It’s the middle of the night. A strange sound awakens you. Is there an intruder in your house? As quietly as possible you dial 911, the city’s emergency number. The line is busy.
It happens. Thousands of Angelenos frightened by criminals, medical emergencies or fire could not get through to the overburdened emergency lines last year. Nearly 150,000 callers who needed help got a busy signal. At least 1 million callers were put on hold and gave up.
Proposition 1, a $235-million bond measure on the April 9 ballot, would finance an expansion of the beleaguered emergency system used to answer and dispatch paramedic, fire and police emergency calls. It would also pay for a back-up system that could mean the difference between life and death if an earthquake, flood or other disaster knocked out all existing emergency services, which are headquartered in downtown Los Angeles. These improvements are critically needed, but the measure needs approval by two-thirds of the voters to pass.
The bond measure would be financed by a small boost in property taxes over 20 years. The increase in the levy would be based on square footage. The typical property owner would pay an average of $12.75 a year based on a 1,500 square-foot house. That works out to slightly more than a dollar and a nickel a month. That’s not too much to guarantee that help is only a phone call away.
“In an emergency, a minute can mean the difference between life and death,” according to Mayor Tom Bradley. The mayor, the business community and many others support Proposition 1, including the Los Angeles Police Department.
Yet city voters rejected a similar proposal in November. Undoubtedly worries about the economy slumping into recession caused many pocket-book issues to fail during that election, especially those needing a two-thirds vote of approval.
But it may take more than a robust economy to persuade some voters to support anything that takes more tax dollars out of their pockets. That would be a shortsighted mistake.
A no vote would punish the thousands of heroic men and women who respond to reports of crimes in progress, heart attacks and threatening fires. They save lives all the time, but only when they can get the necessary information as quickly as possible. A no vote could also punish the many men, women and even children who need to dial 911 when danger is on the doorstep, or closer.
Nearly 6 million Angelenos are expected to call for help this year--double the number who dialed 911 just five years ago. Los Angeles desperately needs an expanded emergency system to ensure that help is on the way when they call for it. Vote yes on Proposition 1.