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Measure Z is Humboldt County’s old general sales tax. It sunsets in 2020. Measure O is the county’s new half-percent general sales tax. It never sunsets. Reject it.

Measure Z — the old tax — was sold to the voters in 2014 as a temporary public safety tax. But it’s a general tax; in truth, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is free to spend its revenue on any county service. A true public safety tax with a funding guarantee would have required two-thirds voter approval; Measure Z passed with 56 percent.

Voters were also promised annual audits if they passed Measure Z.

The number of audits voters have received to date as a result? Zero.

The only true accountability built into the county’s old tax was an expiration date.

You may know and trust your current Board of Supervisors , but even if you do, its membership may change over time. Measure Z, as loosely written as it was, at least had the built-in safety of having to be renewed by the voters every five years.

But the county’s new forever tax? No such luck. If your political sympathies align with, say, Supervisor Rex Bohn, imagine a Board of Supervisors packed with Mike Wilson replicants, and hand them this new tax. If this sounds dreamy to you, imagine a board stuffed full of Bohn clones, able to spend the revenue from this new tax however they please.

And good luck mustering the time, energy and majority necessary for a ballot measure to take the county’s new forever tax away if it passes.

Measure O chooses expediency at the expense of accountability. Vote it down. County government will howl, but county government can come back to the voters with a better measure before Measure Z sunsets. The risk? None. The county already has phone polling data that shows 65 percent of voters surveyed would favor a renewal of a tax with a sunset clause — more than enough to pass a better measure that would preserve accountability and keep dollars flowing to essential, lifesaving services.

And if it’s not too much to ask, the county can even consider coming back to the voters with a temporary tax proposal that actually guarantees funding to public safety. We invite the county to look again at its own polling. The votes are there. The demand is real. The county already knows this.

Basic accountability is worth the cost of another vote and the wait for a much better measure. Reject the county’s new forever tax. Vote no on O.

Correction

A previous version of this editorial contained incorrect information regarding the amount of votes required to overturn a general sales tax. We regret the error.

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