Sonoma County’s Measure O, which will provide $25 million a year for mental health and homelessness services over 10 years, appeared to be headed for voter approval, according to unofficial election returns.
With all precincts reporting as of Wednesday afternoon, Measure O was passing with 69% of the vote, according to information from the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters.
“Oh my God, I’m so happy,” said county Supervisor Shirlee Zane, one of the measure’s main supporters.
“We do not fund mental health services properly,” said Zane, whose husband took his own life 10 years ago after struggling with depression. “The state and federal government have not kept up with the need and we knew we had to do something as a county and as a community.”
The measure, which required a two-thirds majority vote to pass, raises money via a countywide quarter-cent sales tax.
The funding is specifically earmarked for mental health and addiction services and facilities for children, adults, veterans, seniors and homeless residents, according to the official ballot statement.
“On behalf of Sonoma County students who have survived the repeated traumas of fires, floods, smoke events, and a pandemic, I am very thrilled to see that the community has put its support behind Measure O,” said county Superintendent of Schools Steven Herrington.
Of the annual $25 million Measure O will raise, 22% is set aside for behavioral health facilities like residential care and housing for people discharged from crisis services, 44% for emergency psychiatric and crisis services like the county’s mobile support team and inpatient hospital services, 18% for mental health and substance abuse outpatient services, 14% for homeless behavioral health and care coordination and 2% for transitional and permanent housing solutions for homeless residents.
“Our concerns with most of these is that they don’t have sunset provisions in them so voters will never get another chance to go back and review these measures. … Obviously, that didn’t resonate with the voters.”Dan Drummond, Sonoma County Taxpayers Association
“On a community level, we understand it very personally because of the traumas we have felt,” Zane said. “We’ve had three wildfires just in the past year plus the pandemic, so I think this county in particular feels the effects of trauma and whether it’s children or seniors or anybody in between we’ve all experienced it at different levels.”
Opponents of Measure O include the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association and 2020 Sonoma County Tax Moratorium Coalition, a group of business associations.
“What does surprise me is that the voters are not only passing these things but they’re passing them with very substantial majorities,” Dan Drummond, executive director of the Taxpayers Association, said of Measure O and the 11 other tax measures on ballots throughout the county.
While Drummond’s group didn’t oppose any of the parcel taxes in the county that will help fund school districts, it did oppose Measure O and several sales tax proposals.
“Our concerns with most of these is that they don’t have sunset provisions in them so voters will never get another chance to go back and review these measures,” Drummond said. “I think that’s very bad public policy. Obviously, that didn’t resonate with the voters.”
All of the tax measures on the county’s ballots appear to have passed easily, based on semi-official tallies reported by the county Registrar of Voters.
In addition to Measure O, voters throughout the county were asked to decide on 11 other tax measures, many of which involved sales taxes in Santa Rosa, Cotati, Healdsburg, Petaluma and Sonoma to benefit city services, as well as a countywide sales tax to benefit the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.
There were several property taxes on ballots throughout Sonoma County, including one to benefit the Shoreline Unified School District, one for the Fort Ross School District, one for the Sebastopol Unified School District and one for the Timber Cove Fire Protection District.
Also, voters in Cloverdale were asked to decide on a utility users’ tax and the Kenwood Fire Protection District was asking for an increase in its spending limit.
A measure to expand the urban growth boundary around the city of Sonoma also passed, as did a pair of measures that allow for the sale of Petaluma Valley Hospital and the Healdsburg District Hospital to NorCal HealthConnect.
A measure that would have allowed cannabis cultivation and sales in the city of Sonoma failed, with 57.2% of voters in opposition.