Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 9, 2017

Groundhog day

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

Because, of course.  From a Press Release sent out on Tuesday:

Three plaintiffs who have previously sued Alameda Unified School District over its parcel taxes have filed a new lawsuit alleging Measure B1 is illegal.

The measure, which is essentially an extension of the current Measure A, was passed by 74.2% of voters in a record turnout this past November.

The three plaintiffs (Nelco, Inc., Santa Clara Investors II, and Edward Hirshberg) were part of a group that also sued the district over Measure H, a parcel tax passed in 2008. In that lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that the measure’s differing rates for residential and commercial property owners were not “uniform” as required under state law. That lawsuit was settled in 2014.

The plaintiffs also sued AUSD over Measure A, a parcel tax passed by 68.01% of the voters in 2011, but were unsuccessful.

If the current lawsuit succeeds, it could threaten more than $12 million in revenue per year for AUSD. Those funds, which comprise the second-largest revenue stream to the district, are allocated to a wide range of programs and services, including small class sizes for grades K-3, neighborhood elementary schools, high school sports and AP classes, programs to close the achievement gap, and visual and performing arts.

“The Alameda community has shown us again and again that they value these programs and are willing to pay a parcel tax to support them,” said Superintendent Sean McPhetridge. “We are disappointed that these plaintiffs continue to try to block this funding. But we structured Measure B1 in a way that we believe is fair and legal, and we will fight for this tax, these students, and our community with determination and diligence so we can best provide for the children and families we serve.”

As a reminder who the players are:

Nelco Inc is owned by members of the Hirshberg Family and others:

“Jerilyn Hirshberg, Wilson Hirshberg, Nicholas Wiebe, Susan Wiebe,Dennis Patheal and Joanne Patheal have a relevant ownership interest in Plaintiff-Appellant Nelco Inc”

But the ownership of Santa Clara Investors II is a little fuzzier and the incorporation of Santa Clara Investors II is currently inactive according to the corporation wiki and the Secretary of State business database.   But according to the appellate brief:

“Barton Bennett, John Paganelli, and Anne Pananelli Blamire have a relevant ownership interest in Plaintiff-Appellant Santa Clara Investors II”

Look, I’m pretty annoyed with the School District right now, for varying reasons including budget-y ones, but come on.

Come on.

I can’t imagine that hiring a lawyer is somehow cheaper than just paying the parcel tax in the first place.  Is it so terrible to imagine funding schools for kids that you’d spend your money on some lawyer to fight having to fund the local schools where you have investment property?  Did no one send the memo about positive perceptions of school increasing property values?

I mean, after all the money sunk into “Save Our City Alameda” to fight B1 ($5000 from Broadway Management, $5000 from Nelco) one would think that the three entities would have called it a wash, but apparently no.  Yet another frivolous lawsuit to prove some libertarian point about bootstraps or something.

With the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education we’ll need to come together as a community to support our school now more than ever (and have our schools support our kids as well).  But given the constant threats from external forces perhaps it is time to have the hard discussions about the future of AUSD and whether some of the goals that were important ten plus years ago are really truly meaningful in this new age of school choice, “attractive” options, and mobility.


  1. Does someone have a link that explains how (and at what stage of the case) the challenge to Measure A failed? My understanding is that B1 extended Measure A, i.e. no substantive change. Assuming the challenge to B1 is on the same grounds as the Measure A challenge – I don’t know – is there something that jumps out suggesting this challenge has a better chance of succeeding?

    Comment by MP — February 9, 2017 @ 7:00 am

  2. From Alameda Journal:

    Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch is expected to issue a written order of his ruling, which found that the maximum amount, or “cap,” that some property owners pay and the exemptions provided to seniors and residents on disability were legal.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 9, 2017 @ 7:04 am

    • Roesch is a tough nut to crack and has nailed Alameda in the past, could be choppy waters

      Comment by City Hall Outsider — February 9, 2017 @ 10:12 am

      • Roesch was judge in Measure A case. Don’t know to whom the new case is assigned.

        Comment by MP — February 9, 2017 @ 10:49 am

        • Maybe Mr. McMahon, if he is following along, has a copy of Judge Roesch’s written order in the earlier 2011 Measure A case. Those can be detailed or quite pithy.

          Comment by MP — February 9, 2017 @ 11:22 am

  3. At least one of above mention folks are frequent contributors to the dialog here, so I am sure a typical ideological explanation about free markets, etc. will be regurgitated soon…stand by.

    Comment by CD — February 9, 2017 @ 11:41 am

    • I look forward to their spirited attack on the most non-uniform, unequal tax law of all: Prop 13. Sure that one offends their principles even more.

      Comment by dave — February 9, 2017 @ 1:07 pm

  4. Here is the history of the Measure H lawsuit.

    Measure A lawsuit received the same initial Superior Court ruling that Measure H that was working its way through the Appeals Court. The plaintiffs did not appeal the Superior Court ruling. Subsequently, Measure H was ruled to be illegal. Here is the Appeals Court ruling:

    Click to access MeasureHCourtAppealsRuling.pdf

    So now the lawsuit against Measure B1 will have a judge ruling based on the Measure H precedent. Measure B1 is structured differently from Measure H but the cap could prove to be problematic. However, the District believes its fall back position is if the Court rule Measure B1 illegal, the severability clause would implement the square footage assessment for all properties without a cap.

    A big game of chicken if you ask me.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — February 9, 2017 @ 1:26 pm

    • thank you

      Comment by MP — February 9, 2017 @ 1:36 pm

  5. There is no correlation between how much money schools get and their quality. Castro Valley schools far outrank Alameda schools. But they’ve now thrown out the whole API ratings system.

    Stop pointless taxes that do nothing.

    Comment by vigi — February 9, 2017 @ 2:57 pm

  6. Instead of attacking the plaintiffs, we should applaud them for pointing out incompetence. Is it possible that the District’s legal work is so sloppy that it invites lawsuits? Any reasonable public entity, after losing the previous lawsuit, and suffering the consequences, would come up with a better plan than one that again invites a lawsuit. This is the essence of planning. What a public shame and waste of money. How much will this cost the children of Alameda? Couple this with the “strategy” of challenging the Trump administration by making various declarations, and demonstrating against DeVos and you have a perfect storm brewing….Time to slow down and reflect for those at the top.

    Comment by Captain Obvious — February 9, 2017 @ 2:59 pm

    • You sound suspiciously like Alameda! News Action.

      Comment by BC — February 10, 2017 @ 7:13 am

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