Modesto council ponders road-fix tax

Modesto's City Council on Tuesday could decide to take a second crack at asking voters for a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for road repairs.

Stanislaus County voters rejected that proposition in November 2006 amid fears that cities wouldn't manage the money well.

City and county leaders have since revised their pitch and want to take it to voters in November.

Ceres endorsed the request last week.

The new version carries a 20-year sunset instead of 30 years. It also aims to distribute cash among the cities more fairly than the first proposal.

It could raise $700 million to fix roads over 20 years if voters like the plan and approve it by a two-thirds majority.

The council has an unusually busy schedule for an election night. Normally, the council postpones meetings that are scheduled on the same day as a city election.

Fine stacking also on docket

In addition to the sales tax endorsement, the council is set to vote on revisions to the city's municipal code that would allow police officers to stack fines for multiple code violations on a single ticket.

That was common practice in the Police Department until last year. But City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood halted the practice when she determined the code did not permit it.

Lumping fines together drew criticism from some City Council members last fall when they learned some residents received tickets charging them hundreds of dollars for relatively modest animal code violations, such as letting an unlicensed dog out of a house without a leash.

One woman was charged $600 -- six separate $100 fines for animal code violations that did not include vicious behavior. Stanislaus County, by contrast, allows multiple violations to go on a single citation, but it caps total fines at $300, according to the county code.

The council and Police Department have since taken steps to address serious animal code violations, such as dog attacks, with heftier penalties. One proposal would label dog viciousness a misdemeanor offense.

Council members generally support allowing police to stack the citations. The practice is identical to an officer pulling over a speeding driver and issuing a ticket for other vehicle code violations, such as not having a license.

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

Related stories from Modesto Bee