The Los Angeles City Council meets Tuesday to decide whether to send voters as many as 13 measures in the March 8 election, including ballot proposals to shore up library funding, scale back public employee pension costs and create an independent watchdog at the Department of Water and Power.
With so many issues in play, some on the council have begun warning that there are simply too many ideas being cooked up for a single election.
“I hope we don’t put them all on the ballot, is all I can say,” Councilman Richard Alarcon said. “If we want an informed electorate, they have to be able to absorb what we give them.”
Wednesday is the council’s deadline for placing proposals on the ballot.
With retirement costs rapidly rising, a proposal to trim the pensions of newly hired police officers and firefighters looks like a sure thing for the ballot. But plans for taxing medical marijuana and creating a so-called “ratepayer advocate” at the DWP are still being debated.
Also in doubt are proposals to expand the size of the DWP board from five to seven members and reduce the number of members chosen by the mayor.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa warned that such a ratepayer advocate position could be too costly for the DWP and said the position could be created without a ballot measure. The DWP employees’ union went further, accusing the council of rushing reform proposals for the utility onto the ballot without properly vetting them.
Councilman Paul Koretz said he is ready to send the proposal to the voters even though he isn’t sure it would produce the results that his colleagues want. “Things are going so badly at the DWP in terms of transparency and in terms of public confidence, that anything that stands a good chance of improving it deserves the nod,” he said.
Koretz also said the council should send no more than six or seven measures to the electorate. That means council members will have to decide whether to jettison some of the proposals, such as a measure from Council President Eric Garcetti to bar companies that bid on city contracts from giving campaign donations to city candidates.
Another proposal, from Councilman Bernard C. Parks, would set aside a greater share of the city’s property tax revenue toward library service. That idea is designed to reverse cuts at the city’s 64 branch libraries, which have gone this year from 52 hours of service per week to 37.5.
Yet another proposal, backed by Councilman Jose Huizar, would allow more taxpayer funds to be provided to candidates who agree to limit the amount of campaign money they spend. Although four council members came out against that idea a few weeks ago, Huizar said the climate is right for that and other ballot proposals.
“This is the year of reform,” he said.
Times staff writer Patrick McDonnell contributed to this report.