Close Window | Print


March 30, 2008


Column by John Horgan



The long run



SPEAKING in Foster City last week, Stephen Levy made it clear that in his view, no matter how or why they are here, immigrants, both legal and illegal, are going to have a huge positive bearing on the future of the region and the state.


The millions of children of immigrants will one day take over duties and jobs vital to the state's well-being, said Levy, director and chief economist for Palo Alto's Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.


Therefore, he noted in a wide-ranging address, we have a vested interest in their education.


Available data indicate that investing in quality schooling for poor kids results in big dividends for society at large down the line, he said.


There is evidence to suggest that illegal immigration does cost money in terms of public services, added Levy, who offered his thoughts during the 2008 San Mateo County Economic Development Association awards luncheon.


But the payback will come later as a new generation of productive workers takes over, he emphasized.


Retaliatory actions directed against illegal immigrants are misplaced and counterproductive, he stressed.


Companies and enterprises that employ them are the real culprits, he said, assuming society wants to penalize someone for the presence of these workers, although he wasn't urging such a move.


Levy was generally optimistic about the future of the Peninsula and California, even though current economic indicators have trended downward lately.


He has reason to be upbeat here. After all, the latest unemployment rate for the county is a rock-bottom 3.9 percent.


VALUES INCREASE —Also in a relatively hopeful economic vein, the overall assessed value of homes in San Mateo County continues to increase, in spite of recent publicity to the contrary.


That's the word from Terry Flinn in the office of the County Assessor in Redwood City.


The latest figures on assessed values indicate that the hike this year will be about 5.5 percent, he said.


That's a lower percentage rise compared with those of the last several years, but it's certainly more encouraging than we might have anticipated, given the gloom and doom that's out there — including the $3 million property tax rebate given to Oracle Corp.'s Larry Ellison.


As Flinn has stated before, just over 1,000 county properties have been assessed lower because they have changed hands at prices below what they had been purchased for previously.


That amounts to a decline of $90 million on a total residential tax roll of more than $125 billion.


The slowing rate of increase in county home values will have an impact on certain governmental agencies, including a dozen or so public school districts that rely on local property taxes for the bulk of their operating revenues.


But at least the overall trend isn't downright negative. That has to be cause for some modest relief in these parts.


Do you have a local vignette or a Peninsula tip you'd like to pass along? Don't dawdle. By all means, send it to John Horgan by telephone at 650-348-4334, by fax at 650-348-4446 or by traditional snail mail at 477 Ninth Ave., Suite 110, San Mateo 94402. You can check out his blog, Read It and Rant, at