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Paramedic Tax Plans Presented to California Voters

The political advertisement pitching a Corte Madera tax says it's literally a matter of life and death.

"If the paramedics hadn't responded as quickly as they did, he wouldn't be with us today, because he was very close to total cardiac arrest," the ad says a Marin General Hospital doctor told Dan Osborne's wife, Angela, after he went into anaphylactic shock in June when he was stung by a yellow jacket on Christmas Tree Hill.

Paramedics responded immediately, began treatment in a heartbeat and got him to the hospital promptly.

The story, confirmed by a family member and recited on a website promoting paramedic tax Measure C on the Nov. 8 ballot, makes a potent point, and just about everybody seems to agree paramedics are a basic service the town should provide.

But Corte Madera tax foes say that basic life-saving services like paramedics should be financed by property taxes already on hand, not by extra taxes as if the program was an after-thought by officials who can't get priorities straight.

Measure C is among three paramedic tax plans on Marin's November ballot measures E and F support paramedic service in Lucas Valley, Santa Venetia and other unincorporated neighborhoods around San Rafael but is alone among the three in drawing organized opposition. Voters last year rejected measures calling for continuing similar taxes in Corte Madera, as well as measures seeking more than proposed this time in San Rafael unincorporated areas.

"This tax measure is another example of the Town Council's misplaced priorities," say tax foes in a ballot argument. "It should revise its budget and first pay for paramedic services to save our lives before funding nonessentials" like town beautification projects, the argument says. "Basic services shouldn't require parcel taxes." Signing the statement were Charles Conrad, George Topor, Stuart Jacobson and Susan Topor.

"Corte Madera should ... get its house in financial order before asking us for more money," the four argued, citing a scathing grand jury report on Corte Madera financial disarray.

But Harry Schriebman, Becky Reed, Kitty Prosser, Monica Bonny and Brandon Hemley see it differently, rebuffing a ballot argument against the measure by saying that rejecting the tax means firing six paramedics, closing the fire station on Paradise Drive, and forcing negotiations with Ross Valley for paramedic services "without the funds needed to pay for them."

"Without the tax, the advanced life support services provided by the Corte Madera Fire Department paramedics primarily for Corte Madera residents will be in jeopardy," Mayor Alexandra Cock and others warned.

Measure C asks voters to continue the town's special tax to fund paramedic service. The tax amounts to $60 per residence and $60 per 1,000 square feet of floor area for nonresidential property. The measure would allow the tax to increase $5 per year to a maximum of $75 per year. Two-thirds approval is required for passage.

Unlike Corte Madera, opposition to paramedic measures in San Rafael area neighborhoods has faded.

County supervisors put Measure E on the ballot to increase a special tax that pays for paramedic services in Lucas Valley. The measure would boost the tax from $85 per year to a maximum of $95 per year for each living unit. For owners of nonresidential structures, the tax would increase from 11 cents to 13.2 cents per square foot. The increases would be phased in over four years. Two-thirds approval is required for passage.

Measure F is identical to Measure E, except that it would pay for paramedic services in various unincorporated neighborhoods scattered beyond San Rafael city limits including Santa Venetia.

The two measures would cost residents less than proposals that went down to defeat by a handful of votes last year.

Ron Marinoff of Lucas Valley, a Marinwood civic watchdog who has closely monitored fire agency affairs for more than three decades, said that while taxpayers in San Rafael pay more for paramedic services than do citizens in other Marin communities, he will hold his nose and support the paramedic measures. Marinoff opposed the measures last year, citing soaring costs at San Rafael City Hall.

San Rafael City Schools Trustee Gregg Knell, who headed a successful city paramedic tax campaign last year, noted "all San Rafael calls are free to San Rafael residents and residents of unincorporated county service areas like this election in Santa Venetia and Lucas Valley." Both measures in effect seek "a cost of living increase that is a maximum 6 cents per day only if need is shown," he said.

Supervisor Susan Adams said passage of both measures is important.

"For the small amount of money that we are requesting of the voters, I believe it is essential that we maintain optimal emergency response for paramedic calls especially as our county has one of the highest aging populations in the state," Adams said. "Our community has stood by our public service first responders in the past and I would urge continued support for these measures now."


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