LOCAL ELECTIONS: BALLOT MEASURES : Foes of Tax Initiative for More Police Seek to Have it Invalidated

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Opponents of a Hawthorne ballot measure that would raise property taxes to pay for more police officers said Thursday they will try to have the proposal invalidated in court because sample ballots sent to voters last week lacked a complete text of the ordinance.

Hawthorne Assn. of Taxpayers President Martha Bails, who spoke against Proposition D at a City Council meeting Tuesday, promised to file a lawsuit against the city in Superior Court regardless of whether the measure passes in the election Tuesday.

"The (state) Election Code says you have to provide text or an impartial analysis (of a ballot measure) by the city attorney," Bails said. "Hawthorne failed to do that."

Hawthorne City Atty. Michael Adamson said, however, that recent case law indicates that cities aren't required to place either an impartial analysis or the complete text of an ordinance on the sample ballot. Although the City Council never directed him to prepare an analysis of the measure, he added, copies of the proposal were available to the public on request.

"If this (measure) was really fatally defective, as Bails (and others) indicate, they would have taken it to court already," Adamson said. "Instead, they wait until the last minute trying to create panic by alleging irregularities or illegalities."

Supporters of the measure said they plan to hand-deliver copies of the measure's full text to residents this weekend.

City officials had considered doing that but were advised by Adamson that it was unnecessary.

The measure, which needs the approval of two-thirds of the city's voters, would raise property taxes $55 a year for homeowners and $70 a year per apartment unit. Businesses would pay $5.50 per foot of frontage, with a cap of $5,000. The tax increase is expected to raise $2.9 million a year to hire and retain 35 more police officers.

Community activist Raymon Sulser, who wrote the ballot argument against the proposal, said Thursday that the measure is unfair to businesses and that the city has not explored ways of hiring more officers without imposing a tax. He also was critical of wording in the measure that gives the city manager authority to determine how much the tax may increase every year based on the consumer price index.

"I am for better police protection," said Sulser, "but the first thing you have to do is see where you can save money" before adding a tax to pay for more police.

Despite the need for a two-thirds majority and the sudden surfacing of opposition this week, ballot measure proponent Shelley Effler said she is confident the measure will pass.

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