Residents Say Tax Shift Threatens Lifestyles : Revenue: The furor is over Gov. Pete Wilson’s proposal to siphon off $2.6-billion from local sources to help offset the state deficit. Police and fire protection, and many other services, could be reduced.


Believing their security and quality of life could be threatened by possible cutbacks in police and fire protection and other local services provided by Los Angeles County government, droves of area residents voiced their concerns, frustrations and anger at a public meeting in Glendale this week.

More than 200 people attended a “community input” session with County Supervisor Mike Antonovich at the Glendale Central Library on Tuesday evening.

They protested Gov. Pete Wilson’s proposed $2.6-billion shift in property tax revenue from cities, counties and special districts to help make up a shortfall in funds needed to support education, typically financed by the state’s general fund.


County supervisors say this shift could lead to closure of many Los Angeles-area public health and safety agencies--including: five of 10 county jail facilities; nine of 20 sheriff’s stations; 44 of 127 fire stations; 16 of 48 paramedic squads; 10 of 21 beaches; 17 of 19 probation camps; five of six hospitals; and all six comprehensive health centers.

The cuts could also impact “quality-of-life” services by closing as many as 54 of 88 county libraries, 24 of 33 swimming pools, 73 of 130 parks, and closing museums during the work week, according to a public information handbook created by the supervisors.

“The message I want to send to Sacramento is: Recall every politician,” Altadena resident Tom Cartwright, 42, said during Tuesday’s session. “They have failed the citizens of our great state and have quickly brought about the demise of our quality of life.”

“Now they want (the citizens to volunteer) and take over the parks. This is an insult. Paying taxes should be enough,” Cartwright said. “They are going to close the libraries. This is an insult. These are basic services that we should expect . . . the answer is not more taxes and fees, but effective and responsible government.”

The specifics of the facilities to be closed, for the most part, have not yet to be detailed.

But fearing that their sheriff’s station is on the chopping block, dozens of Altadena and La Crescenta residents attended Tuesday’s meeting armed with small signs that read: “Save Our Altadena Sheriff’s Station.” and “We Support Law Enforcement.”


“The governor didn’t ask me if he could take my property tax for our state’s deficit,” said Jerry Van Orden, 43, of La Crescenta. “When I pay my property tax, I expect fire protection and police protection.”

Many residents argued that closing down parks and libraries would leave few productive activities for youths and might even encourage gang activities.

Retail store owners said lawlessness on the streets would wreak havoc on their businesses and, in turn, force them to shut down or move away.

Realtors said reduced police and fire services would result in unsafe neighborhoods, further driving down home values--which have already taken a nose-dive because of the recession--thus further hurting the already anemic economy.

April Kelcy, a board member of the Altadena Chamber of Commerce, said such critical cutbacks would destroy the close-knit lifestyle that Altadena residents know.

“Now, I ask you: If our law enforcement is shut down year after year, where will any of us move to?” Kelcy said.


All five county supervisors are meeting with their district residents in a series of sessions this month and in June to inform them of the budget crisis and to encourage constituents to write their state legislators and urge them to keep local funds local, said Nadia Wiggins, Los Angeles County director of public affairs. The state deadline for finalizing its budget process is July 1.

Antonovich, who conducted a similar community meeting in Arcadia recently, said he and fellow supervisors will consider comments from the meetings and set the county’s funding priorities accordingly, as they deliberate the fiscal 1993-94 budget in August.

“Public safety--police and fire--is at the top of the (constituents’ retention) list. And they want parks and recreation organizations for young people so young people can have the opportunity to develop into responsible adults,” said Antonovich, who has termed the proposed tax shift “tax-jacking.”

Last month, Antonovich introduced an ordinance that challenges the legality of the state’s proposed $2.6-billion shift. The state Constitution provides that property tax revenues be used for property-related services such as police and fire protection, the supervisor said.

For the ordinance to be official, the supervisors must pass it a second time next week. They supported the measure unanimously after its first reading last month.

Principal Deputy County Counsel David Muir said that once the ordinance becomes official, the resulting county law would be in direct conflict with the state’s proposal, and no doubt could result in lawsuits between both governing bodies.


Contra Costa County in Northern California was the first to sue the state for the funds, and more of the state’s 58 counties have since taken moved in that direction, said Victoria Fouce, assistant chief deputy to Antonovich. The California Supervisors Assn. two weeks ago officially supported the lawsuits, she said.

Antonovich intends for his ordinance to affect the upcoming budget for fiscal 1993-94, but he anticipates that state challenges to the lawsuits would cause the actions to languish in the courts past budget deadlines for all government bodies concerned, Fouce said.