Only three months after reluctantly agreeing to put a special police tax measure on the June 2 ballot in South-Central Los Angeles, the City Council urged voters Tuesday to defeat the initiative.
In adopting a 12-0 resolution, the council said the recent approval of money in the budget to increase the Police Department from 7,100 sworn officers to 7,350 makes the special police tax measure, Proposition 7, unnecessary.
Several council members rose to the defense of beleaguered Councilman Robert Farrell, who incurred vehement criticism from constituents for sponsoring the initiative. Community activists who attended the meeting accused the 8th District councilman of trying to take credit where none is due.
"Councilman Farrell tried to take credit for what we did, but we did it," said the Rev. Eric Latoni Garcia in a brief rally on the City Hall foyer after the council's action. Garcia, a pastor of the All Peoples' Christian Church, is a member of the South-Central Organizing Committee, one of several groups that have campaigned against Proposition 7.
The opponents, Garcia said, "still have to clean up after Farrell" by working to ensure that the initiative is defeated.
Reached in Sacramento, Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), a leader of the No on Proposition 7 Coalition, said the council "went too far in allowing it to go on the ballot. Somehow they gave in because they were doing it for a colleague."
Waters urged council members to actively join the campaign to defeat Proposition 7 by contributing money and walking precincts. The measure, which would require a two-thirds vote for passage, has no substantial support campaign.
At Farrell's urging, the council's resolution cited the debate over Proposition 7, both pro and con, in contributing to the budgeted increase in police strength.
Saying drastic action is required to combat rising crime in South-Central Los Angeles, Farrell, then a candidate for reelection, persuaded a hesitant council in February to place Proposition 7 on the ballot. The measure would raise the property taxes of South-Central property owners to pay for an increase of up to 300 officers in the region.
Proposition 7 triggered an instant outcry against Farrell. Critics said the measure would unfairly ask residents who can least afford it to pay more for police protection. The councilman was reelected only narrowly even though he lacked a well-known or well-financed opponent.
After the council approved the new budget last week, Farrell further exacerbated relations with his critics with by reversing his stand. After indicating that he would strongly oppose Proposition 7, Farrell announced he would still vote in favor of it and urged others to do the same. The next day, he announced that he would vote no and urged others to do so.
When Farrell entered the council chambers Tuesday, a scattering of boos rose from the audience. Several council members went to Farrell's aid, saying his risky move in February led directly to the increase in police strength. "You have done it more than anybody," Councilman John Ferraro told Farrell.
Councilman Gilbert Lindsay, who like Farrell represents parts of South-Central, appealed to Farrell's critics, "Don't be too tough on him."
Moments earlier, Lindsay addressed Farrell. "You had a little more guts than I would have had," he said with a grin, ". . . to try to tax people with an election coming up."