JUST THE FACTS-The Mayor, City Council and Department of Water and Power Commission have all approved recent increases in both the water and power rates for all Los Angeles City consumers. As we read about broken water pipes and aging power poles on a regular basis, we can understand the necessity to raise revenues to upgrade deteriorating systems. Yet this is just a preview of what to expect in the near future for Los Angeles residential and commercial consumers.
The next rate increases will involve a vote of the public. That means that you have option of approving or rejecting the measures. But this can only happen if you are registered and take the time to vote. Currently, we are saddled with a 9% sales tax in Los Angeles and a portion of that is for our public transit system.
Here’s a question about our public transit system: How many of you ever ride it in Los Angeles? I would guess that most of you never have. On infrequent occasions, I have ridden on both buses and trains. The stench of marijuana has been present nearly every time, along with the combative and hostile attitude displayed by some riders. This has turned many people off from riding public transit in our region. Many potential riders just don’t feel safe due to the lack of law enforcement presence on the transit lines, other than the ones who check for fare violators at transit stops.
Politicians are moving forward with a proposed extension and increase in our region’s sales tax to fund an expanded public transit system as well as money to deal with the estimated 40,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County. This will push our sales tax to 9.5% for the next 40 years. Yes, forty years. In addition, there is a proposal to extend the current transit tax for another 40 years. I thought it was interesting that City Hall described the increase as four decades. Maybe this softens the hit by saying four decades, instead of forty years, but the math is the same.
This is a lot money, and for what? Many of us won’t even be here in forty years, but I know we have to plan for future generations. With that in mind, we should recognize that we have over-populated the city, pushing housing costs and rents out of reach of most young families. Can they afford to pay more taxes?
Although the Mayor declared a homeless emergency months ago, there is a major lack of funds to help deal with the situation. One proposal is to link a fee to all new developments. This fee, to the tune of thousands of dollars, will just force up the cost of new development. As you can see, there seems to be no easy answer other than more and higher taxes and fees. But I say enough with that!
I am opposed to any new tax increases to fund the transit tunnel under the 405 freeway or any other pie in the sky solution to traffic gridlock. The solution is more controls on over-development. Our city and county have seen an increase in population in all categories, including 40,000 homeless. Los Angeles County population is currently at 10,241,335, up 0.8% from 2015. Los Angeles City is currently at 4,030,904 people, an increase of 50,000 people since January 1, 2015. California’s growing population is now 39,256,000.
There is no end in sight to the multiple and weighty matters facing our region. If you want to make a difference, you must get involved and voice your concerns to your elected officials. We are blessed here that most of our elected officials do listen -- to some extent -- to our concerns and issues. While Rome was not built in one day, we need to continue working to remedy the many issues facing all of us in the City of the Angels……
Clinton or Trump? We will soon know who will lead this country forward into the future.
(Dennis P. Zine is a 33-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, a 12-year member of the Los Angeles City Council and a current LAPD Reserve Officer who serves as a member of the Fugitive Warrant Detail assigned out of Gang and Narcotics Division. He writes Just the Facts for CityWatch. You can contact him at Zman8910@aol.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.