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.

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.

 

Cities Claim Trasit Tax Measure Misleading, File Suit

September 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A judge said Tuesday she needs more information before ruling on a request by a coalition of seven Los Angeles County cities for an accelerated hearing on a lawsuit filed on behalf of taxpayers concerning the ballot language for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed half-cent county sales tax measure.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel said the new court papers should consolidate legal points and authorities in support of the petition filed last week by the cities of Carson, Commerce, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes and Signal Hill.

She also directed the lawyers for the petitioning cities to make sure Metro has notice of the new hearing date, now set for Sept. 6.

Strobel questioned why the petitioners waited so long to file their case when they knew the ballot language as of Aug. 16. Lawyer G. Ross Trindle, on behalf of the petitioning cities, said it took time for the communities involved to hold meetings and vote on whether to participate.

In their lawsuit filed Friday, the petitioning cities are asking 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 suit alleges that the ballot label for Measure M is misleading and does not include the actual 1 percent – one-cent – total rate of the tax to be imposed. It also fails to state that the proposed tax is permanent.

Petitioners also claim the ballot measure leads voters to believe that there will be an equal distribution of projects. In reality, they claim, 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 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.”

Lawyers for the petitioners arrived too late to Strobel’s courtroom for a hearing Monday, so Tuesday was the second attempt to have the matter heard.

Yusef Robb, of the campaign on behalf of Measure M, called the lawsuit “a political stunt that has nothing to do with the law or reality.”

“Measure M will build regional traffic-reduction projects across L.A. County, from Claremont to Torrance to Santa Fe Springs and everywhere in between, and will direct funds to each of L.A. County’s 88 cities for their own local projects,” Robb said.

“Measure M was publicly debated and put on the ballot by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan ,Transportation Authority and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in clear recognition of its countywide traffic-reduction benefits,” according to Robb.

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.”

 

Transit Tax Placed on November Ballot

August 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to put Measure M on the November general election ballot, a largely administrative action that nonetheless offered an opportunity for backers and opponents to speak out.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted June 23 to put forth a ballot measure that would permanently add a half-cent county sales tax to fund a package of transportation improvements, including new rail and bus lines, highway improvements and street repairs.

The Metro board – which includes all five members of the Board of Supervisors – had the authority to ask voters to consider the measure on a special election ballot Nov. 8, but needed the county board to agree to consolidate the special election with the statewide general election ballot.

The board rarely refuses a request to consolidate various city, school board and other municipal elections and approved seven other such requests Tuesday.

In this case, however, several MTA and city officials and labor leaders turned up to promote Measure M, saying it would help solve the region’s outsized traffic congestion problems and improve air quality while creating jobs.

Supervisor Hilda Solis also praised the measure.

“These are opportunities that we haven’t seen in maybe a lifetime,” Solis said. “This is our economic stimulus plan for L.A. County.”

However, Supervisor Don Knabe, who was one of two dissenters on the Metro board when the ordinance was considered, said he had concerns.

“This is an open checkbook … a forever tax,” Knabe said, though he said he’d leave it to voters to evaluate the measure.

When the existing half-cent transportation tax levied under Measure R expires on July 1, 2039, Measure M will bump up to one cent. There is no sunset date for the new measure.

Knabe agreed that lots of jobs would be created, but questioned what cities would get the benefits of those jobs and objected to the idea that some new Measure M projects might jump ahead of projects previously approved for Measure R funding.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich said he was fine with reordering priorities, because he believed the Measure M project list was driven by bottom-up input from a broad set of stakeholders, while some of the projects already on the drawing board had gotten special treatment to move forward.

Measure R was seen by some opponents as neglecting the San Fernando Valley and the northern end of Los Angeles County, while Knabe and Lakewood Councilwoman and Metro board member Diane DuBois view Measure M as too heavily tilted away from southern municipalities they represent.

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 tens of miles of 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.

The board’s vote to consolidate the elections was unanimous.

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