Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Measure M sales tax opponents to boycott Citrus Heights Chamber forum

Sentinel staff report–
A Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce forum intended to allow both sides of the controversial Measure M sales tax to present their case will likely only have one side present on Monday night after opponents of the proposed tax increase said they are boycotting the event.

Measure M: Citrus Heights council votes 4-1 to put $12M sales tax increase on ballot

“No on Measure M” spokesman Tim Schaefer, who is also running for a seat on the City Council, said in an email to forum organizer and moderator Ray Riehle that “extreme short notice” and “lack of flexibility” were reasons for the decision to not participate in the forum.

Riehle said he had given a “heads up” about the forum to Councilman Bret Daniels, a key opponent of the measure, on the evening of August 16. Emails shared with The Sentinel showed a formal invite being sent to the entire City Council on Aug. 19, followed by an email to several opponents of the measure on Aug. 20, with a response from Schaefer on Aug. 25.

As of Saturday evening, Riehle said no Measure M opponents had confirmed participation in the Aug. 31 forum. Schaefer confirmed Saturday as well that he knew of “nobody from No on Measure M that would appear there.” He also said Councilman Daniels would be out of town for work and unable to attend.

Emails show Schaefer requested a rescheduling of the forum to mid-September, but that request was denied by Riehle who said delaying would conflict with other Chamber events.

Riehle said the forum was organized at the request of the Chamber’s board of directors in order to give the board an opportunity to hear from both sides before voting on whether to endorse, oppose, or take a neutral position on the measure. He said in an email to Schaefer that the Aug. 31 date was selected as the best day for the Chamber’s availability and would also be early enough to allow both sides to use the Chamber’s potential endorsement in their campaigns.

Schaefer said in light of circumstances and “unreasonable” lack of flexibility, the No on M side would be boycotting the event. He also noted concern about whether No on M would “get a fair shake” at the forum.

Schaefer called the Chamber’s restriction of only allowing residents of Citrus Heights to participate in the forum “unreasonable,” noting that Riehle is not a Citrus Heights resident and the Chamber is made up of local business owners who do not necessarily live in the city.

The residency restriction prevents Bruce Lee, president of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association, from representing the No on M side in the forum. Lee has been a vocal opponent of Measure M and his organization reportedly has “strong membership” in Citrus Heights, according to Schaefer.

Riehle acknowledged not being a resident of Citrus Heights himself, but noted he owns a business in the city and has “been a member of the Chamber for more than 20 years and [is] the current chair of the Government Issues Committee.”

Election 2020: Who’s running for Citrus Heights City Council?

Riehle confirmed on Saturday that the forum will take place as scheduled, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 31, at City Hall. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a cap of 10 people will be in place. Chamber board members will participate via Zoom, followed by a vote from the board on what position to take on the measure.

Measure M is a proposed one-cent sales tax increase that will appear on the November ballot. If passed by a majority of voters, the measure would raise an estimated $12 million per year and bring the sales tax rate in Citrus Heights to 8.75%, up from the current 7.75%.

Proponents say the city is in need of additional revenue to maintain local control and fund city services, citing a drop in sales tax revenue and demand from residents in a citywide survey. Opponents say the city has mismanaged funds and can wait until an additional $5-6 million in property tax revenues come to the city in fiscal year 2022-23, following the expiration of a “revenue neutrality” agreement with the county.

Want to share your own thoughts on this topic or another local issue?Submit a letter to the editor or opinion column for publication: Click here

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)