Letter to the Editor, Submitted by Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler
Renewing Measure T Essential For Our Mountain Roads, Safety, And Economy
Safe and well-maintained roads are essential for Eastern Madera County.
Good roads allow visitors and goods to move quickly and safely to and through our communities to create jobs and support our economy.
Good roads help firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement get to us quickly in an emergency.
Good roads are our evacuation routes when threatened by wildfire.
Good roads allow local children to get to school safely each day.
For over 30 years communities throughout Madera County have depended on Measure T, and its predecessor Measure A, for repairing potholes, roads, sidewalks, bridges, and highways. It is our only locally controlled source of transportation funding. Without it, we are entirely dependent on Sacramento and Washington DC to fund local road repair and transportation improvements. Measure T funding is now set to expire.
This November we have an opportunity to renew local transportation funding without increasing taxes. Voting Yes on T simply extends the ½¢ sales tax we already pay and does not increase taxes. A significant portion of the money from Measure T is paid by visitors who shop in our communities so that they pay their fair share when they use our roads. Essential purchases like groceries and prescription medicine are exempt from sales tax so the cost isn’t a burden for residents on fixed or limited incomes.
A good example of an essential road improvement that would not have been possible without Measure T is the construction of the Oakhurst Midtown Connector, also known as River Parkway Road. This project opened a second access route to Indian Springs and School Road, allowing improved traffic flow and emergency access. Along with the new road and bridge infrastructure, traffic signals, sidewalks, and bike lanes were built to improve driver safety and allow for safe walking and biking to parks, schools, historic landmarks, and trails in the region. Importantly, this project creates an essential evacuation route in the event of a fire or emergency.
Measure T has already helped Madera County qualify for $226 million in state and federal matching funds that would otherwise have gone to other communities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Voting Yes to renew Measure T will bring another $600 million in state and federal transportation matching funds to Madera County over the next 30 years instead of going to other communities. Without Measure T, your state and federal tax dollars go to improve roads in other communities. That’s too much money to put at risk.
Some say the development of the Measure T renewal was rushed. That’s not true. Measure T is the result of a year of work by a community steering committee of Madera County residents. and organizations including, leaders from local businesses, agriculture, the mountain communities, Cal Fire, healthcare leaders, education leaders, and more. In fact, Rhonda Salisbury from Visit Yosemite|Madera County, Frank Simonis from Oakhurst, and Lisa Saroyan from North Fork volunteered for nearly a year to help develop Measure T.
Others say that Measure T should have a fixed end date. The reality is that Madera County needs an ongoing source of locally controlled funding for road repair and improvements. This need won’t go away. Measure T puts local voters in control with the power to repeal Measure T at any time if local transportation funding is no longer needed. Measure T includes a clear system to periodically revisit priorities as our transportation needs change.
How can we be sure Measure T funds will be spent as promised on local road improvements? First, since Measure T was last renewed by local voters in 2006, the public reports of the Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee have consistently confirmed the fund has been spent only on voter-approved projects. Measure T has a proven track record.
The Measure T renewal proposal requires strict accountability, including continuing the independent citizens’ oversight committee, annual audits, and public disclosure of all spending to ensure funds are used properly. By law, all funds must stay here in Madera County for local transportation improvements only. No funds can be taken by the State or diverted to other uses.
This November I hope you will join me and other respected leaders from Eastern Madera County in voting Yes on T to repair our mountain roads, keep our communities safe and support our local economy. And the best part is, that Measure T does not increase our taxes.
Tom Wheeler has represented District 5 on the Madera County Board of Supervisors for 15 years. His district includes thousands of miles of Sierra National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and the beautiful mountain communities of Oakhurst, North Fork, Coarsegold, Ahwahnee, Raymond, and Bass Lake. He has lived in Eastern Madera County for over 50 years. He can be reached at (559) 662-6050 or email@example.com.