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Is LA Unified Using Our Money to Promote the $500 Million Parcel Tax?

LA WATCHDOG--The special election for the $500 million parcel tax that will benefit the Los Angeles Unified School District is a little more than three weeks away.  As a result, we will be bombarded by mailers and advertisements urging us to reject or support Measure EE, inappropriately named the “Quality Teacher, Class Size Reduction, and Local School Safety Measure.”  

But this tax will not be used as advertised.  Rather, the new cash will be diverted to fund the LAUSD’s Structural Deficit and to pay ever increasing contributions to its underfunded retirement plans.   

There is organized opposition to the parcel tax by the business community and others who believe that LA Unified needs to clean up its act before hitting up local property owners for even more money over and above the current level of $2.5 billion a year.  

But the opposition forces are outgunned by the proponents who have raised over $2 million compared to less than $600,000 for the opposition.  Major contributors to the Yes on EE Committee are United Teachers Los Angeles ($500,000), SEIU Local 99 ($300,0000), and the Carpenters ($250,000).  Other major contributors are billionaires Steve Ballmer of the LA Clippers ($500,000) and Eli Broad ($250,000). 

This will make for a nasty food fight and dirty tricks. 

Already, we have read in The Times about a Garcetti operative using Mafia like tactics on businesses who are opponents to the parcel tax, threatening to black ball them from doing business with the City.  We have also witnessed phone calls falsely linking the opposition to Donald Trump.  

One question is whether LA Unified will follow in the footsteps of Metro and the County who together used over $10 million of taxpayer money to “educate” us about Measure M, the 2016 half cent increase in our sales tax, and Measure W, the 2018 stormwater tax, respectively. 

In March, LA Unified released an RFP (Request for Proposals) “seeking the services of a professional firm/individual with extensive experience providing strategic informational communications and advisory services for local revenue measures.  A firm or individual with significant experience supporting successful parcel tax initiatives, and experience with a government agency of similar size and demographics, is highly desirable.  The firm or individual should be familiar with the legal restrictions on public entities’ and officials’ ability to engage in informational communications about a pending ballot measure.” 

Without question, LAUSD intends to run a sophisticated “educational” campaign with the intent of convincing two-thirds of the voters to approve the $500 million parcel tax.  This “educational” political campaign will involve extensive use of both a digital and print communications, including very expensive sets of mailers delivered to highly targeted audiences.  

This is an inappropriate, if not illegal, use of our money.  And if LAUSD uses poor judgement and proceeds with this political campaign, it must be open and transparent and we must be informed, on a real time basis, on the details of the campaign, including the associated costs and name of the political operative. 

If LAUSD proceeds with an “educational” campaign, it is just another valid reason to vote NO on Measure EE, the “Structural Deficit Funding Measure.” 

 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

 

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