Two County Measures On November 6 Ballot
Third In A Series
By Joshua H. Silavent - Staff Writer
September 25, 2012 – On November 6, registered voters have an opportunity to weigh in on 11 statewide ballot propositions, two L.A. County measures and two Long Beach initiatives. Business Journal writers are examining each of the measures. The August 28 and September 11 editions of the Business Journal looked at state propositions. This edition examines county Measures A and J, and Long Beach Measure O.
Long Beach voters will join Los Angeles County voters to determine the fate of two ballot measures on November 6.
County Tax Assessor Position
The Los Angeles County assessor is charged with establishing the taxable value of property. But an ongoing criminal probe into pay-for-play allegations has roiled the office of John Noguez.
Noguez took a paid leave of absence in June after accusations surfaced that he and his staff were lowering property tax bills for campaign contributors. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed Santos Kreimann as interim assessor.
In a bid to obviate future impropriety of this sort, Measure A seeks a change to the California Constitution and L.A. County Charter to make the assessor an appointed, rather than elected, position.
“[The position is] administrative,” L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe told the Business Journal. “There’s nothing political about it.”
If approved, the board of supervisors would be charged with making the appointment, as they do with the county’s director of health, for example.
Knabe said he’s been pushing for this change for 10 years, but the recent controversy surrounding Noguez has made it a priority.
“This obviously accentuates the reason why I feel it should be appointed,” he said.
Moreover, Knabe is troubled by the fact that anyone with a real estate appraisers license can be elected assessor.
“So you really put yourself in a situation where you don’t have qualified people in that position,” he said. “And then there’s never any question about having to raise money for a campaign . . . and all those issues that go with it.”
Noguez raised about $1 million in his 2010 campaign for the assessor’s office while his opponent raised just $40,000.
Of course, Noguez might also prove to be an example of why voters, and therefore taxpayers, should retain the right to elect the county’s assessor. There is no guarantee that making the office an appointed position would prevent corruption. Voters might decide that they are best capable of holding government officials to account.
Extending Sales Tax For 30 Years To Fund Transportation Projects
In 2008, voters approved Measure R, a one-half cent sales tax increase on goods and services across Los Angeles County for a 30-year period to fund $40 billion in transportation projects. Measure J asks voters to extend the tax for an additional 30 years.
Proponents, including a majority on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors, argue that the extension is needed to accelerate construction of light rail, subway and airport connections, plus several interstate improvements, which will relieve traffic congestion and spur economic development.
For example, proposals include extending the metro blue line from Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley and upgrades to the I-710 freeway.
Opponents, meanwhile, counter that it is too early in the process to ask voters to extend the increase in sales tax until 2069.
“If this was year 20 or 25 of a 30-year plan and you can go to the taxpayer and say, ‘Look what we’ve done with your money, we built this and we built this, but there’s not enough money to finish this,’ then I could see putting it back on the ballot or extending the current tax,” L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe told the Business Journal. “But here we are four years into it . . . nothing completed . . . and I just think it’s disingenuous to go back to the voters to ask for an extension this early into Measure R.”
Measure R marked the third time county voters have OK’d a tax increase to fund transportation projects.
“That’s why we have the highest sales tax,” Knabe said.
Knabe said that extending the tax timeline was not a guarantee that projects would be completed more efficiently.
“I think those arguments are just not true,” he added.
Moreover, Knabe said he is concerned about how effectively the funds would be managed and spent given such a long timeframe with which to operate.
“Sixty years is forever,” he said. “That discipline will be out the door if this extension goes through.”