The Howard Jarvis Tax Fighter Award

Even if the Thanksgiving Day holiday has become most closely associated with a festive meal many Americans value the opportunity to express gratitude for the blessings in their lives.

Perhaps fewer of us recall from our history classes that when President Washington designated a national thanksgiving holiday in 1789 it was to give thanks for the newly ratified Constitution and for Americans being afforded "an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

While joining our countrymen in giving thanks at this time of year we at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association especially want to remember those unsung souls who improve our lives by volunteering their time to act as watchdogs over government spending and who provide advice on making more efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars.

These individuals who are sometimes members of small local taxpayer organizations are more than just naysayers. In many cases they actually roll up their sleeves and go to work to help deliver services in our communities. The person standing up a city council meeting to object to spending on an extravagant new government building may also be a volunteer firefighter or a reserve police officer or serve on a community board or commission.

With these folks in mind the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has established the Howard Jarvis Tax Fighter Award which will be presented at this time each year. The recipient does not necessarily have to fight taxes directly. Typically the award winner will have aided the community in helping to get greater value in return for taxpayer dollars and/or reducing the need for new taxes.

Sacramento resident Michael Day has been honored as the first recipient of the Tax fighter Award for exposing waste and abuse of public dollars on the local level.

As the Chair of Sacramento City Unified School District Bond Oversight Committee Day has fought for accountability and the best use of taxpayer dollars. To eliminate conflicts of interest and increase transparency he encouraged individuals independent of the school district to join the committee. He has also pushed the district to include a list of projects in any future bonds to limit the possibility of funds being misdirected.

Additionally Day has been a strong advocate for taxpayer interests by getting the word out about the detrimental effects of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) that are often attached to local bonds. These provisions exclude non-union contractors reducing competition and making projects much more expensive for taxpayers often adding as much as 25% to the cost of school construction. By raising legitimate concerns about these arrangements Mr. Day has helped to expose a level of hypocrisy by our elected officials and bureaucrats that would otherwise go unnoticed. After all the excess funds that are expended needlessly because of these sweetheart labor agreements translate directly into lost money for school children.

Mr. Day has also been a sharp critic of spending school bond proceeds for purposes other than capital improvements that will last for as long as the repayment period — usually 25-30 years. What good is it to spend bond funds on projects lasting only a few years if our kids will be paying for them three decades from now? Due to the fact that taxpayers are often paying double the face value of bonds after interest is included they deserve nothing less then the best value for their dollar.

Finally although he is stepping down as Chairman of the Bond Oversight Committee Michael Day has expressed an interest in establishing a statewide network of bond oversight committees for local school construction. Currently members of these committees have no established guidelines for what it is they are supposed to do. We at Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association will be happy to work with Mr. Day on this worthwhile effort.

While we are proud to honor Mr. Day we remind everyone that he represents thousands of other civic minded individuals throughout our state who deserve our thanks.

Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.