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Local issues: taxes and growth

Los Angeles City

Proposition A

Property tax for after-school and anti-gang programs

What it would do: Collect an additional $36 per property per year for such activities as L.A.'s Best, the Boys and Girls Club and other after-school programs.

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Chief proponents: Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, former Mayor Richard Riordan, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Jeff Carr.

Major donors to proponents: Real estate developer Rick Caruso, SA Recycling, Wells Fargo, BNSF Railway, Tutor Saliba Corp., Related Cos.

Chief opponents: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.; Richard Close, president, Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn.; Walter Moore, candidate for Los Angeles mayor.

Major donors to opponents: None

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Main arguments in favor: Proposition A will use $30 million in increased annual property tax revenue to pay for tutoring, arts programs, apprenticeship programs and other programs for school-age children. Paying for such programs upfront will cost taxpayers far less than arresting and imprisoning gang members later.

Main arguments against: Los Angeles has already asked its citizens to contribute to the fight against gangs by tripling the trash fee on homeowners and small apartment buildings and sending that money to the Los Angeles Police Department. For single-family households, the trash fee has jumped in a two-year period from $11 to $36.32 per month.

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Proposition B

Affordable housing

What it would do: Repeal five ballot measures passed between 1973 and 1980 authorizing the construction of 52,500 new affordable housing units citywide, many of them for the elderly.

Chief proponents: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles City Council, Southern California Assn. of Non-Profit Housing, Central City Assn., Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.

Major donors to proponents: None

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Chief opponents: James O’Sullivan, president of Miracle Mile Residential Assn.; senior housing advocate Juanita Dellomes; taxpayer Joyce Dillard.

Major donors to opponents: None

Main arguments in favor: Proposition B would allow Los Angeles to accept proceeds from Proposition 1C, the 2006 state housing measure that will offer $2.8 billion to cities and counties. The city has been prevented from tapping that money because of previous ballot measures that earmarked a disproportionate number of affordable units for senior citizens.

Main arguments against: Proposition B would reduce the number of affordable housing units earmarked for seniors. By tapping state housing money, the city would also attract a greater number of high-density housing developments, flooding neighborhoods with traffic and other negative impacts.

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Los Angeles County

Measure R

Transportation sales tax

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What it would do: Raise the sales tax by .5%, to 8.75%, for 30 years, generating an estimated $30 billion to $40 billion for road improvements and mass transit, such as a Westside subway extension, a Gold Line extension and a Green Line-LAX connection.

Chief proponents: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

Major donors to proponents: Amalgamated Transit Union, Southern California District Council of Laborers, building trade unions, Automobile Club of Southern California.

Chief opponents: County Supervisors Mike Antonovich, Don Knabe and Gloria Molina; Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority board of directors; Richard Close, president, Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn.; President Richard Close; Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.

Major donors to opponents: No such fundraising committee has been formed.

Main arguments in favor: The measure would provide a plan for traffic relief throughout the county and would reduce smog while decreasing dependence on foreign oil and making long-term investments in roads and mass transit.

Main arguments against: The spending plan was hastily assembled to satisfy political interests. Revenues would not be fairly distributed throughout the county but would go to a subway extension on the Westside.

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Proposition U

Utility tax

What it would do: Reduce existing tax on communications, electricity and gas usage in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County from 5% to 4.5% but expand services subject to the tax. For the first time, the tax would be levied on cellphone calls, billing, custom calling features, Voice-over-Internet Protocol, text messaging and paging. Money raised by the tax goes to sheriff’s deputies, county libraries and other services provided by the county’s general fund.

Major donors to proponents: Spears Manufacturing; Jones Day Law; Jerry Epstein, owner of Jerry B. Epstein Management Co.

Chief proponents: Los Angeles County Supervisors Yvonne B. Burke and Gloria Molina, Sheriff Lee Baca, Parks and Recreation Director Russ Guiney and Library Commission Chairman Joseph A. Cislowski.

Chief opponents: Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. Chairman Gregory N. Lippe, former U.S. Rep. Bobbi Fiedler, former state Assemblyman Keith Richman, honorary chairman of Saving L.A. Project Ron Kaye.

Major donors to opponents: None

Main arguments in favor: The measure would ensure that everyone pays a fair share by modernizing the law to include technologies that did not exist when the ordinance was written nearly 20 years ago.

Main arguments against: The utility tax proposed by the Board of Supervisors would result in a tax increase for more than 1 million residents of unincorporated areas.

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Beverly Hills

Measure H

Beverly Hilton expansion

What it would do: Amend the city’s general plan to allow the Beverly Hilton to add a 12-story Waldorf-Astoria hotel and two luxury high-rise condo towers (one six to eight stories and one 16 to 18 stories) at its site at Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards.

Chief proponents: Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Frank Fenton; council members Jimmy Delshad and Linda Briskman; Joan Seidel, former city treasurer; Bruce C. Corwin, businessman-philanthropist; Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce.

Major donors to proponents: Beverly Hilton owner Beny Alagem.

Chief opponents: Peter Falk, actor; Nancy Sinatra Sr., resident; John Mirisch, editor of www.blogbeverlyhills.com; Stacy Marks, former chairwoman, Beverly Hills Planning Commission; Larry Larson, treasurer, Citizens’ Right to Decide Committee; Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

Major donors to opponents: Individual residents.

Main arguments in favor: The project would generate tax revenues for city services and schools, include traffic improvements at the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica and revitalize the western gateway to Beverly Hills.

Main arguments against: The project is out of scale with the rest of the city and would worsen traffic congestion. Almost all potential benefits could be achieved with a much smaller project that did not include an 18-story condo tower.

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Long Beach

Measure G

Utility users tax

What it would do: Clarify the city’s 5% utility users tax so it may be applied equally to older telephone technologies and newer ones, including cellphones.

Chief proponents: Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, City Manager Pat West, City Auditor Laura L. Doud, Director of Financial Services Lori Ann Farrell, various City Council members.

Major donors to proponents: None

Chief opponents: Long Beach Taxpayer Assn.

Major donors to opponents: None

Main arguments in favor: Since 1970, Long Beach has imposed a tax on telephone users. Communications technology has changed significantly during that period, and the law should be updated to cover newer uses. Measure would ensure that all phone customers pay their fair share, whichever technology they use.

Main arguments against: Residents may pay more in taxes if they have both land lines and cellphones. The city would be able to extend the tax to new technologies without returning to voters for approval.

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Measure I

Infrastructure reinvestment

What it would do: Establish a parcel tax on all real property in the city, with homeowners assessed $120 annually for single-family residences or the same amount per unit for multiunit dwellings. Rates for commercial and other properties would vary according to parcel and building size. Revenues could be used only for infrastructure projects, including street and public building repairs, and for debt service related to any bonds issued for such improvements.

Chief proponents: Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, Rebuild Long Beach, various Long Beach City Council members, Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, California Business Roundtable, former Gov. George Deukmejian.

Major donors to proponents: DeMenno/Kerdoon; Girardi & Keese Law; Samuel Keesal Jr., attorney at Keesal, Young & Logan; Winner & Associates.

Chief opponents: Long Beach Taxpayer Assn., Long Beach Republican Party, City Council member Gerrie Schipske, City Prosecutor Tom Reeves, former Mayor Eunice Sato.

Major donors to opponents: Terry Jensen, former Redevelopment Agency commissioner; Bud Lorbeer, Belmont Shore real estate agent; Kathy Ryan, co-founder, Long Beach Taxpayers Assn.

Main arguments in favor: The funds would clean up toxic runoff, upgrade fire and police stations, libraries and recreational facilities and help repair streets, sidewalks, alleys, storm drains and pump stations. Delaying the effort would be more expensive.

Main arguments against: The tax would be in effect until 2044, and does not outline specific priorities.

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Santa Monica

Measure T

Commercial development cap

What it would do: Set an annual limit on commercial development in Santa Monica of 75,000 square feet, about half the current level, until 2023. The cap would not apply to residences, hospitals, schools, elder care facilities or government facilities.

Chief proponents: Diana Gordon, resident with Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City; Jay P. Johnson, Santa Monica planning commissioner; City Council members Bobby Shriver and Kevin McKeown.

Major donors to proponents: Individual residents.

Chief opponents: Save Our City, a coalition that includes Terry O’Day, co-chairman of the opposition campaign and executive director of Environment Now; Oscar de la Torre, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board; renters’ rights advocates; Doug Theus, vice chairman, Santa Monica Police Officers Assn.

Major donors to opponents: Developers and hotel owners and operators, including Edward Thomas Management, Stockbridge Real Estate Fund, Hines 26th Street, Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Village Trailer Park and Belle Vue Plaza.

Major arguments in favor: Congestion has increased markedly in Santa Monica over the last couple of decades. The measure would limit new traffic by reducing the annual commercial development of offices, hotels and retail stores to about half the current rate until 2023.

Major arguments against: The measure is poorly written and would open the door to unintended consequences. It would eliminate millions of dollars for schools, police, fire, emergency medical technicians and other services. It would encourage developers to demolish affordable apartments and replace them with expensive condos.

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Measure SM

Utility user tax update

What it would do: Clarify the city’s 10% utility users tax on telecommunications services, as Los Angeles, Pasadena and other cities have done. The measure was prompted by the elimination of the federal excise tax and vast changes in technology for transmitting information. It would clarify that the city has the authority to tax cellphone use and text-messaging, as it has been doing for several years. The tax would also cover Voice-over-Internet Protocol services such as Skype. The city says most users would see no change in their monthly bills.

Chief proponents: Santa Monica City Council members Pam O’Connor and Robert Holbrook; Santa Monica Police Officers Assn.; Dennis Zane, former Santa Monica mayor and co-founder of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights.

Major donors to proponents: The city of Santa Monica is sponsoring the measure and providing “neutral” information to voters.

Chief opponents: Santa Monica Councilman Bobby Shriver; Patrick Flanagan, Internet technology consultant; Priya Balachandran, tenant; Art P. Casillas, homeowner; Clara Benrey, teacher.

Major donors to opponents: Individual residents.

Main arguments in favor: Since 1969, residents have paid a utility users tax on telephone services that goes into the city’s general fund. Communications technology has changed drastically, and the law should be updated to cover newer uses. The measure would ensure that all taxpayers, regardless of the technology they use, are treated equally and pay their fair share.

Main arguments against: The measure could pave the way for taxing Internet access and satellite services, free until now, such as Earthlink, Dish TV, Direct TV, Tivo, Skype, Vonage and on-demand movies from Netflix, Blockbuster and other providers. (A federal law that prohibits taxing such services is to expire in 2014, but the city of Santa Monica expects it to be extended.)


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