Few Voters Decide Big Issues

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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.”

Measure S

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.

Measure M

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.

Part 2: EGP Ballot Recommendations for March 7 Primary Election

March 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

City of Los Angeles

 Mayor of the City of Los Angeles – Eric Garcetti

In the race for mayor, Eastern Group Publications (EGP) endorses the reelection of Eric Garcetti. Garcetti has proven that it’s possible to be a mayor for all Angelenos by his constant attention to the needs of all the city’s neighborhoods, while still giving special attention to the homeless, the poor and immigrants.

As mayor, Garcetti has continued to press for action to reduce pollution and to make the need to conserve water a shared responsibility.

Garcetti has been a strong voice for continuing the building of a world-class transit system and a world-class airport, making progress in each of those areas by gaining the support of both Angelenos and neighbors in other cities.

His endorsement of a livable wage for low-income workers has won our admiration, as has his support for protecting undocumented immigrants in the city. Most of all, we appreciate the fact that in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse cities in the world, our mayor can move around this city with the ease and comfort and demeanor only officials that are well liked and trusted are able to do.

Vote Eric Garcetti for Mayor of Los Angeles.

 

City Council District 1 – Gil Cedillo

Our endorsement goes to the incumbent, Gil Cedillo. For the most part, we have been pleased by changes in the First District, including cleaner streets in areas once heavily littered, and the faster cleanup of trash and items illegally dumped. No small task, given that the district is one of the city’s most densely populated.

While there are still many upgrades and improvements needed across the district – and all across the city, for that matter – Cedillo has made progress on improving the district’s infrastructure, including installing new streets signs and street lights along neighborhood thoroughfares.

Yes, we understand that bicycle activists are unhappy with Cedillo’s decision not to support a bike lane along North Figueroa Street, but as this newspaper reported at the time, there were many in the community who agreed with him, and many have told us they still do.

Gentrification will continue to be a hot button issue across the district and the city.

And while we agree that the building of more affordable residential units is needed, we disagree that the loss of affordable and rent control units can be blamed solely on Cedillo or any single city council member. There are limits – under current city regulations and ordinances – to the control the city has over what an owner can do with his or her property, and on who is allowed to buy property in the city.

In our view, Cedillo and his staff need to do a better job or articulating what they have done when it comes to development, why he has approved certain developments, and how he intends to protect neighborhoods from over development. But that’s not to say that we believe the councilman has neglected the communities in those areas, rather to emphasize that a little more face-to-face discussion and consultation could go a long way to reduce distress and dissention.

We give our endorsement to Gil Cedillo for Council District 1.

 

Previous EGP Ballot Recommendations:

City of Los Angeles

Measure S is Not the Solution – Vote No

Measure S – The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative – asks Los Angeles voters to approve a two-year moratorium on developments that don’t conform to the city’s current, but outdated General Plan, but the intended and unintended consequences will do more harm than good and deserves a no vote.

 Yes on Measure M, No on Measure N

Measure M is a sensible step to ensuring the city can responsibly regulate enforcement and taxation on the commercial production, cultivation and sale of marijuana, now that California voters have approved its legalization.

Vote No on Measure N – which is no longer even supported by the cannabis industry.

 

Los Angeles County

 We Need to Invest in Services for the Homeless – Vote Yes on Measure H

Measure H will authorize the County to hike the sales tax a quarter-cent to pay for much needed services for the homeless population in Los Angeles County. Funding includes services for mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training, housing subsidies, outreach and other supportive services for homeless adults, families. Vote Yes.

 

County Transit Tax Wins

November 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles County voters have thrown their support behind another half-cent sales tax increase to fund transit and transportation projects, with the ballot measure narrowly earning the two-thirds majority vote needed for approval.

Barring a major swing in still-uncounted provisional and questioned ballots, Measure M will add another half-cent transportation sales tax for county residents, on top of the existing half-cent Measure R sales tax already in place. When the Measure R tax expires on July 1, 2039, the Measure M tax
will increase to one cent, and remain in place permanently.

The measure is expected to generate $120 billion over the first 40 years.

Measure M required a two-thirds majority vote, and it earned about 70 percent on Tuesday.

When ballots were still being tallied Tuesday night and the measure appeared to be heading toward victory, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed optimism.

“The trend looks good,” he said. “When we wake up tomorrow, we might feel somewhat depressed about some things, some of you might feel happy about something,” but Angelenos can feel “proud” that this local measure appeared
to be headed toward passage.

“We’re getting a job done in L.A.,” he said.

Some of the dozens of upgrades proposed under Measure M, dubbed the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, include:
— the Airport Metro Connector at Los Angeles International Airport;
— extending light rail lines throughout the county;
— adding rapid transit bus lines, including along the Vermont Corridor
and Lincoln Boulevard;
— widening the Golden State (5), Santa Ana (5) and San Diego (405)
freeways and widening or adding HOV lanes to many others;
— street repairs;
— a downtown streetcar project; and
— new bike paths and lanes.

Opponents of the measure — including the mayors of Norwalk, Beverly Hills and El Segundo, claimed the tax would amount to a “blank check” for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with no accountability.

“Measure M postpones transportation projects for the blue-collar neighborhoods, but projects for affluent communities move to the front of the line,” according to a ballot argument submitted by opponents of the proposal.

“MTA has a poor record of safety and a history of prioritizing wealthy communities, violating civil rights and disenfranchising the poor and the people of color who need effective transit the most.”

But the supporters, including Garcetti, insisted the measure will result in improvements in communities throughout the county, reducing traffic delay by 15 percent a day while creating 465,000 jobs and funding street repaving and pothole repair throughout the region.

“In 2015, the average driver on L.A. freeways spent 81 hours stuck in traffic,” proponents argue. “We can stop wasting time away from our families and jobs by making smart investments in both transit and roads.”

Say No to Measure M and Start Over

November 3, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

Measure M is about two L.A.’s.

One is the invisible L.A., our L.A., the Southeast and South Bay parts of the county. The L.A. that is invisible to the people who wrote Measure M. The L.A. that would pay for Measure M right away, and would wait for decades to see results.

The other L.A. is wealthy L.A., downtown L.A., West L.A. – the L.A. that wrote Measure M, and that would benefit from it right from the start.

That’s why our L.A. needs to say no to Measure M.

Let’s talk details:

Measure M is the sales tax increase that MTA put on the November ballot. It raises the sales tax a half-cent – forever. For good measure, it makes the half-cent increase from the last transit tax, which was going to expire – it makes that permanent too.

That money, which pushes our sales tax up over 9.50 percent and in some cities like Commerce to 10 percent, goes to pay for a long list of transportation improvement projects. Projects are in just about every part of the county – new light rail lines, freeway improvements, more buses.

And in the San Fernando Valley, in the San Gabriel Valley, in West L.A. – Measure M might be a pretty good deal. Billions of dollars are set aside for the projects in those parts of the county, and if Measure M passes, those projects start almost right away.

But if you live in Commerce, or in Norwalk, or Carson, or Paramount, or Torrance, or Long Beach – if you are one of the millions of us in the Southeast and South Bay, this is what they tell us.

They tell us that improving traffic on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass – that’s important to everyone, whether you live there or not. And they tell us that improving traffic on the 405 along the South Bay Curve – that can wait.

Building the Gold Line out from Azusa to Claremont – that’s important to everyone. So important in fact, that they call it the brain train”. And they tell us that building a light rail line from Artesia, up through the southeast to Union Station – that can wait. (We’re not on the “brain train” apparently.)

And when we say “wait”, we mean wait. The Measure M Plan has a 2041 completion date for Artesia.

If you have a daughter who started kindergarten this year, she will be 14 when they finish that Gold Line extension to Claremont. But your daughter will be taking her first ride on that line from Artesia to Union Station when she’s 31. If you’re 35 today, you’ll be 43 when work starts on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass. But you can take your grandchildren with you to see them start work on the 405 along the South Bay Curve, because you’ll be 64.

Want one more? If you’re retiring this year at 65, you’ll be 74 when they finish work on the LA River Bikepath. But eat right and stay healthy if you want to see work finished on the southern stretch of the I-5, because they’ll be wrapping that up for your 90th birthday.

You can see the pattern. Work in the wealthy parts of the county goes first. Work in our part of the county comes later, much later. The people in charge of MTA, the downtown L.A. power brokers – they wrote Measure M. They put our projects at the end – and they put the projects for the wealthy parts of the county up front.

They turn around and say, vote for Measure M. They say, start paying for Measure M right now. They say, wait, and wait, and wait, we’ll get to you.

Now, we are not saying put all of our projects ahead of everyone else’s projects. We are not saying projects in other parts of the county aren’t important also. We are just saying – don’t put us at the back of the bus. We are just saying that we live here too, and traveling back and forth, to work, to school, to family and friends – it isn’t easy for us either.

We all share the cost of Measure M – we should all share the work that Measure M pays for – in our lifetime.

None of this should have been a surprise downtown. We’ve been asking for help with our freeways, we’ve been asking for more bus service and new light rail service for years. If they’d treated us like Angelinos, just like the people who live in the Valley or in Westwood – this could have been different.

But they didn’t. They treated us, the Southeast, as if we were invisible. So the only way now we can make them see us, is to vote NO on Measure M – start over – and do it right.

Jon R. Reno is president of the Commerce Industrial Council Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Director. Eddie D. Tafoya is the Chamber’s CEO & Executive Director.

‘Industrial Cities’ Want Metro to Revamp its Funding Forumula

October 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Metro’s funding formula is unfair to cities with small residential populations but large numbers of workers and traffic congestion complain industrial cities like Vernon and Commerce.

Unless the formula is changed, officials in both cities say they don’t expect to see much more money coming their way even if voters approve Measure M, a new, permanent half-cent sales tax to pay for transportation projects that’s on the Nov. 8 ballot.

According to the cities, they generate millions of dollars in sales tax revenue yearly for transportation projects in Los Angeles County, but because Metro allocates money based on residential population they only get back a fraction of what other cities generating the same amount of revenue receive. They complain that no credit is given to the tremendous burden the goods movement has had on their streets and on their residents.

“The local return formula comes at a disadvantage to Vernon because of its low resident population,” says Vernon Spokesman Fred McFarlane. With just 120 residents, McFarlane says Vernon “doesn’t get back what it puts in.”

A coalition of cities in the Southeast and South Bay oppose Measure M on the grounds it will be decades before projects to relieve near gridlock conditions along the I-5 and 710 freeways see the light of day.

Supporters counter that the estimated $860 million generated each year under Measure M will reap benefits countywide, paying for highway and street repairs, transportation improvements and new rail and bus lines that will help alleviate traffic woes that will only get worse if not funded.

Similar to Measure R – approved by voters in 2008 – Measure M requires two-thirds voter approval. If it passes, consumers will start paying an additional half-cent sales tax in 2017. It will jump to 1-cent in 2039 when the Measure R half-cent sales tax expires.

According to Metro, 17 percent of all sales tax collected under Measure M will be returned to the County’s 88 cities and unincorporated areas on a per capita basis between 2017 and 2040, when the return amount jumps to 20 percent, which is higher than the 15 percent currently allocated under Measure R.

The funds are restricted and can only be used to pay for transportation-related projects such as local bus service, street, sidewalk and pothole repairs, traffic signal synchronization and bike lanes.

Metro officials claim the local return is a way for every city in the county to get something out of the ballot measure.

“Supporters of the measure say cities will be able to fix their streets but this is not a one-size-fits –all accurate statement,” Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa told EGP. “For cities with small resident populations but a large worker environment, it doesn’t come close.”

vernon-streets

City workers repair damaged roads in industrial cities. Photo by EGP News.

Commerce generates about $8 million a year in Measure R sales tax revenue, but because the local return is based on population, with just 13,000 residents, the city only gets back $150,000 a year. Under Measure M, Commerce would double its contribution to $16 million but still only receive about $300,000 a year, according to Rifa, who notes that the city’s daytime population swells to about 45,000 when the number of people working in the city is taken into account.

A couple miles down the road, highly industrial Vernon is also out of luck when it comes to the transportation funding. With just 120 residents, the city does not receive a dime in Measure R revenue, even though it generates millions in sales tax revenue for Metro. In the past, the city has opted out of receiving Measure R funding because the cost to apply is more than the approximately $2,300 the city would receive in funds.

In comparison, with 42,000 residents, nearby Bell Gardens receives nearly $480,000 a year in Measure R funding, after generating $1.5 million a year in sales tax revenue.

Vernon has not taken a formal position on Measure M but is one of the 23 cities that make up the Gateway Cities Council of Government, which is spearheading a campaign to “educate” voters on Measure M’s impact in their cities.

The Vernon City Council did, however, pass a resolution in May urging the Metro Board to adjust it’s formula for allocating funding.

Like Commerce, Vernon is impacted by heavy truck traffic traveling to and from its hundreds of warehouses and manufacturing plants that also bring as many as 50,000 workers a day to the city.

With 47-miles of street to maintain, Vernon is facing over $18 million in street repair costs over the next five years, according to city documents. Without transportation funding, the city must fund the projects using money from its general fund.

Yes on Measure M campaign spokesman Yusseff Robb says language in the measure allows the Metro Board to interpret the population based formula in a manner that includes daytime population.

“It’s not a promise but the law,” Robb told EGP. “After Measure M is passed, exact local return allocations will be determined in partnership with each of the Gateway cities to ensure that everyone gets a fair share that reflects the reality in their communities.”

He told EGP that the benefits from Measure M go beyond local return allocations, including better transit and freeway traffic flow throughout the region and the creation of 465,000 new jobs.

Located along the I-5, SR-710 and heavy truck traffic, Commerce officials have repeatedly highlighted the city’s role as one of the country’s busiest “dry ports,” a point it has been making at a number of city sponsored town hall meetings on Measure M and in information distributed to educate city residents

A return of $150,000 would just cover a basic oil application on three to four blocks, says Rifa, explaining the poor condition of roads in industrial cities are due to heavy truck traffic.

“We are a trucking intensive city…trucks are what damage roads,” Rifa said. “We simply cannot keep up.”

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Chairperson Eric Garcetti attended a Commerce City Council meeting earlier this month hoping to change the council’s opposition to Measure M or at least get them to remain neutral. He told the council he had heard their concerns about the local return formula, and promised to look into ways to address the burden caused by the influx of large numbers of workers in the city during the day.

Rifa suggests the local return formula should not be based on population but rather the number of street miles in each city, which in Commerce’s case totals 65.5 miles.

“We are looking for fairness and equality,” said Rifa. “Our streets require significant street repair to provide for the transportation needs for our community and the region.”

Southeast LA Deserves Its Fair Share of Measure M Funding

October 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I was raised in Southeast LA County, in the shadow of the 710 freeway, a community suffocated by rail yards and freeways. It is a region identified by the U.S. federal air quality standards as one of the worst in the nation. Unfortunately, Southeast cities are often left out of critical county decisions that will impact our region’s quality of life for decades to come. This is true when it comes to air quality, community health and transportation funding.

On November 8, voters will be asked to approve the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, otherwise known as Measure M, which would enact a ½ cent sales tax increase that will generate approximately $860 million a year for transportation infrastructure improvements throughout LA County. While Measure M addresses much needed transportation challenges, we must ensure that the needs of the gateway corridor are considered, and that our residents have a seat at the decision making table.

Indeed, the transit network in the county is in poor health and has challenging and complex needs. Our dated roads and freeways weren’t made to withstand our ballooning population which now tops 10.2 million, resulting in congested commutes that average 81 hours a year for Angelenos.

Unfortunately, the planning process headed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has rendered the cities in Southeast Los Angeles County largely irrelevant. For example, proposals in Measure M would delay long overdue rehabilitation projects on the 5, 605 and 710 freeways up to forty years. Alternatively, projects on the Westside and in the Valley would be placed ahead of the queue. This is unacceptable and in order to win Southeast support, county leaders must address this inequity in a meaningful way.

In a show of solidarity, Southeast leaders have successfully fought for our fair share of Measure M funding. Our cities, stretching from Vernon to Long Beach, have been steadfast and unified in our advocacy for the region.

Our collective efforts got the attention of the MTA and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti who have expressed goodwill toward working collaboratively moving forward. I take these leaders at their word and will work with members of the community to ensure projects in our region are prioritized should Measure M be approved.

MTA has committed to accelerate development of the Eco-Rapid/West Santa Ana Branch transit line, a 20-mile light rail project that provides our constituents safe, reliable transportation to Union Station in Downtown LA. In a show of good faith, MTA agreed to prioritize state and federal funding that will get southeast transportation projects shovel ready.

The mounting pressure has also pushed MTA to include several Long Beach projects such the rehabilitation of the Shoemaker Bridge, the Wardlow Station, as well as expanding resources to address public safety concerns at certain public transit stations, to be prioritized and receive vital funding from Measure M.

I commend our gateway cities for standing up for our working families and highlighting the discrepancies within current MTA funding formulas that disadvantage our neighborhoods. I encourage the MTA, Mayor Garcetti and our regional leaders to continue to work together on behalf of some of our most vulnerable residents.

With Measure M, we have an opportunity to fix and repair our aging transit infrastructure, which undoubtedly improves the quality of life and public health for the millions of residents living in 27 cities across Southeast Los Angeles County. But we must do so in a fair and inclusive manner so that all LA County residents benefit.

I support Measure M because of this unique opportunity. And like many of my residents, I do so with the understanding that our community will get its fair share. I look forward to working with the MTA, Mayor Garcetti, Southeast leaders and other decision-makers to ensure that this is the case.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) represents California’s 33rd Senate District.

Measure M: New Hope for Southeast Transit Users?

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

While politicians continue to argue over allocations, voters will decide Nov. 8 whether they are willing to pay another half-cent sales tax to fund transit and transportation projects in car-centric Los Angeles County.

Measure M would add another half-cent transportation sales tax for county residents, on top of the existing half-cent Measure R sales tax already in place. When the Measure R tax expires on July 1, 2039, the Measure M tax would increase to one cent, and remain in place permanently.

The measure, if passed by two-thirds of voters, is expected to generate $120 billion over the first 40 years. In 2012, a similar ballot measure failed to pass by less than 1 percent.

Opponents to the measure, including the cities of Commerce, Carson, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes and Signal Hill, say transit projects in their region, such as improvements to the 1-5 and 710 freeways, will be delayed for decades under Measure M.

They’ve pointed out that their constituents will generate millions of dollars in sales tax revenue, but won’t see much of return on the investment for 30 years because Measure M favors projects in Los Angeles and the western and northern parts of the County.

Last week, Metro announced that it has received unsolicited proposals that “provide a unique approach to fund and accelerate some of its mega projects included in Measure M.”

Several of the proposals are for “public private partnerships” to design, build and finance major projects, according to Metro.

Two of the proposals would accelerate the West Santa Ana Branch Light Rail project, also known as the Eco Rapid Transit Line, said Metro in a news release. The Eco Rapid Transit Line, which would run along an abandoned Union Pacific Railroad ROW from Artesia north through several southeast cities and then along the west side of the Los Angeles River to downtown LA, is popular with Southeast area lawmakers and other groups in the region.

Supporters of Measure M hope news of a possible strategy to speed up some of the transit projects championed by the before mentioned cities will bring southeast area voters around, giving the tax hike a better chance of passing.

Last month, hoping to quiet the discord surrounding Measure M, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti made an appearance before the Commerce City Council. “We all know it takes a few to defeat this, why not come together to solve our traffic woes, Garcetti told council members, who did not respond to his comment.

Some of the dozens of upgrades proposed under Measure M, dubbed the Los

Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, include:

—the Airport Metro Connector at Los Angeles International Airport;

—extending light rail lines throughout the county;

—adding rapid transit bus lines, including along the Vermont Corridor and Lincoln Boulevard;

—widening the Golden State (5), Santa Ana (5) and San Diego (405)

freeways and widening or adding HOV lanes to many others;

—street repairs;

—a downtown streetcar project; and

—new bike paths and lanes.

Supporters, including Garcetti, insist the measure will result in improvements in communities throughout the county, reducing traffic delay by 15 percent a day while creating 465,000 jobs and funding street repaving and pothole repair throughout the region.

“In 2015, the average driver on L.A. freeways spent 81 hours stuck in traffic,” proponents argue. “We can stop wasting time away from our families and jobs by making smart investments in both transit and roads.”

Article includes information from City News Service.

 

Measure M Backers Tout High Ridership Among Rams Fans

October 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Backers of the proposed extension and increase in a countywide sales tax to fund transit projects pointed Tuesday to the success of the Metro Expo Line, and its heavy use by fans attending Los Angeles Rams games, as an example of transportation improvements the levy would fund.

Standing in the shadow of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, supporters of Measure M said about 25 percent of people attending Rams games get to the stadium by Metro transit, most notably the Expo Line light rail.

“Twenty-five percent of Rams fans taking Metro to the games means 20,000 fewer people clogging freeways and parking lots, and that means less traffic for us all,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “It shows that the success we’ve already seen by extending the Expo Line to Santa Monica is only increasing, and it shows what we can achieve by voting yes on Measure M.”

Measure M would add another half-cent transportation sales tax in Los Angeles County, on top of the existing half-cent Measure R sales tax already in place. When the Measure R tax expires on July 1, 2039, the Measure M tax would increase to one cent, and remain in place permanently.

The measure, if passed by two-thirds of voters, is expected to generate $120 billion over the first 40 years.

Some of the dozens of upgrades proposed under Measure M, dubbed the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, include:

— the Airport Metro Connector at Los Angeles International Airport;

— extending light rail lines throughout the county;

— adding rapid transit bus lines, including along the Vermont Corridor and Lincoln Boulevard;

— widening the Golden State (5), Santa Ana (5) and San Diego (405) freeways and widening or adding HOV lanes to many others;

— street repairs;

—    a downtown streetcar project; and

—    new bike paths and lanes.

Opponents of the measure — including the mayors of Norwalk, Beverly Hills and El Segundo, claim the tax would amount to a “blank check” for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with no accountability.

“Measure M postpones transportation projects for the blue-collar neighborhoods, but projects for affluent communities move to the front of the line,” according to a ballot argument submitted by opponents of the proposal.

“MTA has a poor record of safety and a history of prioritizing wealthy communities, violating civil rights and disenfranchising the poor and the people of color who need effective transit the most.”

But the supporters who gathered today insisted the measure will result in improvements in communities throughout the county, reducing traffic delay by 15 percent a day while creating 465,000 jobs and funding street repaving and pothole repair throughout the region.

Kevin Demoff, chief operating officer and vice president of football operations for the Rams, said the popularity of Metro “has become a hallmark of our Rams community.”

“We’re tackling an age-old problem for sports teams: How do you get people to stay until the end of the game?” he said. “Take away the traffic.”

 

 

L.A. Mayor Asks Commerce Council to Support Measure M

October 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Hoping to garner support for a November ballot transit measure, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made a trip to Commerce City Hall Tuesday to ask the city council to drop its opposition to Measure M, which if approved by voters will authorize a permanent one-cent increase in the sales tax to fund transportation project.

“I’m here to ask for your support,” Garcetti told the council in what turned out to be a one-way dialogue with Garcetti doing all the talking.

Commerce is among a group of East and Southeast area cities opposed to the passage of Measures M on grounds that their constituents will be paying in to the fund for decades before any of their transportation woes are addressed.

The tax hike would generate at least $860 million annually for highway and street repairs, new rail and bus lines and transportation improvements.

Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the Commerce City Council Tuesday during a presentation on Measure M.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the Commerce City Council Tuesday during a presentation on Measure M. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Proponents of the transit tax claim it will help solve the region’s traffic congestion problems, improve air quality and create jobs.

Cities opposing the tax hike are unhappy that improvements to transit projects in their region, such as the 1-5 and 710 freeways, will be delayed under Measure M. They claim the distribution of projects favor the western and northern parts of the County.

Garcetti pointed out projects in some parts of Los Angeles will also not see funding for 30 years.

Surprisingly, council members did not use the opportunity to reiterate their opposition to the Measure, or to get the visiting mayor and Metro chair to agree to work with the city on transportation issues in the future.

In August, the 23 cities that makeup the Gateway Cities Council of Government, including Commerce, spearheaded an educational outreach campaign to specifically inform voters what Measure M’s impacts would or would not have. That same month, Commerce and a handful of cities unsuccessfully filed a lawsuit claiming Measure M was misleading when it failed to state the proposed tax would be permanent.

“We’re friends no matter what, before or after,” Garcetti assured Commerce council members.

“I urge you to support Measure M, if not, can you stay neutral?”

Garcetti acknowledged that the city of Commerce, home to 13,000 residents but a daytime working population of 80,000, did have a good argument when they questioned what the return would be to their city.

“But if nothing passes it will be more than 30 years” before transportation issues in the region are addressed, Garcetti told EGP following his presentation.

Currently, Commerce generates about $8 million a year in Measure R sales tax revenue for the county, but annually only gets back about $150,000. The city’s contribution would double to $16 million under Measure M, but it would only receive around $300,000 a year based on its population.

Commerce previously supported Measure R, a temporary half-cent tax that will sunset in 2039 unless it is made permanent under Measure M, which adds an additional half-cent to the sales tax. A two-third margin is required for Measure M to pass. In 2012, a similar ballot measure failed to pass by less than 1 percent.

“We all know it takes a few to defeat this, why not come together to solve our traffic woes,” Garcetti told council members, who did not respond to his statement, instead voting to just receive and file his presentation without action.

 

Judge Rejects Lawsuit Challenging Measure M Language

September 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A judge Tuesday rejected a petition filed on behalf of Commerce and 7 other cities seeking significant changes in the ballot language for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed half-cent county sales tax measure, saying there was no evidence the wording was confusing to voters.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel said Measure M is not an initiative and therefore did not require the ballot language specifics sought in the action filed last week by the cities of Carson, Commerce, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes and Signal Hill.

The petition alleged that the ballot label for Measure M did not include the actual 1 percent total rate of the tax to be imposed. The petitioners also claimed the ballot label for Measure M does not state that the proposed tax would be permanent.

Carson Mayor Albert Robles said after the hearing that he and the other coalition members were disappointed with the ruling and are considering an appeal. He said Metro’s argument that the coalition was required to seek help from the Legislature was not an option because it would have been too late to do so in time for the November election.

“All we are seeking is transparency,” Robles said, adding, “The voters shouldn’t be misled and confused.”

Signal Hill City Councilman Larry Forester said many residents of the southern part of Los Angeles County do not have access to computers in order to read background material on Measure M.

“It’s a sad day for voters,” Forester said.

The petitioners said the ballot measure leads voters to believe that there will be an equal distribution of projects. In reality, projects in the western and northern of the regions of the county will take priority, while southern Los Angeles County regions will not see any benefits until 2039-2040, according to the petitioners.

“The plaintiffs attempted to mislead the voters with a politically motivated lawsuit, but the court ruled today that there was no evidence the wording is confusing to voters,” said Yusef Robb of the campaign on behalf of Measure M in response to the judge’s decision.

“Measure M is clear on what it will do: ease congestion and make transportation improvements Countywide and in each of L.A. County’s 88 cities … The plaintiffs should stop interfering with the voters’ right to make their own judgment on Measure M.” Robb said in written statement.

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