By Ken Malbrough
California is currently in the throes of peak fire season — this year alone, California fires burned through 4 million acres, threatening countless homes and lives. As a retired deputy fire chief from San Diego, I know firsthand that one thing is certain: the need for effective emergency services will only continue to rise. This presents a grave problem as these early fires, combined with the COVID-19 response, have decimated our statewide and local finances, severely impacting the budgets of first responders across the state — putting all of us into danger.
Yet, as we debate how to prioritize dwindling revenues during this neverending season of crises, big legacy corporations like Blackstone, Chevron and Disneyland have been skipping out on paying their fair share of property taxes for decades. All thanks to a property tax loophole that we need to close immediately, especially during these hard times.
That is why today I am urging you to vote yes on prop 15.
It will put an end to immoral accounting gimmicks that have siphoned money away from the things we need the most and instead funneled them into the profit margins of big corporations, who clearly think they don’t have any responsibility for what happens outside their walls.
It’s not right, and it’s not fair. It’s time for multinational corporations and elite country clubs pay their fair share, not a penny less.
No matter where you live in the county, how much money you make or the color of your skin, Proposition 15 is good for all San Diegans. It is fair and balanced reform that will help bridge the gap of inequality caused by the chronic underfunding of schools and community services.
It will bring in an additional $700 million a year to our region to fund emergency response, youth programs and street repair. It will also fund schools, teachers, counselors, and nurses. And it will fund water delivery, healthcare, and fire protection.
Speaking of fire protection, Prop 15 will ensure that fire departments across the county will have funding for the resources, equipment and staffing they need to keep us all safe. Under Proposition 15, our local fire departments and other essential services stand to gain millions annually. That’s critical funding to ensure that fire departments are able to provide the services we all need, at the level of quality we expect.
Our firefighters put their lives on the line to protect our homes and lives from fire. That’s on top of firefighters serving as first responders — over 80 percent of calls are medical emergencies. Are we really debating whether to fund schools and first responders or the recreational activities of the wealthy on the backs of our communities?
Best of all, Prop 15 protects homeowners and renters while exempting small businesses with properties valued at or under $3 million — so only the top 10% of corporations would pay most of the revenue. This is a critical moment to come together across race and place to vote and support measures that prioritize our schools and communities
The corporations and country clubs have put massive amounts of money into building a fear mongering campaign full of misleading information and untruths. Don’t fall for them. The answer is clear: we should never be afraid to fund the hardworking and tireless firefighters and essential workers who protect our homes and communities during times of emergency.
Ken Malbrough is a former Deputy Fire Chief for the San Diego Fire-Rescure Department.