All ballots have been counted and the prize for closest Orange County election goes to Measure OO, the San Clemente ballot measure that would have raised the city’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) from 10% to 13%. The margin was a razor-thin 8 votes:
Measure OO would have also extended the bed tax to short term rentals – which is an odd step given the current council majority’s quest to ban short-term vacation rentals in their vacation tourism-dependent city. It would also empower the City Council to repeal or “refine” the TOT without voter approval; extended it or increasing it again with necessitate voter approval.
The measure was placed on the ballot by the city council, all five of whom signed the ballot argument in support of its passage. They noted that “despite the city’s best efforts to control its public safety expenditures, our costs for public safety contracts continue to increase at unsustainable levels” and argued the estimated $570,000 the tax increase would raise annually would by devoted to “public safety services, parks, and our critical City infrastructure.”
Nine San Clemente voters found that argument insufficiently persuasive and the measure failed.
The hotel bed tax hike had actually been leading until November 30, when the “no” vote tally pulled ahead and stayed ahead.
Measure OO was one of four local city tax increases on the ballot in Orange County, and the only one to fail. The ballot measures in Westminster, La Palma and Fountain Valley were 1% sales tax hikes that fall considerably on the same voters who strongly approved them. In contrast, San Clemente voters rejected a tax increase that is almost exclusively levied on out-of-towners.
If the San Clemente City Council decides to try again in 2018, they might consider taking a page from their north county brethren and giving it a ballot title like “Continued Funding Essential Police/9-1-1/Public Safety Services Measure.”
Two of the city councilmembers who signed the ballot argument – Chris Hamm and Robert “Bob” Baker – were up for re-election. Hamm won, but challenger Steven Swartz out-polled Baker, who also finished behind challenger Dan Bane: