ALPERN AT LARGE--The doctor is IN, folks! Yes, I very much DO care about your sanity, and about your health. I care about your mental health, and your financial health (and that of the City and County of LA, as well as that of Sacramento). So while some of you may scream at this article, "Stick to dermatology, Doc!" I still aim to please, and to help you figure out how to address all the November tax proposals.
It comes down to these two questions, in terms of whether or not to raise taxes:
1) Does the tax address a problem or priority we've underfunded?
2) Will the tax money be spent well?
I've quoted it before, but it bears repeating that "Alpern's Law of Taxes" (while not really MY law, because it's just common sense) states that taxpayers will only get upset by one thing more than the amount of taxes they're being asked to pay: the perception of how the taxes will be spent.
In a nutshell, here is my recommendation: definitely vote YES on LA County Proposition M, maybe vote YES on the LA county parcel tax to fund its parks, and definitely vote NO on everything else.
This is with the understanding that we've misspent most of our past and present state budgets on pensions, which the LA Times has only now begun to confront, to the point where it's not an issue of whether we love and respect firefighters, police officers, and government workers: it's just not sustainable when we're spending more on retired workers than current workers.
It's just not sustainable, and our taxes (city, county and state) are already among the highest in the nation.
Yes, I am a transportation advocate (so I am biased), but I am also aware of where transportation funding is in our city and county--we're still in need for funding projects and transportation-related infrastructure that should have been built 50-100 years ago.
Measure M is transparent, funds the long-overdue Subway to the Sea and the north-south Valley to LAX railway. It also funds a host of countywide freeway and rail projects, and gives both new funding for roads and rail operations and allows for long-overdue maintenance.
Am I infuriated that the sidewalks and roads aren't included for the amount/portion of Measure M that goes to the City of LA? Yes, but that is a battle for another day, and one that can be helped by altering what we budget at Downtown and what we DEMAND of developers asking for variants.
So for now, Measure M is a solid YES...despite the higher taxes, and despite the fact that City and County Planning needs to be brought to bear--voting YES on Measure M is NOT the same as voting yes on overplanning.
As for our parks, the question must go out--do we spend enough on them? Are our county parks funds spent well...because we DO need more parks. Hence my tentative "yes" suggestion, but I'd like to see more info on that.
But let's make this quick and easy for the other tax propositions: VOTE NO!!!
Do we spend well, or spend enough, on K-12 and community colleges? Yes, we've spent plenty, and the funds are hideously unaccounted for and misspent. Just vote no--these priorities will be better funded by appropriate accounting and budgeting, not by more money that would be akin to giving a drug addict a new bank account on which that person would inevitably just get high.
As for water/electricity-related funds, our rates and taxes are already going up. End of story--no need to throw more money this November.
Do you really want retirees and professionals to flee the City or County of LA, or even the state, more than the phenomenon already under way? I doubt it.
So let's vote "YES" on LA County Measure M, keep an open mind on the county parks measure, and vote "NO" on everything else.
That wasn't so hard now, was it?
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at email@example.com. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)