Voters leaning toward approving L.A. Community College District’s $5.3-billion building measure
Voters were leaning toward greenlighting $5.3 billion in campus renovations for the Los Angeles Community College District, evidently putting the need for modern learning facilities above complaints about the district’s troubled construction program.
In early returns, three of the four incumbents on the district’s board of trustees — Steven Veres, Gabriel Buelna and Kelsey Iino — led their opponents by wide margins. Ernest Moreno, a longtime trustee, fell behind early Tuesday night to Sara Hernandez, a progressive candidate whose top priorities are providing housing, food and transportation resources to students in need.
Moreno made up some ground to Hernandez throughout the night but continued to trail the newcomer by a wide margin two hours after polls closed.
Check back here for updates as the county’s election office posts new returns.
The construction proposal, called Measure LA, needs 55% of the vote to pass. As of Wednesday morning, yes votes on the measure were leading with 60.36%.
The district, the largest community college jurisdiction in the country, includes nine campuses and sweeps across a 900-square-mile swath of Los Angeles County.
Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, touted the early results as a sign of voters’ willingness to invest in making higher education accessible.
“Very, very appreciative of the confidence that the public and the L.A. voters are demonstrating to our community colleges,” he said. “What we see these resources doing is providing exceptional teaching and learning environments for our students.”
About $1.4 billion of the bond money would go toward renovating buildings constructed before the 1970s. The district also plans to equip classrooms with new technology, upgrade athletic fields and improve infrastructure such as sewer lines, outdoor lighting and sidewalks.
All property owners, including owners of commercial buildings, would pay up to $25 per $100,000 of assessed value over the next 40 years for the bonds. The average homeowner could expect to pay $88 to $157 more in annual property taxes; the increase would be greater on pricey homes.
Measure LA, if passed, would be the fifth construction bond measure voters approved for the community college district since 2001. The previous four totaled more than $9.5 billion.
The American Federation of Teachers 1521, a faculty union, and unions representing trade and vocational workers supported the latest bond measure.
The proposal faced resistance from Moreno, who voted against putting the measure on the ballot. He said the measure was out of step with the district’s falling enrollment and rise in online classes. About half the classes are currently online.
“This is an inappropriate time and essentially an irresponsible act on our behalf to pursue this bond,” he said during a board meeting in July. “What I’m fearful [of] is we’re building a ghost town.”
Critics also took aim at mismanagement of the district’s construction projects . In 2011, The Times published an investigation exposing financial waste and nepotism in a bond-funded construction program.
More recently, an independent arbitrator found the district violated state requirements for “good faith and fair dealing” and ordered it to pay $3.2 million in compensation to Pinner Construction Inc. over a long-delayed theater project at Los Angeles Valley College.
After the arbitrator’s finding, the construction company filed a lawsuit against district trustees, alleging corruption and fraud.
And in October, state Assemblymember Lisa Calderon (D-Whittier) wrote a letter requesting a state audit of the district’s construction management practices.
District officials say they have implemented strict transparency and accountability measures, including outside audits and regular oversight committee meetings.
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