L.A. County 1/2 Cent Sales Tax Hike?
Baca Backed Petition Drive Short On Sigs, Sheriff Asks Bd of Supes To Put It On Ballot
LB Council Backed Measure in January, Councilwoman Reyes Uranga and LBPD Chief Batts Urge Supes To Put It on Ballot, We Post Their Testimony
Supervisors Suggest Changes In Allocating Tax Proceeds; Revised Prop Will Return to Bd For Vote
Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga
(July 1, 2004) -- A proposal by L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca to hike L.A. County's sales tax by half a cent to 8.75% for public safety and homeland security purposes -- which LB City Hall management helped craft and LB's City Council backed in January, failed to garner sufficient petition signatures, prompting the Sheriff to urge a previously reluctant L.A. County Board of Supervisors to put it on the November ballot.
The five member County Board, recognizing they now control the measure's fate, immediately began suggesting changes in how the measure would allocate tax money. Amendments will be brought back to the Board of Supervisors in about two weeks and changes could theoretically be made until very early August to make the November ballot.
Numerous local government officials attended the June 29 Board of Supervisors meeting to urge putting the sales tax increase on the ballot...including LB City Councilmember Tonia Reyes Uranga and LBPD Chief Anthony Batts. LBReport.com posts their testimony below (kudos to the L.A. County Supervisors' web site which provides verbatim transcripts, albeit in all-capital letters).
On January 20, 2004, the LB City Council voted 7-2 (Webb and Lerch dissenting) to adopt a resolution supporting Baca's proposed "Public Safety and Homeland Security sales tax," noting that the City of LB would receive roughly $21 million if County voters approve the measure in November.
On February 3, 2004, Sheriff Baca came to LB and received from the City Council a Proclamation touting the benefits of his proposed sales tax increase.
The June 29, 2004 Board of Supervisors' testimony of Councilmember Reyes Uranga and Chief Batts follows:
MY NAME IS COUNCIL MEMBER TONIA REYES URANGA WITH THE CITY OF LONG BEACH. I HAVE MY CHIEF OF POLICE, YOU MAY KNOW OUR CHIEF, TONY BATS, WHO IS HERE IN THE AUDIENCE, AND I'M SURE HE'LL BE SPEAKING LATER ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS ISSUE.
ON JANUARY 20TH, THE CITY OF LONG BEACH AND LONG BEACH CITY COUNCIL PASSED A RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF THIS MEASURE. WE ASK FOR YOUR HELP AND YOUR SUPPORT. OUR PUBLIC SAFETY PERSONNEL ARE REALLY AT-- ARE STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT. WE DO HAVE, JUST LIKE THE CITY OF L.A., A PORT AND AN AIRPORT THAT REQUIRES ATTENTION BECAUSE OF HOMELAND SECURITY NEEDS. WE ARE STRUGGLING IN ORDER TO PROVIDE BASIC PUBLIC SERVICES TO OUR RESIDENTS IN LIGHT OF THE GROWING ISSUE OF GANGS AND YOUTH CRIME IN OUR CITY.
WE NEED YOUR HELP AND WE'RE ASKING THAT YOU ALSO MOVE THIS FORWARD AND LET THE VOTERS DECIDE THAT WE'RE ABLE TO PUT THIS ON THE BALLOT AND HAVE THOSE DOLLARS. AND, FOR THE CITY OF LONG BEACH, THE SECOND LARGEST CITY IN L.A. COUNTY, IT'S ALSO THE MOST DIVERSE CITY IN L.A. COUNTY. WE HAVE VERY FEW-- WE HAVE NO DIVERSITY OF CHOICES WHEN IT COMES TO PUBLIC SAFETY. WE HAVE TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO PUT MORE POLICE ON THE STREETS.
WE HAVE A FINE POLICE DEPARTMENT AND WE NEED THAT ASSISTANCE. AGAIN, OUR CHIEF OF POLICE, CHIEF BATS, WHO IS DOING A FANTASTIC JOB IN OUR CITY, WILL BE HERE TO TALK ABOUT IT AND WE'RE HOPING THAT IT WILL ALLOW US TO PUT MORE POLICE ON THE STREETS AND COMBAT CRIME SO THAT WE, TOO, AS A TOURIST DESTINATION, AS ONE OF THE FINEST CITIES IN THIS COUNTY, CAN CONTINUE TO DO WHAT IT NEEDS TO DO AND THAT'S TO PROVIDE PUBLIC SAFETY AT THE VERY BASIC LEVEL TO THE RESIDENTS OF THE CITY.
SO I THANK YOU AND I KNOW THAT YOU HAVE, IN THE NEXT FEW MEETINGS AHEAD, A REAL JOB IN HAVING TO PUT THIS TOGETHER AND TRY TO KEEP EVERYONE SATISFIED WITH WHAT THEY WANT BUT, TO THE CORE, SPEAKING TO THE VERY BASIC CORE AND THE INTENT OF THIS MEASURE, IT'S TO PUT POLICE
ON THE STREETS. AND SO WE ASK THAT YOU HELP US DO THAT.
LBPD Chief Anthony Batts
...IT'S A HONOR AND I'M HUMBLED TO BE ABLE TO COME BEFORE THE COUNTY LEADERS AND I ASK FOR AND OPPORTUNITY OF SHORT DURATION TO SHARE WITH YOU WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE CITY OF LONG BEACH AND HOW THIS WOULD HELP US AND ASSIST US.
SEE, I GREW UP IN THE STREETS OF LOS ANGELES, IN AN AREA THAT THEY NOW CALL SOFT LOS ANGELES. I CALL THAT HOME. AND ONE OF THE DRIVING FORCES FOR ME THAT IMPACTED MY LIFE WAS A INTERVENTION PROGRAM CALLED THE POLICE EXPLORER PROGRAM, AND YOU CAN SEE WHAT A DIFFERENCE THAT HAS MADE IN MY LIFE UP UNTIL TODAY.
IN THE CITY OF LONG BEACH, LAST YEAR, I HAD TO REDUCE MY ORGANIZATION BY 39 POSITIONS. THIS YEAR-- OR NEXT YEAR, I'LL HAVE TO REDUCE IT FURTHER BY 50 POSITIONS. WHAT THAT MEANS IS THAT I WILL TAKE AWAY PROGRAMS MUCH LIKE OUR POLICE EXPLORER PROGRAM, OUR D.A.R.E. PROGRAM, OUR COMMUNITY POLICING PROGRAMS, THOSE INTERVENTION PROGRAMS THAT ARE SO NECESSARY IN A URBAN ENVIRONMENT TO HELP WITH THE COMMUNITY. MY NUMBER ONE GOAL IS OUR CORE MISSION, IS WHEN A PERSON PICKS UP THE PHONE AND SAYS, "I NEED A POLICE OFFICER THERE," WE GET THERE IN A TIMELY FASHION AND WE DO A PROFESSIONAL JOB. IF WE DO NOT HAVE THIS ON THE BALLOT, IF THIS IS NOT VOTED UPON IN THE CITY OF LONG BEACH, WE WILL BECOME A ONE- DIMENSIONAL POLICE ORGANIZATION FOCUSED ON JUST RESPONDING TO CRIME.
YOUNG PEOPLE IN URBAN ENVIRONMENTS TODAY NEED INTERVENTION, THEY NEED PREVENTION. WE ALSO NEED TO ENSURE THAT OUR KIDS CAN WALK TO THE CORNER STORE SAFELY. WE TALK ABOUT HAVING MORE LIBRARIES, WE TALK ABOUT HAVING MORE PARKS, AND THEY ARE VERY MUCH NECESSARY. HOWEVER, A CHILD NEEDS TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO ARRIVE AT THAT LOCATION SAFELY AND THAT'S WHAT THIS ENSURES. 8
FOR THE CITY OF LONG BEACH, THIS EQUATES TO ABOUT 20 TO $22 MILLION WITH THE INITIATIVE, WITH THE PASSING OF THE INITIATIVE. THIS EQUATES TO ABOUT 130 TO 135 MORE POLICE OFFICERS FOR THIS CITY, A DRAMATIC IMPACT, SOMETHING THAT WE NEED.
I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR A HALF A MILLION PEOPLE 24 HOURS A DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. AND WHAT I AM ASKING IS THAT WE PAY 25 CENTS A DAY, 25 CENTS A DAY TO SAVE A YOUNG CHILD'S LIFE. WE'RE ASKING FOR A MINIMAL AMOUNT TO SAVE A CHILD'S LIFE. I THINK THIS COUNTY HAS BECOME VERY NUMB TO THE DEATH AND DESTRUCTION THAT TAKES PLACE ON A NIGHTLY BASIS. YOU TURN ON THE NEWS AND YOU SEE IT ON A REGULAR BASIS, GANG SHOOTINGS, GANG VIOLENCE. WE'RE NUMB TO THE GRAFFITI THAT TAKES PLACE IN OUR CITIES, THEY LINE OUR FREEWAYS AND THE STREETS THAT WE LIVE UPON. WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE HERE.
I'VE COME BEFORE YOU TO ASK LET'S PLACE THIS ON THE BALLOT AND LET'S HAVE THE SUPPORT, AND I HAVE TO THANK SHERIFF BACA FOR HAVING THE COURAGE TO STAND OUT IN FRONT. AND I THINK YOU CAN SEE THE SUPPORT, IF YOU LOOK OVER MY LEFT SHOULDER, AT ALL MY PEERS THAT ARE HERE TODAY TAKING TIME OUT OF THEIR BUSY SCHEDULES TO ASK FOR YOUR SUPPORT. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
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Following testimony by numerous government officials and colloquy with Boardmembers, Board of Supervisors chair Don Knabe (whose district includes LB) said:
"[I]f you were to make me vote today, I'll say "no" to the ballot because it's not simply a matter of putting this item on the ballot. The issue is how these dollars are going to be spent, the accountability, that it's an enhancement, that it's absolute enhancement of law enforcement and public safety services...So, before I stand out there in front of the voters and say, "This is a great deal, we're going to get more sheriffs on the street, we're going to be able to contain our jails," hey, it better not be going out the back door and that's the protection we need."
He later added, "It's simply just not a matter of putting something on the ballot, because there's two different votes. One, is there a vote to put it on the ballot and, two, is the vote to support it. They're not the same vote...Just because you vote to put it on the ballot, it doesn't mean I would support it..."
The County sales tax increase would require a 2/3 vote of County voters in November to become law.
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