Measure by measure

Measure AWhat it does: Imposes a $36-a-year tax on each parcel of property in the city to raise money for youth and anti-gang programs. Requires two-thirds vote.

Back story: Every property in the city, whether it's a lot with a 20,000-square-foot mansion in Holmby Hills or one with a 700-square-foot cabin in Highland Park -- or even a skyscraper or a Wal-Mart -- would be assessed the same amount. The money could be spent only on after-school and other programs intended to be an alternative for youths who otherwise might be attracted to gangs. Local leaders think this, like other fundraisers on the ballot, has a good chance of passing because they believe Barack Obama will attract voters and have coattails.

Measure BWhat it does: Authorizes the city to get a share of state money to build below-market housing.

Back story: In 2006, California passed Proposition 1C, a $2.8-billion housing bond, to pay (in part) for affordable housing, but Los Angeles can't get its hands on any of it except to build housing for the elderly. This measure opens up the fund to the city for other affordable housing. Signatories to the ballot arguments opposing the measure include the president of a fishing club and the president of the Echo Park Cat Assn.

Measure JWhat it does: Authorizes sale of $3.5 billion in bonds for community college improvements.

Back story: The L.A. Community College District, with nine campuses, is the largest in the state and has by far the largest bond measure, but the Santa Monica and Victor Valley districts also are asking voters to approve bonds.

Measure QWhat it does: Authorizes sale of $7 billion in bonds for school improvements. Requires a 55% vote.

Back story: In 2000, Californians lowered the threshold for the number of votes needed to approve school bonds from two-thirds to 55% -- as long as the measures list "the specific school facilities projects to be funded." Measure Q appears to violate that stricture by dedicating $1.33 billion to unspecified "future safety and repair priorities," but the district is counting on a court ruling that held that the 55% rule applies as long as there is enough information to allow auditors to determine whether the money was properly used. Then again, the district may be hoping for two-thirds and no questions asked.

Measure RWhat it does: Imposes one-half of 1% sales tax on taxable goods sold in Los Angeles County to fund transportation projects.

Back story: The five county supervisors form a significant contingent on the MTA board, and their division over this measure has made for some interesting votes. Don Knabe joined two board colleagues in voting to keep the measure off the ballot, until it became clear that the MTA would then seek a separate, more expensive supplemental ballot. Michael Antonovich sought an additional measure to let voters approve the tax but reject how it was spent, but he dropped that effort. It wasn't clear the Nov. 4 vote on this measure would count until Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger finally signed a bill this month authorizing it. Opponents would prefer that the funding be spread over their districts -- and may be irked that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may use passage of this measure to show that he made good on his campaign promise to start the "subway to the sea."

Measure UWhat it does: Ratifies the county's tax on telephone and utility service in unincorporated areas, lowers the tax from 5% to 4.5% and extends it to "new" technologies, such as cellphones.

Back story: This applies only to voters in unincorporated areas of the county, such as Altadena, East Los Angeles and Hacienda Heights. The county is the latest to ask voters for permission to keep a utilities tax that otherwise could fall victim to lawsuits by cellphone companies and customers. City of L.A. voters approved their measure in February, along with Pasadena and Huntington Park. They were followed in April and June by Malibu, Culver City, Sierra Madre, Covina and Torrance. Eight more cities have their phone taxes on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Robert Greene is a member of The Times' editorial board.

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