticipated litigation,” or the possibility of suing someone or being sued. The board also will discuss StanCOG’s office lease at 1111 I St. in downtown Modesto.

Most agencies accommodate the public by holding closed sessions before or after regularly scheduled meetings. But the policy board can’t meet before its public meeting Wednesday because members are expected to attend a ceremony with Denham recognizing a new volunteer van service taking military veterans to Bay Area medical clinics.

Asked why the board will not meet in private after the open session, Deputy Executive Director Rosa Park said that Yamzon said the agenda reflects “a recommendation by our legal counsel based on the subject matter.”

In other business, board members will:

• Consider a deal with the county and three cities sharing the cost of studying a future expressway linking Highway 99 near Turlock to Interstate 5 near Patterson. The South County Corridor is expected to replace West Main Street. The proposal requires $200,000 from StanCOG, $100,000 from the county, $22,000 each from Turlock and Patterson, and $6,000 from Newman for a total of $350,000 to hire a consultant for the study.
• Consider an annual process converting tax money reserved for transit to road repair money for the county and nine cities. An “unmet transit needs” analysis found bus deficiencies but rules allow the money transfer when unmet needs are deemed “not reasonable to meet.”

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