Hundreds of parents packed the Marina Middle School auditorium last week to talk about cuts to public education and Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, who spoke about reforming Proposition 13, said he thought the response to his suggestions was overwhelmingly positive. That's not surprising public school parents in San Francisco are not really the demographic you worry about when you talk about raising taxes to pay for education.
And until fairly recently, I thought it was impossible to do anything worthwhile about tax policy on a statewide level. I figured the state Legislature, with its obstinate Republicans, could never launch a tax reform movement, and that passing a ballot measure to alter Prop. 13 was a long shot at the very best. I was the one telling local officials that we had to look to our own resources, right here in San Francisco.
But when I see hundreds of parents organizing around school cuts, and hundreds of Muni riders organizing around transit cuts, and tens of thousands of students organizing around cuts to higher education, I start to think: maybe there's hope.
Maybe the state has gotten so bad, the red ink so awful, that Californians will finally realize that they can't have good public services for free. And maybe they'll realize that Prop. 13 does a lot more for big commercial property owners than for homeowners, and that a split-roll measure like the one Ammiano is proposing could raise the kind of money we need for decent schools and public services.
I have to hope so.