Few Voters Decide Big Issues
By City News Service
Turnout was expected to be low for Tuesday’s Los Angeles County elections. And it was.
Unofficial figures released early Wednesday put the turnout figure at 11.29 percent.
Election experts noted that the turnout tends to be low when there is no presidential race on the ballot, even when there are local offices up for grab and tax raising measures on the ballot.
The election included a countywide quarter-cent sales tax measure to combat homelessness, a successful re-election run by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, local council races and measures to control development and the production and sale of marijuana in the City of Angeles.
Of the 593,233 ballots tallied as of early Wednesday, 239,853 — or roughly 40 percent — were vote-by-mail, while the rest were cast at the polls, according to the county Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office.
It was unclear how many late, provisional and questioned ballots still need to be counted, and how they would affect the final turnout figure, but this is how it looked on Wednesday:
County Measure H
The quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs appeared to emerge victorious by a thin margin.
With all precincts reporting, Measure H had 67.44 percent of the vote, just ahead of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. The measure was short of the threshold much of Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, but it steadily gained ground as vote-counting continued, and it passed the two-thirds mark only when the final precincts reported.
The Board of Supervisors declared homelessness a countywide emergency and chose the sales tax hike over a number of other funding alternatives, including a millionaire’s tax, a parcel tax and a special tax on marijuana.
There are roughly 47,000 homeless people countywide, according to a point-in-time count in January 2016. That total reflects a 19 percent increase since 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
City of L.A. Mayor, City Council
The city’s mayor and six members of the Los Angeles City Council were celebrating re-election victories Wednesday, while Councilman Gil Cedillo appeared to have won as well, but by a tenuous margin over activist/businessman Joe Bray-Ali.
With all precincts reporting from Tuesday’s election, Cedillo finished with 50.98 percent of the vote, appearing to win re-election outright.
Cedillo had a 1,952-vote lead over Bray-Ali, a bike activist and former bike shop owner.
Of the three challengers looking to unseat Cedillo in the 1st Council District, which includes the Westlake area, Chinatown, Highland Park and Lincoln Heights, Bray-Ali presented the biggest challenge to the political veteran first elected to the seat in 2013 and who also served 14 years in the Assembly and state Senate.
It was unclear Wednesday whether the final count might land him under the 50 percent threshold to avoid a May 16 runoff.
Meanwhile, Mayor Garcetti was preparing for another term Wednesday, after easily outpacing a field of 10 challengers and avoiding a May runoff to keep his job.
The mayor proclaimed victory relatively early Tuesday night – when early returns had already given him about 80 percent of the vote – greeting supporters at a campaign party in downtown Los Angeles, touting his achievements over the past four years and vowing that more is to come.
“While other people are talking about doing big things, Los Angeles, we are doing big things right now,” he said. “My friends, big things don’t happen by accident. They require leadership. The job of the mayor is to get things done, and that’s what I’m going to keep on doing for each and every one of you here in this city. We’re breaking records at our port and our airport.”
“We’re breaking records for tourism and filming. We’ve housed more homeless veterans than any city in America. We’ve paved more roads than ever before. We’ve confronted climate change head on, by cleaning our air, conserving our water and expanding our green spaces. We enacted the largest tax cut in our city’s history and we’ve seen more small businesses start in the last four years than we’ve seen in decades.”
“… So we are doing big things, but we have a lot more left to do.”
Despite a defeat at the ballot box, backers of a hotly debated initiative aimed at limiting development in the city of Los Angeles in part by blocking General Plan amendments for two years said Wednesday they were happy that their campaign has prompted change at City Hall.
“We not only exposed corruption but we began a process of reform,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which largely bankrolled the campaign in support of Measure S. “We built a citywide movement and we planted the seeds of change. Los Angeles will be a better place to live as a result of the Yes on S campaign.”
Measure S was handily defeated by voters in Tuesday’s election. The initiative was the most expensive – and in many ways the most bitter – campaign in the Los Angeles city election.
The measure would have halted all General Plan amendments, or special permission to developers known as “spot zoning,” for two years while the city updates its General Plan and community plans that guide neighborhood development.
The measure’s backers argued that City Hall is plagued by a “pay-to-play” climate in which wealthy developers who contribute money to elected officials’ campaigns get spot zoning requests granted while the proliferation of high-rise towers and other expensive developments have caused increases in the cost of housing.
Opponents, however, argued the measure goes too far, saying a halt to all General Plan amendments would undercut the city’s efforts to build affordable housing and housing for the homeless while severely hurting the local economy. Officials also argued that updating the General Plan and community plans within two years is not possible.
Los Angeles voters have overwhelmingly approved a measure that gives the city tools to regulate the recreational and medical marijuana industry.
The city-sponsored Measure M easily bested a competing ballot issue, the initiative Measure N, which was crafted and pushed onto the ballot by a marijuana trade group that later opted to throw its support behind the City Council’s measure.
The measures were placed on the ballot in reaction to California voters in November agreeing to legalize recreational marijuana starting in 2018.
Measure M will allow the city to repeal a current ban on medical marijuana dispensaries under the previously approved Proposition D and replace it with a new set of rules for different types of marijuana businesses.
It will give the city tools to enforce its regulations, such as authorizing fines, criminal penalties or loss of power and water service for businesses operating without a license or ignoring city rules.
The measure also allows for gross-receipt taxes to be imposed on marijuana businesses, including the sale of general-use and medical cannabis, delivery services and manufacturing.
“Los Angeles is leading the country and world in responsible and inclusive approaches to legalization,” City Council President Herb Wesson said. “The passing of Proposition M is a great victory for common sense, law enforcement and all Angelenos. We gave communities a voice in the process, and their voices will continue to be heard. This measure is what responsible marijuana laws should look like, and we couldn’t be prouder of our city.”
Measure N called for giving permitting priority to 135 businesses that have been allowed to operate under the Proposition D ban, and also includes taxation and permitting provisions.
But since the city-backed measure also wound up containing a provision to prioritize the Proposition D-immune medical marijuana dispensaries, the group behind Measure N, the UCBA Trade Association, opted to back Measure M.
March 9, 2017 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.