Creaven, 29, makes no secret of why he chose Palo Alto as the place to launch the two efforts. It's a relatively small city, which means he would need to collect far fewer signatures (2,392) than he would in San Diego. And it has a concentration of well-known billionaires, a list that includes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Larry Page and Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs and president of social investment firm Emerson Collective.
Creaven hopes that with Palo Alto as a launchpad, the wealth tax will eventually spread to other parts of the country. Creaven, who supported U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's bid to be the Democratic presidential nominee, borrows heavily from her wealth tax proposal.
His proposal would create a 2% wealth tax on net worth above $50 million and a 3% wealth tax on net worth above $1 billion.
All Palo Alto households would each receive $2,500 from the tax proceeds. The balance would go to the state of California for general government functions.
In addition, the measure would impose a 40% "exit tax" on any resident with a fortune of more than $50 million who is relocating either abroad or to a place within the United States that doesn't have an equivalent wealth tax.
While he sees a certain amount of wealth inequality as a natural and acceptable byproduct of capitalism, he believes it is spiraling out of control.
"When you have runaway wealth inequality, you start to see societies start to collapse. It's a pretty dangerous thing," Creaven told this news organization.
The initiative states the extreme wealth inequality has historically functioned as "a catalyst for severe unrest and social and political instability."
But the proposal could be a tough sell. As a "special tax," it would need approval from a two-thirds majority of voters.
While Palo Alto voters have supported increases to the city's hotel tax rate in recent years, they also rejected the city's effort in 2009 to pass a business tax.
Even if the measure meets the high threshold for passage, it will likely meet legal challenges, much like the wealth tax that Seattle voters approved in 2017. That tax imposed a 2.25% rate on individuals with incomes above $250,000 and on married couples with incomes of more than $500,000. The Washington state Court of Appeals found the tax to be unconstitutional and now the ultimate decision is with the state Supreme Court.
Creaven hopes to also pick up some momentum on the Clean Vehicle Initiative, an effort that would ban the sale or leasing of gasoline vehicles that cost more than $50,000 pre-tax, beginning Jan. 1, 2021. It would also add a 2.5% sales tax on gasoline cars that are valued at more than $50,000 and bought outside of Palo Alto but registered in the city. Revenues from that tax would go to the city's general fund.
The bill would exempt commercial vehicles, RVs and vehicles manufactured before 2021.
He said he believes the initiative is politically feasible because "the majority of people aren't buying gas cars that are over $50,000."
This story contains 587 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.