Phone Tax to Aid Police Turned Down in 2 Cities

Times Staff Writers

Voters in South Gate and Lynwood overwhelmingly defeated ballot measures that would have added a tax to monthly telephone bills to pay for more police protection.

Police priorities will have to be shifted in South Gate as a result of the vote, Chief Ronald George said.

"We might have to take our narcotic detail officers and have them also work gangs," said George, who campaigned vigorously for the phone tax. "Some of the niceties, like having officers go to citizens' homes to take crime reports on loud noise disturbances, might be stopped. We'll have to send officers to the higher priority crimes."

George said he did not know how long he could effectively fight crime without increasing the size of the 89-officer Police Department in the city of nearly 80,000.

South Gate Councilman William H. DeWitt said officials "gave it our best shot and it wasn't good enough. We were asking people to tax themselves for something that would benefit them. But it is difficult for people to tax themselves."

South Gate voters defeated the measure by a 4-1 ratio. A similar measure in Lynwood was rejected by a ratio of nearly 5-1.

Lynwood Councilman Robert Henning said now that Proposition EE had failed he was "open to suggestions from people on what to do about dope and gang problems."

Pacific Bell, the primary local telephone company in both cities, mounted a strong attack against the measures. The company spent more than $24,000 for mailers, brochures and newspaper advertising. Pacific Bell officials said the tax would have unfairly singled out telephone users.

"We are pleased. The cities were making a mistake. The tax was too narrow and discriminatory," said Carolyn Webb de Macias, area vice president for Pacific Bell.

South Gate's ballot Proposition NN would have placed a tax of up to $7 a month on residential telephone bills, $14 for business accounts and $2 for low-income elderly or handicapped customers. The telephone companies would have collected the tax and sent the revenues to the cities.

South Gate could have raised an estimated $1.4 million the first year to hire 10 new police officers and five civilian workers, and buy two squad cars and other equipment.

The police received support from the Committee for Effective Law Enforcement to Support Proposition NN. The committee, whose chairman is retired police captain Donald Weiss, raised more than $5,000.

Lynwood's Proposition EE would have imposed a 10%-a-month tax on phone bills. It would have raised an estimated $1.2 million a year, mostly for public safety. Low-income elderly or handicapped customers would have paid $2 a month.

There was no organized effort by Lynwood officials or any other group to push for passage of the measure.

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