Eastern Group Publications Ballot Recommendations, March 8, 2011 Municipal Election

By EGP Editorial

City of Los Angeles

Charter Amendment HRestriction on Campaign Contributions from City Contractors

Leave it to politicians to find ways to leave loopholes huge enough to drive trucks through when putting together legislation that will limit who can contribute to their campaigns.

Measure H calls for limiting contributions to candidates for city office from parties bidding on contracts of more than $100,000. That’s good.

Unfortunately there is nothing stopping city officials from delaying bids from coming before them until after an election, opening a window for contributions.’

Under Measure H, bidders on city contract are not prohibited from contributing to independent expenditure committees that are allowed to spend their funds on behalf of a candidate, as long as they candidate does not direct the expenditure.

While Measure H is not perfect, we believe some reform is better than none.

—Vote Yes.

Amendment I—An Office of Rate Payer Public Accountability and Ratepayer Advocate is not a new idea. Many utilities have them and it’s about time the DWP joined them. We would have preferred a measure with more teeth, but this is a move in the right direction.

—Vote Yes.

Amendment J—DWP Revenue Transfers and Budget Deadline

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) belongs to city residents who elect the city council members to represent their interests. So it was very disturbing to us when the DWP stalled on their commitment to contribute $73.5 million to the city’s strained budget.

This measure amends the city charter to require the DWP to coordinate its budget process with the city, and requires the DWP to submit its preliminary budget to the council by March 31, for the coming fiscal year. We say its about time.

Requiring a city owned asset like the DWP to present audited financial statements so it can be determined if and how much surplus the DWP had the prior year, so it can be determined if a transfer of surplus funds can be made is just common sense.

—Vote Yes.

Amendment L—Reassignment of Funds for Library System

We don’t believe there are many people in the city who feel good about cutting funding to the city’s libraries, and that includes us. But given the city’s huge deficit, cuts must be made.

We don’t believe it is good budget management to amend the charter to guarantee a percentage of revenue to one city agency over others, and that includes for libraries. Mandating an increase in the percentage of the budget libraries receive may feel good, but it is bad policy.  If residents want more money for libraries, they should approve a new taxing or revenue raising measure on the next election ballot—Vote No.

Amendment M— Tax on Medical Marijuana

Taxing medical marijuana collectives as businesses, when they are currently operating as non-profit entities is sure to result in a legal battle. We’re not sure it is a prudent plan considering the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug. But since the sales are on going and large according to some, some feel we may as well tax until the issue is resolved. Measure M is another of those poorly thought out and constructed measures that raises more than it answers. No recommendation.

Amendment N— Public Funding of Campaign

Removing provisions from the city charter deemed by the courts as unconstitutional is the right move. Measure N will remove from the City Charter provisions on campaign financing found to be unconstitutional. By law, all changes to the City Charger must be approved by voters.—Vote Yes.

Amendment O— Tax on Oil Companies

With the price of oil now at $99 per barrel, adding another $1.44 in oil extraction fees for oil companies does not bode well for the price for a gallon of gas at the pump.

That $1.44 is what the city of Los Angeles wants to charge oil companies extracting oil within city boundaries. Most of the companies the tax will affect are small businesses. While they may not influence the global price of oil, it makes no sense to add to their cost of doing business during these tough times. The city already charges businesses taxes on their gross receipts, the new revenue to be generated may at first glance bode well for the city, but it will hurt the local economy. This tax won’t only cost the oil companies, it’s going to cost at the pump. We will let the voters decide if they want to go along with this tax.

—No recommendation.

Amendment PEmergency Reserve and Budget Stabilization Fund

Creating a city emergency reserve fund to be used for actual emergencies is just prudent fiscal management. It seems to us that locking up 2.75 percent of the general to prepare for unanticipated emergencies such as fires, earthquakes and floods is a good way to keep the council and mayor from continuing to spend all the city’s revenue today with little regard for the future.

—Vote Yes.

Amendment Q Civil Service Hiring Rule Changes

The city wants to amend the charter so the personnel department can if necessary limit the number of civil service applicants for civil service jobs. City departments have been overwhelmed by the number of applicants they receive and the requirement that all who apply be tested. As long as there a way to do this in a fair and equitable way, such as ensuring through  public notice when job become available and the timeline to apply, we have no objection.

—Vote Yes.

City of Monterey Park

Measure BB—Solid Waste Franchise Initiative

The most public and equitable way to award solid waste (trash) franchises is through an open bid process. While we do not understand why trash hauling businesses have been singled out for special attention, or why the measure is not being applied to all large city contracts, adding this open bidding process to the Monterey Park Municipal Code is a step toward greater transparency in the city’s business.—Vote Yes.

City of Commerce

Measure A—City Council Term Limits

Term limits for city council or any elected office have not proven themselves to be without problems, but we don’t believe the problem of constant campaign fundraising by elected officials in search of their next political office will become an issue that hurts residents in some small cities like Commerce. We believe three four-year-terms (12 years) is long enough for council members—Vote Yes.

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February 24, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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