It’s been a year in the making, and now they’re in the final push.
“Our focus is trying to get in front of as many local voters as we can before the March 5 primary,” says Mike Murphy, a former mayor of Merced. “We have mailers going out.
We are doing interviews on radio, TV and for the newspapers. We have a social media presence. … It’s a challenging task.”
Murphy and other supporters of the “Yes On C — For A Safer Merced” campaign are canvassing local neighborhoods and talking to voters in an all-out effort to inform them about the importance of renewing Measure C.
Measure C is an existing half-cent sales tax in the City of Merced that funds local public safety measures, law enforcement staffing and road maintenance. It was first approved by voters in 2006 with a sunset clause after 20 years.
A citizen-led effort to renew the measure began in 2023. Over the past year, they succeeded in gathering thousands of local voter signatures in order to place the renewal on the ballot.
“These are individuals who don’t have any government funding for this,” Murphy points out. “They went out for months, and collected thousands of signatures — which is a first for the City of Merced. This is the first time the city has had an initiative put on a local ballot strictly through signatures. That’s amazing.”
On this year’s primary ballot, Measure C is described as a “special tax” — a continuation of the existing half-cent sales tax, but with a mandated 95 percent of the revenue going directly to police and fire protection, and 5 percent to be used for street maintenance and improvement. It also comes with a mandated oversight committee, and another 20-year sunset provision.
“We need to let voters know that if this measure doesn’t get renewed, the result will have a dramatic impact on public safety in Merced — and in a bad way,” Murphy warns.
“We will lose 20 percent of our police officers and firefighters, and it will lengthen emergency response times. These departments are already depleted. It would be an unacceptable outcome to not renew Measure C.”
According to supporters, the City of Merced and local leaders have already been good stewards of Measure C that has generated about $8 million annually.
“We have looked at the spending and how much has gone to public safety and roads in the past,” Murphy says. “The city has kept up its side of the bargain. 100 percent of these Measure C dollars goes directly to needs right here in Merced.”
The Measure C effort is coming up against some opposition on social media and on doorsteps. A flier that bears no name of its creator, or any mark of an organized campaign effort, has been appearing on local cars and doorsteps. Measure C supporters say the flier is deceptive and wrongly depicts their measure as a new tax that will hurt pocketbooks, and as something that doesn’t confront other issues in the city such as youth programs and affordable housing.
“There is a lot of misinformation going out,” said Sarah Boyle, a member of the Merced City Council who is in full support of Measure C public safety funding. “There are people who are not having the right conversations to fully understand what this is, and how crucial it is.”