MoveLA conference tackles thorny issues: among them, should the threshold for future sales tax measures be lowered to 55 percent?

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

I spent a couple of hours at MoveLA’s annual conference at Union Station on Friday. As the group’s name implies, MoveLA — with financial help from Metro — is pushing for an expansion and acceleration of transit projects across Los Angeles County.

Three things I heard that I found intriguing and worth passing along to Source readers:

•County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky was one of many people calling for the threshold for sales tax ballot measures to be lowered from 66.7 percent (two-thirds) to 55 percent after Measure J lost in November with 66.1 percent of the vote.

Yaroslavsky said it’s a perversion of Prop 13 that general sales tax measures — that is, measures without a specific funding target (such as transportation or education) — only require a simple majority but measures with funding plans and goals must reach a much higher target of two-thirds.

Yaroslavsky also acknowledged that everyone knew ahead of time that Measure J needed 66.7 percent to win and that the campaign wasn’t perfect, nor did it help — in his view and in particular — that turnout was much lower in 2012 than in 2008 when Measure R secured 67.9 percent of the vote.

There is a bill pending in the state Legislature that would change the state Constitution to allow for a 55 percent threshold. If the Legislature approves it and the Governor signs it, the issue would then go to state voters. At this point, Metro doesn’t have any proposal to return to voters although the agency continues to pursue funding for project acceleration from Congress.

•There was a lot of talk, as would be expected, about development near transit stations. It’s pretty clear to me that this is still a very thorny issue in many parts of our region. Among the issues: how much density should be allowed, how much parking should be required at developments and what tools are best to preserve affordable housing near transit stations and areas that are gentrifying.

My three cents: It’s hard to get any affordable units built if the overall number of units allowed to be built is on the low side. Developers will simply walk away. And while I completely understand fears of gentrification, I also think it’s equally dangerous to keep redevelopment at bay because needed money and investment may simply go elsewhere.

•There was a brief conversation about using California cap-and-trade funds as a source of funding for mass transit. That’s an interesting notion, of course. But it depends on cap-and-trade raising some serious money and also state transit agencies firmly being able to quanitfy that their services are reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

9 replies

  1. @Populist Realist

    Did you read @No to prop A post? Why do both of you mention Prop A. (if it isn’t clear to everyone, this is a City of LA measure on the March ballot) when it isn’t even connected to Metro or transit except through language in the ballot which I will quote: “To offset severe and repeated State cuts and provide funding for: 911 emergency response services; maintaining firefighter, paramedic, and police officer staffing levels; continuing community policing, senior services, after-school gang and drug prevention programs; repairing potholes and sidewalks; and other general municipal services; shall the City of Los Angeles enact a one-half cent transactions and use (generally referred to as sales) tax, with required independent audits, public review of expenditures, and all funds used locally?”

    Although sidewalks and potholes are transit related, this measure will not provide any money to Metro. Frankly, I am against this proposition. Metro has it’s problems, but to rant about how much of waste they are is both shortsighted and naive. There was a bus crash a few days ago that killed 7 people and the owner of the bus was cited for problems in the past. Metro has to operate at a higher level, for everyone. So why the need to rant about layoffs and salaries, is Metro the City of Bell? Or is it fiery talk for people who don’t like government?

    You state “Is fiscal responsbility not important anymore? How about stopping wasteful spending? Not spending money if you can’t afford it? How about keeping budget under control?” Why is it that to support transit infrastructure is to not be responsible, but as I said I won’t vote for Prop A because the City of LA hasn’t proved that they have cleaned house. Metro has done a good job, but let me be clear, Metro has it’s faults like any organization does, and that includes Private Companies. If the process of naming stations is dumb, and it is, you should speak your mind.

    Fixing LA transit, roads and bridges require money, and perhaps above, all a social consensus and the tools to get that done. Measure J’s 66.1% is a clear indicator of the public’s will.

  2. Why not improve what you already have? The trains on the Blue and Expo Lines are some of the oldest. When does the MTA start to replace some of the old worn out train cars. Most of them were in use when the Blue Line first opened; they are outdated at this point.

  3. @in the valley

    I get the implication from your statement that anyone who disagrees with higher taxes and is a proponent of fiscal responsibility is a person who spreads “right wing” demagoguery. I have to say you’re far from the truth.

    Is fiscal responsbility not important anymore? How about stopping wasteful spending? Not spending money if you can’t afford it? How about keeping budget under control?

    These are not “right wing” ideas. These are called common sense. It’s all part of life left and right and everyone in between.

    Sure it’s easy if we keep on raising taxes. Easy for them to do anything they want without proper checks and balances. But they also begin to get the idea that “we get to use the money however we like and if we have financial problems, we can go back to taxpayers for more and they’ll capitulate.”

    Just look at how they just spend our tax dollars renaming stations with their political friends’ names. And they have the nerve to come back to ask for more tax hikes? You gotta be kidding me. Or how about those sneaky little sanitation rate increases they put in to cover their financial problems?

    Nothing is free in this world, but that’s not an excuse to keep raising taxes either. We have to look at cutting wasteful spending first before we get to raising taxes.

    Do you really think we should be spending tax dollars in renaming stations with politicians’ names? If that’s an outrage, who knows what else they might be doing with our tax money. Remember the City of Bell and the Cudahy scandals? Who’s to say the same thing isn’t happening at City Hall? We need to dig down deeper to find all these nonsense uses of our tax dollars.

    I’m voting no on Prop A. Anyone who has common sense would do the same. We’ve had enough of City Hall wasting money over and over again.

  4. How can LA have one of the highest tax rates in the country when their mass transit isn’t even on the levels of East Coast cities like NYC and Boston?

    It’s a showing tell that someone somewhere holding government jobs in LA isn’t using money wisely and that a bunch of tax dollars are going to waste.

    Cut the wastes first before raising taxes.

  5. @No to Prop A

    Fixing transit is an “addiction”? Many people wish that were true.

    However, I realize that you are not being supportive of measures to better facilitate transit in LA and are instead spreading fear and right wing demagoguery as “truth”. Measure J had 66.1% of the vote which is clearly a vote of support but that is clearly not what you want to hear.

    I hope that this major failing of prop 13 is foiled and a new measure similar to Measures R and J are put for forward in this county.

  6. Absolutely not.
    We already have some of the highest taxes in the nation. Maybe if we spent our pennies more wisely, there’d be more money for mass transit.

  7. No.

    The city needs to get a grasp on its addiction to coming back to solve their financial problems by coming back to taxpayers over and over again.

    Everyone is having a hard time and making cut backs. We don’t want the city taking more of our money away from our diminishing paychecks.

    Government needs to do the same too. Get the budget in order, stop wasteful spending, and make necessary cutbacks. Downsizing the labor force is always an option. One less government employee being paid $50,000 a year means $50,000 saved in tax payer money.

  8. I’m curious if there was any conversation about what it would take to get 66.7% of the vote for a new tax measure? I agree that 66.7% of the vote is less democratic then a simple majority. But LA County didn’t pass Measure J for a reason. What has LACMTA done to address those reasons?