Tony Bizjak

Back-seat Driver: Sacramento County considers tax hike election for street repairs

Published: Friday, Mar. 8, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Mar. 8, 2013 - 1:14 am

California's cities and counties put out a report this week bemoaning what your tires probably have told you: The roads, in bad shape four years ago, are even worse now.

Recent budget cuts have crimped the ability to do maintenance and repair.

The crisis isn't equal: If you live in newer parts of Roseville, your streets are generally fine (for now). If you live in an old suburb, your street may be a muffler thumper.

"Unless this crisis is addressed," city and county officials say in their report, "costs to maintain the local system will only continue to grow, while the safety, quality and reliability of California's local transportation network deteriorates."

In Sacramento County, officials are considering asking voters to approve a temporary half-cent sales tax next year to fix streets and improve transit. They're reaching out to voters this year to get opinions.

The problem they and other counties run into is that such sales tax measures require a two-thirds public vote. Some say it's unfair. In Los Angeles and Alameda counties last fall, transportation sales tax measures lost even though 66 percent of voters said yes.

As a result, two legislative bills have been introduced this year to lower the threshold to 55 percent.

Confusing numbers soup: That 55 percent concept will require a 67 percent legislative vote to go on the public ballot where it will need only a 50 percent-plus-one vote to pass. Got that?

Daylight saving danger

Here's something else to worry about, in case you need more worries:

Next Monday, the first workday after daylight saving time's return, there likely will be more crashes, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study. (It's an old article, actually. We just heard about it.)

The theory is that drivers are still a bit sleep-deprived those first few days, so they don't drive as well. Some will be driving in less light, too.

On the good side, in November, on the Monday after the fall-back time switch, drivers will be more refreshed, and will get in fewer crashes that day.

Impound cellphones?

Reader Rodger Pogue, a former police officer, has a provocative idea to stop drivers from talking or texting on hand-held cells:

Confiscate the phone!

You know how police can impound cars of drunken drivers? What if, when someone is pulled over for texting or talking, the officer holds out his hand and says: "Phone, please. You get it back after you pay the fine."

(The fine is $168.)

Police tell us they can confiscate phones as evidence now, if needed, but that's not necessary for cellphone violations.

The concept probably would require a new law. Privacy advocates would oppose it. It's provocative, for sure. But interesting.

Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

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