In a few weeks voters will decide whether to vote to replace the city’s quarter-cent sales tax with a new tax of a full cent to fund public safety and other essential services.

Measure U, as a retired police lieutenant and City Council member Mike Cordero stated, “is nothing but a good thing for everyone involved in the community.”

In watching and reading arguments against this measure we hear that it focuses too much on public safety to the exclusion of other city needs. Living in one of the highest-taxed states in the nation gives everyone pause to think twice about any new taxes, no matter how much the need or worthy the cause.

This measure strikes at the core belief that surveys show what concern us most. Crime prevention, gang suppression efforts, fully staffed fire stations, continuing at-risk youth programs are precisely what this measure pays for. When tax measures are successful, polls show citizens tend to support measures when they are very specific and with little opportunity for politicians to waste the funds on projects not supported by the tax. What are the deep concerns about this sales tax measure?

Taxes are always a sensitive subject. I believe a more valid argument would be calling the tax regressive in that it would mostly impact the poorest residents. Another valid argument is that tax increases take more money out of people’s pockets and slow down the economy.

A valid counterargument is the measure helps the poor and the economy by increasing the likelihood of safer neighborhoods, especially the poorest measured by income levels.

All of Santa Maria would benefit from the funding of this sales-tax measure. Studies show that crime and fear of crime are unequally distributed across cities, and that areas of higher poverty are likely to be areas of high crime incidence as well. This conclusion rests on the view that poor areas of cities characterized by high unemployment rates, family breakdowns, delinquencies and general social disruptions tend to produce alienation and consequently criminal behavior.

The relationship between crime and economic conditions have remained at the heart of crime research. With the government, through our police and fire safety, we have protection of our lives, family, households and businesses.

A safe community inspires the confidence we need as citizens to better our lives. It gives those trapped in poverty an opportunity to work him or herself out of poverty and into the middle class.

The foundation of a free society is allowing market-oriented economies to flourish so that people become wealthy without resorting to theft or other crimes that deprive our right to pursue happiness and liberty.

In my review of the city budget and oversight as chairman of the Measure U Oversight Committee, I have seen first-hand the benefits provided to all of us who live here by the sales tax dedicated to our public safety. Measure U has the same dedicated purpose, along with a citizen oversight committee, to our public safety.

A positive vote for this measure will be the cornerstone to our continuing to thrive as a community. It will allow the economic engine of our community the ability to provide jobs, growth in revenue — both individually and as a city — leading to solve the many arguments against this measure. I urge a “yes” on Measure U2018 vote.

Our top priority must and will remain keeping our neighborhoods safe and our economy thriving.

Trent Benedetti is a long-time local business owner and board member of the Committee to Improve North County.

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