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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023

Colleagues Don’t Receive Padilla Plan With Open Arms

San Fernando Valley council members are treading lightly around a proposal floated by City Council President Alex Padilla, which would raise sales tax by half a cent in the City of Los Angeles in order to pay for new police officers. The proposal is similar in aim to County Measure A, which was defeated in November after failing to win 66 percent of voters’ approval, sending local politicians back to the drawing boards looking for new ways to hire more police officers. Padilla’s proposal seeks to skirt the two-thirds vote required to increase taxes for a specific purpose, by couching the bill as a simple tax increase. A separate advisory ballot measure would ask voters whether they want any new tax revenues to be spent on public safety projects, like police hires. Mayor James Hahn and other city officials have supported the idea of a city sales tax increase since the county measure failed Some Valley council members have said they support hiring new officers, but support for Padilla’s method is flimsy at best. “It should be a county-wide measure,” said Mitch Englander, chief of staff for Councilman Greig Smith. “Our city would have one of the highest sales tax increases in the country, thus becoming an island in the county.” “We don’t think it’s in the spirit of Proposition 218,” he said. Proposition 218 was passed in 1996, requiring a two-thirds vote for all special tax increases. Englander said that Smith is “absolutely opposed” to Padilla’s proposal because it would put Los Angeles businesses at a disadvantage with the rest of the county, and because there is no guarantee that the city council in the future may divert the new sales tax funds to other areas. Englander said Smith’s own proposal to hire more officers does not require that any taxes be raised. Streamlining city departments, he said, will free up new revenue for public safety positions. Additionally, in his monthly newsletter, Smith said that the city is guaranteed $66 million in two years time after the passage of Proposition 1A, which requires the state to pay back local property taxes used in Sacramento. Smith said that taking an advance loan on half of the funds would be inexpensive, and would allow the city to put 250 new police officers on the street. He continued to say that the city has already qualified for federal matching grants that would allow for the hiring of 250 additional officers. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said that she supported the county-wide sales tax and that the city needs a new source of revenue, but she has not taken an official position on Padilla’s proposal. She said she’s waiting to hear City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s opinion on the proposal’s legality before taking further action. She added that she was concerned about the negative impact on Los Angeles businesses competing with the rest of the county, as well. Stacy Bellew, a spokesperson for Councilmember Tony Cardenas, said that he had not yet taken a position on the proposal, but as chair of the budget committee he would be evaluating it very closely when it reaches his committee. She said Cardenas is hoping to have a joint meeting of the budget and public safety committees before the month is over, however the scheduling would be up to Padilla. Councilmember Dennis Zine, who said he was discussing the issue with Padilla, agreed with Smith, saying that a sales tax increase was most important at a county level. He said that any increase in police officers would inevitably lead to more arrests, and that without more money going to the county prison system to increase capacity, offenders are likely to face more lenient sentences. Councilmember Tom LaBonge, in a statement issued through his communications director, was also supportive of new officers, but would not dismiss or support Padilla’s proposal. “It is a high priority of mine to put the right measure on the ballot,” he said. “I believe Council President Alex Padilla’s proposal is worthy of further consideration, as I support our efforts to put more police officers in our neighborhoods.” Pay Up Last Wednesday, the gloves came off in the mayoral race a little bit; Mayor Hahn’s campaign sent former Assembly Speaker and mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg a “bill” for $850 million. Hahn spokesperson Julie Wong signed a letter claiming that Hertzberg approved a loophole while speaker that allowed the money to be diverted from transportation needs. She cited the Automobile Club of Southern California as saying that the diversions could delay improvements of the 101-405 Interchange and expansion of bus and light rail lines. The letter from the Hahn camp came after Hertzberg made an appearance on a morning radio talk show to announce a transportation plan called the “Commuters’ Bill of Rights,” blaming Hahn for the city’s traffic problems and saying he wanted to end road construction during rush hour. By the afternoon, Matt Szabo of Hertzberg’s campaign fired back with another letter blasting Hahn for missing hundreds of votes as director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The loophole to which Wong referred is contained in Proposition 42, a ballot measure that both Hahn and Hertzberg supported in March of 2002. It required that transportation taxes be used for transit projects but also has a provision that allows the governor to declare a financial emergency and use the money for other purposes. Staff reporter Jonathan D. Colburn can be reached at (818) 316-3124 or by e-mail at jdcolburn@sfvbj.com.

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