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Opinion

Opinion: L.A. voters want answers to traffic and intractable homelessness — and they’re willing to pay for them

Tax measures
A train heading toward Santa Monica pulls into the Farmdale Avenue station in the middle of the Metro Expo Line.
(Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles voters sent a clear message Tuesday with the passage of three tax increases: They will pay more for services that will improve the region’s quality of life.

Voters overwhelmingly backed Measure M, the permanent sales tax hike that help build more than a dozen new rail lines, as well as improve freeways, fill potholes and add more bike lanes to city streets. The measure passed with nearly 70% of the vote, well over the two-thirds approval needed to pass the tax. By comparison, Measure R, the 2008 sales tax increase that kick-started the transit building boom, just barely passed with 67.93% of the vote. The message? Los Angeles County residents want alternatives to sitting in traffic, and they’re willing to tax themselves to build them.

County voters also gave a resounding yes to Measure A, a tax on property to pay for parks, recreation, open space and cultural amenities. That measure passed with 73% support, again, well over the two-thirds approval needed. Parks taxes and bonds generally do well in California elections — we love our parks — but the fact that Measure A garnered so much support in a year with so many taxes and ballot measures shows that voters put a priority on public green spaces.

And in the city of Los Angeles, voters easily passed Measure HHH, the plan to borrow $1.2 billion dollars to build 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing and affordable housing for homeless people. The measure passed with a shockingly high 76% — an impressive figure considering that 10 years ago, city voters rejected a similar bond measure to fund homeless and low-income housing. But as homeless encampments have spread beyond skid row to all corners of L.A., voters this year were willing to raise property taxes to pay for a long-term solution to homelessness.

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There’s a common thread in these measures: When voters are given the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in their communities — through road and transit improvements, through more and better parks and through housing for the homeless and mentally ill — they will support higher taxes. Hopefully that message is heard in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

For more opinions, follow me @kerrycavan


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