It’s About Values (Real Estate, That Is…)

(As printed in Alameda Journal on Friday May 28, 2010)

By David Gunderman

I hate parcel taxes. Philosophically, I find them grossly unfair — unfair that one citizen can vote to tax another (i.e. tenants whose landlords shoulder the bill). As someone who has never owned my own business or commercial property, I cannot claim to understand the complexities of increased financial burden in the face of difficult times. But as a home owner and a real estate broker, I feel it is my duty to vote in favor of Measure E for the most simplistic of reasons – I think it a necessary investment in our community and our future.

In these tough economic times, Alameda’s real estate values have remained sound. If one is listening to the words of the consumers who flock to our community year after year, there are three main reasons: schools, safety, and community spirit. I would argue that voting for Measure E impacts all three of these core facets of life on our island, but let’s just focus on the schools strictly from a real estate perspective.

If our schools suffer, our community may lose its reputation as a safe harbor for parents seeking a good, free public education in the East Bay–one of our community’s finest and least disputed assets. In fact, our schools may be the single greatest pressure on the real estate boom most property owners have enjoyed in Alameda.

Proposition 13 has been a mixed bag for the citizens of California. As much as I loathe parcel taxes and their inherent inequity, I know that I benefit from manageable property taxes and, consequently, I am happy to pay what I perceive to be my share for keeping our schools afloat through these difficult times. Mind you, as a stop-gap. When revenues are flowing again, I may take a harder look at this from a more critical philosophical bent, but for now, I don’t see a better path for our children and the many dedicated citizens who work tirelessly in our public schools.

Our school budgets have been cut to the bone. As much as I can relate to the idea that “throwing more money at the problem is not a solution”, our schools can’t flourish on a shoestring budget supplemented with car washes, bake sales and wonderful events like the circus. As fatigued as we all are by this economy and the idea of yet another parcel tax, I don’t think we can afford to let this one go down. I honestly believe our children and their teachers will not be the only ones who will suffer. As one plain-speaking long-time Alamedan said to us the other day, “It’s better to build schools now than build prisons later.” And as difficult as it is to effect change on a national level, it is inspiring to stay ahead of problems and remain progressive on a local level.

David Gunderman (510-205-4369) and his husband Andrew Raskopf (510-205-3575) are Broker Associates with Alain Pinel Realtors. For more information, please visit AndrewAndDavid.com.

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