Voters say yes to tax and bond measures

Zahniser is a Times staff writer.

The tidal wave that lifted President-elect Barack Obama in Los Angeles County had an equally buoyant effect on dozens of local tax measures, sending all but four to victory Wednesday, according to unofficial returns.

With the presidential election smashing local turnout records, voters embraced nine of 13 municipal tax measures and all 23 school bonds, some of which passed by huge margins.

School districts in Pasadena, El Monte, Alhambra, Torrance and Pomona saw their bond measures pass with more than 74% of the vote, according to unofficial results. Each needed 55% to win.


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority won approval of its countywide half-cent sales tax hike. So did the city of El Monte. And a plan for raising the sales tax in Pico Rivera by a full cent won with 68% of the vote.

Those numbers tracked closely with the local results for Obama, who won with 69% of countywide balloting. Many of those voters were younger residents determined to safeguard their self-interests, said David Fleming, president of the Los Angeles County Business Federation.

“Their own self-interest is getting rid of gridlock because they have to live in it for the next 50 years, so they did,” Fleming said. “They voted for schools, and they voted for all kinds of things.”

In Los Angeles, voters backed $50-billion worth of government initiatives -- the school bond, the community college bond and the successful transit tax. “They’ve said, ‘We want to invest in Los Angeles again,’ ” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

For the few tax campaigns that lost, the widespread success of the other ballot measures made Tuesday’s election bittersweet.

In Los Angeles, City Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she was not prepared to give up on Proposition A, a $30-million anti-gang tax that fell short in the unofficial results. Hahn said she is holding out hope for late absentee votes to carry the measure to victory.

“Mathematically, it may be impossible” for Proposition A to win, said Hahn, who sponsored the measure. “But I’m not ready to concede.”

County election officials estimated that they may have 375,000 mail-in ballots and 191,000 provisional ballots left to count. But they do not know how many of those come from the city of Los Angeles, which makes up about 40% of the county electorate.

“The unknown are those voters that held onto their ballots and dropped it in the mail on Monday,” said county elections spokeswoman Grace Chavez.

In Los Angeles, voters approved three out of four local tax measures, assuming that Proposition A fails.

Long Beach voters passed three out of four local tax measures -- a utility tax, a school bond and the countywide sales tax.

The lone loser was Measure I, a Long Beach parcel tax hike designed to pay for the upgrade of libraries, police stations and other city buildings. Measure I received a majority but fell short of the two-thirds needed for passage.

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said the measure did poorly among absentee voters, who received their ballots just as Congress was trying to pass a bailout for Wall Street.

“I’m sure that had some effect,” he said.

Municipal tax measures in Pomona and Maywood also went down to defeat.


Times staff writer Phil Willon contributed to this report.