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Local Sierra Club group weighs in on Proposition H.

Local ballot Measure H is a 1/2 cent sales tax applying to all of Sonoma County. Read the details in your Voter Information Guide to the March 5, 2024 Primary Election. Measure H occupies 11 pages of the Guide. Below is a summary and some red flags to consider:

•Measure H funds priorities identified by local firefighters and fire chiefs “to address funding challenges”. It would generate $60 million annually. Does the plan reflect public input and funding priorities?

•The measure was put on the ballot by local fire districts that collected about 20,000 voter signatures. Does this represent the broader community of Sonoma County residents?

•The 1/2 cent sales tax is regressive, taking the heaviest financial toll on those least able to pay. It applies across the county and all cities regardless of where people live or ability to pay. Is this sales tax increase fair?

•Measure H is a forever tax that passes with a simple majority (50% + one). If approved, it's forever unless overturned by another ballot measure - which is hard to do. Why a simple majority rather than 2/3? For example, the Open Space District tax is 2/3 and must be renewed at regular intervals.

•Why is Measure H twice as much as the 1/4 cent sales tax for Open Space?

•Local sales taxes are capped by state law. This means Measure H could prevent other needed sales taxes from going into effect. As a forever tax, is Measure H too inflexible?

•City residents already pay for their own local fire districts (e.g. Cotati $300 property tax). Is Measure H equitable?

•The County is already receiving millions of fire funding from federal, state and other sources across several different departments. Is there transparency on what money is already being received and spent on fire resilience?

•Along with funding for firefighting, paramedic and disaster response, Measure H funds “vegetation management” – but nothing for home hardening. The most effective way to protect lives and homes from fire is home hardening and defensible space up to 100 feet. Even CalFire now admits that vegetation management is largely ineffective at reducing wind-driven fires. Does the Measure H enshrine ineffective funding priorities?

•Lastly, the Oversight Committee for Measure H has various appointees including by the Board of Supervisors, the County Fire Chiefs Association and the Fire Districts Association. Is this the right balance for achieving independent oversight?

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