Santa Clarita Valley voters will decide today whether to tax themselves to build roads, and voters elsewhere in northern Los Angeles and eastern Ventura counties will take part in elections for seats on 21 school and community college district boards and three city councils.
The controversial Santa Clarita Valley tax initiative, Measure P on the ballot, would raise up to $275 million over 40 years for roads in the fast-growing valley. The measure, which would raise most homeowners' annual tax bills by $75 to $200, requires a two-thirds vote for passage.
If approved, the measure would create a giant assessment district, known as a Mello-Roos district after the state legislators who wrote the law providing for their creation. In this case, the district would be administered by the Santa Clarita Road Financing Authority, a joint agency to be formed by Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County officials.
The tax would be levied in an area lying roughly within the boundaries of the William S. Hart Union High School District. Residents of the rural community of Val Verde and senior citizens would be exempt.
Measure P has pitted neighbor against neighbor. Although some residents have said they will vote against the measure because they oppose any new taxes, other opponents have said they will not tax themselves to build roads in areas far removed from their neighborhoods.
Measure P, say opponents, will benefit Canyon Country and Saugus at the expense of the better-planned communities of Newhall and Valencia. More roads will pour unwanted traffic onto Valencia's well-planned streets, said one resident.
"Valencia, Newhall--we don't have a problem there," said Tamsie Irvan, a member of Stop Mello-Roos Tax, an organization formed to oppose the measure. "All they want to do is siphon traffic through us."
The Chamber of Commerce in Castaic also opposes the tax.
But supporters of the measure say the tax ultimately will benefit all motorists in the area because traffic is a valleywide problem. Measure P is a quick way to improve movements on the clogged system of roads in the valley, said Lou Garasi, a member of the Roads Now Committee, which has spearheaded the campaign for the tax.
A study by the Southern California Assn. of Governments predicts the valley will need $340 million in road improvements to prevent gridlock by 2010.
The Santa Clarita Valley and Canyon Country chambers of commerce, as well as Sheriff Sherman Block and the Los Angeles County Assn. of Firefighters, have endorsed the measure.
Measure P proponents--who raised $86,000, according to campaign-spending reports--sent a last-minute mailing to 20,000 households. The area has about 68,000 registered voters. The Roads Now Committee said 30 volunteers will staff phone banks at election headquarters today to try to encourage voters to go to the polls.
Some members of the opposition group, which raised about $1,900, said they would take the day off from work to telephone voters.
In Agoura Hills, a political action group largely credited with electing Darlene McBane, Fran Pavley and Jack W. Koenig to the Agoura Hills City Council in 1985, endorsed McBane and Pavley for reelection last week but withheld support from Koenig. The group, For Agoura '89, endorsed challenger Ed Kurtz instead. Paul G. (Gary) Mueller and Barry S. Steinhardt also are candidates for the three available seats.
In neighboring Westlake Village, six candidates are running for three seats on the City Council. Incumbent council members Bonnie Klove and Irwin A. Shane are seeking reelection against challengers James E. Emmons, Sybil Nisenholz, Joanne Robinson and Douglas R. Yarrow. Emmons, city manager from 1982 to 1988, is considered a strong contender.
Thirteen candidates are vying for a seat vacated by Lee Laxdal in Thousand Oaks. Running for the remainder of Laxdal's four-year term, which expires in 1992, are Grant W. Peterson, Gregory Lance Spencer, Jim Donovan, Phyllis L. Ellis, Bob Lewis, Elois Zeanah, K. Reed Harrison, Charles E. Rittenburg, Frank R. Lussier, Gary Tarnowski, Timothy J. Curtiss, Patrick Kellogg and Norm (Blackie) Jackson.
Dozens of candidates are running for school boards in the Ventura County, Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley community college districts, and the Conejo Valley, Las Virgenes, Moorpark, Oak Park, Newhall, Saugus, Soledad-Agua Dulce, Hughes-Elizabeth Lake, Castaic, Sulphur Springs, Lancaster, Palmdale, Wilsona, Eastside, Westside, Keppel and Antelope Valley Union High school districts.
Four candidates are competing for three seats on the five-member Ventura County Board of Education.