Prop 6: Can We Guarantee the Funds Will be Spent Well?

ALPERN AT LARGE--Come November, YOU decide. As for me, I'm just so very conflicted about Proposition 6 that I cannot recommend either a "pro" or "con" position.

I've helped raise your countywide taxes twice for transportation in the form of a sales tax that EVERYONE pays for. 

Yet the state hardly has a good track record of spending transportation funding well. There are NO shortage of Californians willing to pay more for their roads, but who are appalled at the state that our roads are in.  

There are also NO shortage of Californians willing to pay more for new rail projects, but who are appalled at the state that our rail service now exists, and equally appalled that the California High-Speed Rail effort has superseded local rail needs that are more certain, and with greater support and consensus among local taxpayers. 

Ditto with the lack of dams and water preservation efforts, and desalination facilities that could allow that thing called WATER to be exist in sufficient supply for the needs of Californians. 

And ditto with the way our education funding is spent--they always need MORE, but how much of that MORE ends up translating into MORE education spending. Furthermore, do we REALLY need to have so much being guaranteed to K-12 when instead our need for a few more UC and Cal State colleges is more critical than ever, based on the flat K-12 enrollment numbers? 

The bottom line: we rely on Sacramento to spend our state moneys well, but anyone who thinks that THIS pack of nitwits running the Legislature, with their spending habits, their cowtowing to developers, and their silliness can be trusted with more money is indeed guilty of almost a criminal sense of naiveté. 

So, what DO we do about Proposition 6? Vote YES to "send a message" yet potentially take money away from our roads? Vote NO to ensure that money goes to transportation but knowing too much of it will be diverted into the General Fund? 

I frankly do not blame anyone for voting YES or NO on Proposition 6, because while the Legislature deserves a good smack for their immature approach to spending money I am not recommending we smack ourselves out of spite. 

Yet regardless of what happens following the election, the need to ensure that California keeps transportation funds AWAY from the General Fund, which the Los Angeles Times depicts so well, is paramount. 

Equally paramount is that the City of Los Angeles lets their own transportation funds be focused on tangible and cost-effective transportation projects and fix the damned roads and sidewalks in the expedited manner so desired by its constituents. And keep the "feel-good" stuff to a minimum. 

Because "Alpern's Law of Taxation" still holds true: It's not the amount of taxes that infuriates the voters as much as the perception of how those taxes are being spent.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also 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 was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. 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 Dr. Alpern.)