Libertarian says college district is using the number 8 to influence Chinese voters

BY SONYA HERRERA
Daily Post Staff Writer

A local Libertarian said in a ballot argument for the March election that the Foothill-De Anza Community College District is trying to trick Chinese residents into voting for new taxes by flashing around the number 8.

The number 8 has long been associated with good fortune in Chinese culture. Often companies market products using the number. That’s why certain real estate listings include several 8s, and why other businesses try to get as many 8s in their phone numbers as possible.

Mark Hinkle of Morgan Hill, who regularly writes ballot arguments against tax measures, claims that the college district is using the number 8 to manipulate Chinese voters.

The college district is asking voters on March 3 to approve Measure G, a $898 million bond sale, and Measure H, a $48 parcel tax.

Hinkle’s co-signer on the ballot argument, Mountain View attorney Gary Wesley, said that he attended a college district board meeting in 2006 when they were discussing a $490.8 million bond measure. He recalled that a board member asked why there was a .8 at the end of the amount. A district employee answered that 8 was considered lucky in Chinese culture, Wesley said.

“The 1999 bond measure had been $248 million. This one is $898 million,” Wesley said. “You will find no other credible explanation for the $898 (million) total proposed for March 3.”

District board members did not respond to requests for comment.

Hinkle, president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, typically writes ballot arguments against tax increases in every election. The arguments for and against a measure are printed in the Voter Guide that’s mailed to residents.

Here’s a look at some of the arguments voters will see in the guide prior to the March election.

For Measure G, the college district would borrow $898 million, which would be repaid with a property tax of $160 per $1 million of assessed property value. The amount district property owners would have to repay is estimated at $1.56 billion, which includes principal and interest. The taxes to repay the bonds would continue through 2053-54, according to the district’s website. The district says the sale of the bonds would pay for upgrading and repairing classrooms and labs, improving access to buildings for students with disabilities, and repairing plumbing and electrical systems.

Measure H is a parcel tax for the district that would be in place for five years. The tax would cost $48 per year per parcel and would pay for faculty salaries and new programs to help students who are homeless or hungry.

District trustee Patrick Ahrens wrote the arguments for Measure G and H and the rebuttals to the arguments against the measures.

These documents were signed by district trustee Pearl Cheng; student trustees Tiffany Nguyen and Genevieve Kolar; Dudley Andersen, former chair of the district’s past bond oversight committee; Foothill student Luis Herrera; former De Anza instructor Harry Price; Dick Henning, founder of Foothill College’s Celebrity Forum; De Anza instructor Bill Wilson; and resident George Tyson.

Ahrens wrote that Measure G would ensure that the colleges will continue their current classes, and that the colleges have been “excellent stewards” of taxpayers’ money. Ahrens wrote that Measure H money cannot be used for administrator salaries or pensions.

Hinkle wrote the arguments against Measures G and H and the rebuttals to the arguments in favor of the measures. He wrote that Measure G is the third bond measure from the district in 20 years, and that if it passes, “your grandchildren will still be paying for the debt incurred today.”

Hinkle wrote that Measure G would permit the district to sell the bonds in later years, possibly at much higher interest rates, which would more than double what taxpayers would have to repay. Hinkle said that while enrollment at the district’s two colleges has dropped, the number of retiring employees has risen. Hinkle said that the pension liabilities and other benefits owed to these district retirees will cost taxpayers “hundreds of billions of dollars” and said that as written, Measure H allows the district to spend the money however it wants.

Measure T is a bond measure for Mountain View Whisman School District. The district would borrow $259 million, which would be repaid through a $300 tax per $1 million of assessed property value. The estimated total repayment amount is about $538 million, and the estimated revenue from the tax is $18.6 million each year. The district says the sale of the bonds would pay for repairing, upgrading and building new facilities and classrooms.

The argument in favor of Measure T and the rebuttal to the argument against Measure T were written by Cleave Frink, a member of the district’s bond oversight committee for Measure G, which was passed in 2012. The argument in favor was signed by Realtor Aileen La Bouff; teacher Margaret Poor; district trustee Tamara Wilson; resident William Lambert; financial planner Niki Theil; Realtor Nancy Stuhr; Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District trustee Fiona Walter; retired fire chief Dale Kuersten; and teacher Gail Lee.

Frink wrote that Measure T would ensure that schools in the district would have modern classrooms, science labs and computer systems, and provide housing for teachers and district employees. Frink pointed out that Hinkle, the “lone opponent” to Measure T, doesn’t live in Mountain View.

The argument against Measure T and the rebuttal to the argument in favor of Measure T were written by Hinkle, who said the bond is a “blank check,” and that the interest rate could be much higher and result in a higher repayment amount.

Measure D would change the Mountain View rent control law voters passed in 2016. The measure would, among other things, eliminate the current limit on rent increases, which is the consumer price index, and replace it with a 4% ceiling.

The argument for Measure D and the rebuttal to the argument against Measure D were written by multiple authors, including Frink and Fiona Walter; city council members John McAlister, Margaret Abe-Koga and Chris Clark; Environmental Planning Commissioner William Cranston; former Mountain View Whisman School board member Christopher Chiang; Greg Cooper, president of Mountain View Professional Firefighters Local 1965; Mountain View Whisman School District trustee Jose Gutierrez Jr.; and renter LJ Gunson III.

In the ballot argument, they said that Measure D allows landlords to fix up older apartments rather than tear them down. The group wrote that Measure D lowers rent increases from 5% to 4% per year, and that “those increases aren’t automatic.” They said courts have ruled that the city’s current law doesn’t cover mobile homes, and that Measure D allows city council to enact mobile home renter protections next year.

The argument against Measure D and the rebuttal to the argument in favor of Measure D were also written by multiple authors, including Sally Lieber, former mayor and state Assemblywoman; Tamara Wilson, Mountain View Whisman School District trustee; resident Alex Nunez; Trey Bornmann, president of Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance; Anthony Chang, member of Mountain View Homeowners Against Displacement; and former mayor Pat Showalter.

They wrote that Measure D would result in higher rents and more renters being displaced from their homes.

The group said that Measure D does not set new safety rules, and that the measure allows landlords to raise the rent up to 10% for non-safety property upgrades. They added that city council is only studying protections for mobile home renters next year, and that this study session does not guarantee protections for mobile home renters.

7 Comments

  1. I don’t have a problem with putting the number 8 in the tax measures if it makes Chinese people happy. The colleges are just spreading some cheer, no trickery involved.

  2. Great story! I would have never known why the ballot had all these 8’s. Seems they’re relying on racial stereotypes, as if all Chinese people believe in magic and Old World incantations.

  3. Yes. It is trickery. Manipulation. Con-game. Borrow another billion – pay back two billion or three billion or four billion. For what? Answer: Don’t worry – be happy. Money grows on tress. No wonder no one from the rubber-stamp BOARD OF TRUSTEES called the reporter back.

  4. And I thought this kind of lunacy was more typical of “red” states. Seriously folks, is numerology the best conspiracy theory that Measure G and H’s opponents can muster? As the President of the Foothill-De Anza Faculty Association, I can vouch that no discussion of the purported “lucky properties” of the number 8 took place at any of our District’s board meetings over the past several years (show it to me in the minutes). This latest attack on a badly need parcel tax and bond represents represents yet another uninformed and illogical effort to undermine our public institutions by someone who “typically writes ballot arguments against tax increases in every election.” Vote yes on Measures “G” and “H” to give our community colleges a fighting chance.

  5. This needs to be thoroughly investigated. We should bring in a first-rate detective like Charlie Chan to get to the bottom of it.

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