Upcoming 2014 Elections: Leaning Towards a "No" on LA County Measure P/Proposition P

Measure P/Proposition P is about ensuring funding for County of LA (CoLA) Parks up till 2045 through a flat parcel tax.  As a parcel tax, it will require 66% of the voters to say yes, as opposed to a simple majority.

That tax would be $1.6 billion over the next 30 years, which would be $53 million annually.

People who support this proposition say that it is a continuation of funding Proposition A from 1992, which expires in June 2015. 

Proposition A in 1992 guaranteed $540 million over 22 years to various projects across LA County. 

Funds from Prop A went to many projects that have served as icons for LA such as the 4-year renovation of the Griffith Park Observatory, which was allocated $18 million, the rehab of the LA Zoo which was allocated $25 million, $17 million for the California Science Museum.  As for spending on things that are actually close to where I live, I saw that $1 million went to the development of MLK Park in LBC.  Other than construction of a swimming pool at East Rancho Dominguez, I didn't see any funds go to Compton.  Gang reduction programs were specifically allocated no less than $3 million, and nonprofit organizations $10 million.

The funds were raised through an assessment on each property depending on size.

Additionally, in 1996, voters approved another proposition A which gives over $28 million annually to parks.  This proposition will expire in June 2019.  In that round, it seemed that there was more emphasis on gangs I saw that a whole $5 million or so went to parks in "underserved" communities.  

Almost all the elements for me usually voting "Yes" on something vaguely involving public space are there:  money for parks, programming for gangs, etc. etc. 

I generally especially love the quality of CoLA parks, usually really spacious and well-kempt, and frankly, underused.  I really would hate to see the parks sink down to the level of say City of LA.  In my anecdotal experience, even here in Willowbrook with the Earvin Johnson Park, most CoLA parks are truly a cut above City of LA and other city parks, though this proposition does reach some of the smaller cities' parks.  However, I, like Mark Ridley-Thomas think that they don't seem to do enough for disadvantaged areas.

I realize that there is no such thing as a "soft" yes or "soft" no, simply just "yes" or "no."  Right now, given my information from the internet sources:  LA Times, KPCC, ballotpedia, I'm going with a 'no' that was just a "yes" about a minute ago.

The organizations I usually like are a "yes" vote:  LA Land Trust, LA County Bike Coalition, and Father Gregory Boyle who is an organization all himself.  There's also the Daily News.

There are two respectable organizations that advocate a "no":  LA Times on the basis that it was pushed out too fast and goes to a regressive tax, hurting the little people, and the Sierra Club, on the basis that they do not allocate much to disadvantaged areas.

I say "soft no" to highlight the fact that I have not fully marked my ballot and can change my opinion, and also that either vote seems fine, though it does actually put more burden on actual individual people rather than the bigger entities that it has traditionally been dependent upon.  For the time being, I see a lot more clean cut reasons to say no, than to say yes.

What makes the proposition something I am giving the "soft no" to?  
  • It is funded by a regressive flat tax;  every property owner across the county pays the same $23 per property each year on your property tax bill, no matter if you are the owner of the Staples Center or if you are the owner of a tiny little motor home in Compton on a gang-ridden street.  $23, when the average according to KPCC was around $13, while larger corporations paid in the thousands.  The LA Times Op-Ed in favor of a no vote notes that the range paid was from 3 cents to $10,000.
  • Questionable motives:  why the rush?  Why not use that same assessments structure enacted in 1992?  This a way of straddling the line to keep industries and small businesses happy?  Not made clear anywhere.  I do wonder what Supervisors Molina, Yaroslavsky, and Knabe have to gain.  It also seemed that Ridley-Thomas would have been on board, though he thinks there was not enough given to underserved communities.  To me it seems like a trial run to see what they can get away with.  I'm not sure why this was not anticipated and prepared for.
  • They don't specify their allocations, something they did for 1992 and 1996.
  • It seems that we could "survive" a temporary shortage in funding until at least 2017.  There still appears to unused money from 1996:  $134 million in unallocated funds.  Additionally, after scanning the documents of Prop A it seems that a lot of the projects in there got its money for specific acquisition and renovations that have already been completed.  The campaign for Prop P has not threatened jobs, but the lack of repairs, upgrades, and improvements, which might be a safe way of implicating but not threatening jobs.  There doesn't seem to be any sense of critical urgency from any of the proponents threatening livelihoods and current conditions, which also makes me believe that it won't be a big deal if this doesn't pass.
What would sway me to a "soft yes"?  
  • Essentially, just more information on why the proposition is the way it is.  I need more to go on than just "it funds parks and programs, etc..."  I need to know these things:  a)  why it relies on the flat regressive tax, b)  why the County Supervisors took so long before enacting this to appear on this ballot, and 3)  how badly parks and services might suffer if the money isn't there in the meanwhile.
  • Attempting to take the perspective of the three county supervisors and some of the planners' point of view, it seems like they are adapting this proposition in part because it finds a way around the constraints under the current measures. County Park Planner Clement Lau says that they are focusing on how to get parks in underserved areas, making it sound like it was not possible under the current system.
  • I would throw my support if this was really the only way of securing funding for the short and long-term.  It is risky to hold out until a later time.  The supervisors won't be able to get another item on the ballot until 2016, and we would not be able to use that money till 2017.  And just what would happen?  The Daily News makes this effect real.  They say this:  "Take for instance L.A. County where next year the city will get $1.4 million for maintenance and service thanks to previous propositions; that would dwindle the following year to $484,000 and then disappear by 2019 without voters approving a new parks measure." 
As it appears to me, it appears risky voting "no", but ultimately the measure seems to be more preventative and experimental, than critical, urgent, and targeted.  For me, I think this puts more pressure on getting it right in 2016.

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