Palo Alto revives its interest in a business tax

May 16, 2019

City Council approves work plan to place a measure on 2020 ballot that would pay for transportation projects

By Gennady Sheyner,
Palo Alto Weekly

After four years of false starts and sharp disagreements, Palo Alto kicked off on Monday a new effort to place a business tax on the November 2020 ballot.

By a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Greg Tanaka dissenting, the City Council approved a path forward for a revenue measure that would support various transportation improvements, including the redesign of four rail crossings. In the coming months, the city will be hiring consultants, crunching numbers, refining proposals and surveying the public. Under the adopted timeline, the city would decide by October which revenue-generating proposal to pursue and, after more outreach, polling and analysis, draft measure language by June 2020.

In drafting the work plan, Administrative Services Department staff proposed an "iterative" approach, with regular check-ins by the council and its Finance Committee. According to a new report from Administrative Services, the plan anticipates a "steady pace" and "continued review and refining of proposals," with regular polling and outreach along the way.

Councilwoman Alison Cormack lauded this approach.

"I think it's the beginning of the conversation," Cormack said. "This is the opposite of the 'big bang' approach ... We need to have some options, we all need to think about it, we need to define it as we go."