Cities Claim Measure M Misleading, File Lawsuit

August 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Attorneys for a coalition of seven Los Angeles County cities will try again Tuesday to file a request for an accelerated hearing on a lawsuit filed last week on behalf of taxpayers concerning the
ballot language for Measure M, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed half-cent county sales tax ballot action.

The Los Angeles Superior Court petition filed by the cities of Carson, Commerce, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes and Signal Hill alleges that the ballot label for Measure M is misleading and does not include the actual 1 percent total rate of the tax to be imposed. Lawyers for the petitioners arrived too late to Judge Mary H. Strobel’s courtroom today for a hearing.

The petitioners also say that the ballot label for Measure M does not state that the proposed tax is permanent.

Measure M opponents say that the ballot measure leads voters to believe that there will be an equal distribution of projects, according to the petitioning cities. 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, the petitioners say.

The group is asking a judge in a suit filed Friday to correct what they maintain are numerous inaccuracies, misstatements and misrepresentations by amending the ballot label so that voters can cast an informed vote.

“The public deserves, and the law requires, a transparent, accurate description of tax Measure M, including spending priorities,” said G. Ross Trindle, the lead attorney for the petitioning cities.

“At a minimum, state law requires the ballot label to disclose how much money Measure M will cost taxpayers every year and it does not do that. The public will not receive this essential information from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s current title and description of Measure M, which is critical for taxpayers to cast an informed vote.”

Measure M “does not meet the simple test of fairness and equity,” said Carson Mayor Albert Robles. “But you wouldn’t know that from its current description. If Measure M passes, taxpayers in about 50 communities, representing at least 2 million residents, will be paying for Measure M
forever, but won’t see any traffic relief on their freeways and roads for decades down the line.”

Southeast Areas Question Measure M Benefits

August 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Located along the state’s worst traffic bottleneck, the city of Commerce has for decades had to deal with more than its fair share of traffic, yet it’s unlikely that a proposed half-cent sales tax hike going before voters in November will help alleviate the area’s transportation woes anytime soon.

Home to hundreds of distribution and manufacturing businesses and located along a major rail yard and network of freeways, Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa points out that the city is one of the country’s busiest “ports.”

“We get a significant amount of traffic based on the role Commerce plays in the regional distribution of goods,” but he said the “dry port” receives no special state or federal funding to support its role in the goods movement.

“This is a regional place of investment and employment,” but “the southeast won’t see the benefits of this new tax for the first 15 years,” Rifa told EGP.

In November, voters will decide whether to approve an added half-cent sales tax that could generate at least $860 million annually for highway and street repairs, transportation improvements, and new rails and bus lines in Los Angeles County. If approved by the two-third margin required to raise taxes, the half-cent bump would start in 2017, permanently increasing the Measure R temporary half-cent sales tax hike to a full cent.

Measure R was approved by voters in 2008 as a temporary increase and is currently set to sunset in 2039.

Metro officials tout Measure M as a solution to the region’s traffic congestion problems that will also improve air quality and create jobs.

Large trucks overflow into the streets surrounding the I-5 and 710 freeways in Commerce, creating gridlock traffic throughout the day. (EGP photo archive)

Large trucks overflow into the streets surrounding the I-5 and 710 freeways in Commerce, creating gridlock traffic throughout the day. (EGP photo archive)

Rifa counters that in Commerce the claim should be accompanied by “fine print that says ‘20 years from now.’”

Like Measure R, Measure M would earmark funds generated for specific transportation projects outlined in an expenditure plan. The proposal has angered communities along the County’s southeast corridor that accuse Metro’s Board of pushing Measure R approved projects to the back burner under Measure M’s new expenditure plan.

Unhappy that improvements to the I-5 and 710 freeways and other regional transportation plans would be delayed under Measure M, the 23 cities that make up the Gateway Cities Council of Government are now spearheading an educational outreach campaign to specifically inform voters what Measure M’s impact would or would not have in the region.

In Commerce, the impact goes beyond the obvious traffic and environmental concerns and deals directly with the region’s goods movement, says Eddie Tafoya, executive director of the Commerce Industrial Council – Chamber of Commerce.

“We get a significant amount of traffic based on the role Commerce plays in the regional distribution of goods,” he explains. “If it’s not Vernon, it’s Commerce,” he told EGP.

Metro’s Chief Communication Officer Pauletta Tonilas told EGP it’s important to note that the agency has been working on its expenditure plan for years.

“We understand that not everyone is thrilled but this plan reflected what we heard from stakeholders,” she said. “We believe it is balanced and equitable.”

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.

Tafoya is quick to point out however that while the industrial city only has 13,000 residents, its daytime population swells to nearly 80,000 people when you take into account the number of workers who flock to the city.

An additional 230,000 jobs are located in communities bordering the I-5 Freeway, including Downey, La Mirada, Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Vernon in addition to Commerce.

“These jobs are all predicated on the use of freeways and yet [Metro] won’t be touching the I-5 for another 20 years,” complains Rifa.

Tonilas pointed out that not all major projects could be funded at once.

“Everything can’t happen in the first 10 years,” she told EGP. “The time sequence was based on when funds would be available.”

The Industrial Council surveyed businesses in the city and according to Tafoya, over 40 percent responded that traffic congestion is the leading reason they would consider moving out of L.A. County.

There’s no escaping that the high volume of goods traveling through the region leads to more truck traffic and congestion, said Tafoya, noting that “the I-5 is a parking lot.”

“This has a detrimental impact to the economy and quality of life,” he points out.

Tonilas says private-public partnerships would allow businesses to help fund and accelerate some projects.

Last week, the Commerce City Council approved $20,000 to support Gateway Cities’ public outreach efforts in the southeast region. Half of the money will be used to fund a local informational campaign.

“We think, as a region and community, [the plan is] short of being balanced,” Rifa told EGP. “The corridor has been shortchanged.”

Mayor Ivan Altamirano, who pushed for more funding for outreach, agrees. “I really think that’s very little to what we can potentially lose here,” he told EGP.

Before the vote, Councilman Hugo Argumedo noted that efforts to inform voters about what’s at stake locally would be an uphill battle.

“I’m sorry to say this guys, we can say $100,000, but guess what, we’re going to be outgunned,” he told the council, explaining the importance of mobilizing efforts in areas where there are the most votes.

Because city funds are being used, the materials distributed must walk a fine line of educating and not campaign against the measure.

The city, however, is no stranger to voicing its views on transportation projects and their local impacts.

Commerce has been front and center in talks about the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension Phase 2 project. The city was successful in convincing Metro to consider a route that would include a light rail stop within its borders.

Rifa told EGP the transit measure has been and will continue to be a regular fixture on the city’s agenda as city officials are frustrated with the totality of the plan connected to the new tax.

“The southeast was a huge supporter of Measure R, now we are being ignored,” he said. “The balance has been lost and we must protect our jobs.”

 

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