Our vote: Yes on A. No on I

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Editorial opinion

In the March 3 primary election, voters in Morgan Hill have a chance to vote on two local measures whose outcomes will directly impact residents and their children in the years ahead.

One of them, Measure A, is sponsored by the City of Morgan Hill. It asks voters to permit the rezoning of a 4.4 acre parcel on Madrone Parkway so that the owner can develop two new hotels—a Marriott and a Hilton—on the site. Measure A requires a simple majority to pass.

We recommend voting “Yes” on Measure A.

The hotels would be built in a developed commercial area, next to two other hotels and adjacent to a gas station, McDonald’s, Denny’s, In and Out, Chipotle and Panda Express.

We think two hotels on the Madrone Parkway site—which sits between a busy retail shopping center and a business/industrial park—would create less traffic, noise, pollution and general disruption than any other likely use for the property.

City councilmembers and other proponents of Measure A believe the two new hotels would generate up to $800,000 per year in new Transient Occupancy Tax revenues. We’re not buying such a tax windfall scenario, especially since existing hotels were only at a 70-percent average daily occupancy as of 2015—the last time the city studied Morgan Hill’s hotel market. 

The measure is opposed by other hoteliers who presumably don’t want to see new competition. We support the voters’ right to challenge city zoning decisions at the ballot, but we also think a competitive marketplace is good for consumers. 

Measure A’s opponents have not presented a viable alternative for the Madrone Parkway site. The property is currently zoned for a grocery store, but no developer has come forward with a proposal. Almost any other use for the property—barring overgrown open space—would create a bigger impact on local streets and public services than two hotels would. Not to mention, two new hotels would bring visitors and jobs to town, both of which contribute to the community’s economic health. 

At the end of the day, let’s not use our right to vote in a way that removes other rights from our fellow community members, and vote Yes on Measure A.

No on Measure I

Measure I, sponsored by the Morgan Hill Unified School District, asks the voters for $900 million in bonds, to be spent over the next 30 years on new construction, technology and capital upgrades at the district’s 14 school sites. This measure needs a 55-percent majority to pass.

We recommend voting “No” on Measure I.

Measure I would hand a $900-million check to the school board and administrators to build whatever new facilities and renovations they feel like approving over the next 30 years. That is an astounding amount of money for a 14-school, 9,000-student district. According to the ballot measure text, local property owners could be paying off the bonds (at a total cost of nearly $2 billion) until 2090, long after many of us have left this earth.

The measure does not require the proponent, MHUSD, to specify an exact list of projects on which to spend these bond proceeds. Rather, Measure I proponents pointed to the district’s Facilities Master Plan as an illustration of the need for ongoing capital construction and replacement funds.

Some of the projects in the facilities plan include new roofs and other facilities that were just replaced within the last five years. The full text of Measure I states, in part, “Based on the final costs of each project, or on the then current priorities of the District, certain of the projects described above may be delayed or may not be completed.” That is a far too open-ended statement of potential future expenses with $900 million at play. 

It is encouraging that Measure I would require the installment of a citizens oversight committee. And we agree that maintaining classrooms, STEAM labs, vocational workshops, technology and other school facilities at top functioning order is vital to effective learning and teaching. 

But such expenses are not a silver bullet that will cure the community’s educational ailments. Morgan Hill voters should reject this virtual blank check. The district should dial back its bond request to a number that is much more palatable to the voters, over a shorter period of time, and to an amount that is easier to match with actual, currently foreseeable construction needs.