Next month, Inglewood voters will confront two of the most powerful issues in local politics: police and taxes.
Proposition BB on the Nov. 8 ballot asks voters to approve a proposed police benefit assessment district to add 20 officers to the Police Department at a first-year cost of $1.4 million.
The assessment would charge the owner of a single-family home about $45 a year, charge owners of apartment units on a sliding scale at a $53 base rate per unit and assess commercial properties based on frontage. It would pay for a 20-officer task force to fight gang and drug activity.
The ballot measure is non-binding. Although a benefit assessment district does not require voter approval, council members decided to hold an advisory vote because of residents’ complaints at a public hearing in June.
Councilman Anthony Scardenzan, a longtime advocate of strengthening the 187-officer department, is the only council member whose signature appears on the ballot argument, along with those of Police Chief Raymond Johnson, City Prosecutor Barbara Johnson, the Rev. Doyle Hart, pastor of Academy Cathedral church, and Roosevelt Douglas of the Inglewood Task Force Against Crime.
Drug Problem Cited
“The cost is not that much when you compare it to the service 20 officers can provide,” Scardenzan said. “The drug problem is ruining the country and crippling our youngsters. It is costing taxpayers billions.”
Overall crime has declined 30% in Inglewood over the past six years, but gang and drug activity have kept the violent crime rate three times higher than the national average. Supporters say more police will keep crime under control and help better the city’s image.
Scardenzan, who is up for reelection next April, said: “Whether this is a political risk or not, I couldn’t care less. Unless we have a full law enforcement force, I am failing to do my job. I am willing to give up my seat as long as the city is protected.”
Although Mayor Edward Vincent and council members Daniel Tabor, Ervin Thomas and Ann Wilk backed away from enacting the measure after opposition surfaced, they are calling for a yes vote on the ballot proposition. Vincent recently held a news conference with Chief Johnson touting the measure, and Vincent and Scardenzan have formed a 44-member support committee of city leaders.
“There is no question that more police will be advantageous to our community,” Vincent said last week.
No one has filed an opposing ballot argument, but a small group of activists in the United Democratic Club of Inglewood is working against the measure.
Democratic Club official Garland Hardeman, whose legal challenge to Thomas’ election last year is being litigated, said the money should come from budget cuts.
“We will not be overrun by crime if we do not get 20 new officers,” said Hardeman, a Los Angeles police officer. “No one on the council has been strong or independent enough to say we need alternative funding.”
Hardeman cited a recent study by a consulting firm that called for hiring five new officers and putting more police on the streets through redeployment, which has been partially carried out.
Hardeman has also called for streamlining the city administration, saying the city could save $640,000 by eliminating the salaries of officials including the city manager and city attorney, who are among the highest paid in the country.
Such comments have caused tension between Hardeman and Scardenzan, who backed Hardeman in his council race against Thomas, the mayor’s candidate.
“Is he going to run the city by himself?” Scardenzan asked.
Hardeman responded that he made the suggestion “for effect.”
“I say we’re not being prudent in our spending,” Hardeman said.
Council discussion on the police tax proposal began in February. The council voted to seek the voters’ views in August after rejecting the option of a property parcel tax for more police, which would have required two-thirds vote for passage.