TAX TSUNAMI--The overburdening of taxpayers in the City of the Angels is a very, very real thing--except, of course, to the privileged, the disconnected, and the powerful interests tied to the majority of the City Council and Mayor who feel that our sales, parcel, utility, and other taxes are just not high enough. More importantly, the perception and reality alike of how our taxes are being spent argues that Downtown is attacking its taxpaying residents.
1) It's no secret that our taxes, when compared to other cities, counties, and states in the nation, are very high--and arguably either the highest or very close to it. More taxes are acceptable when they're being spent well, but not acceptable when the past history of how they're being spent is poor.
My CityWatch colleague Jack Humphreville isn't the only one decrying the billion-dollar homeless bond plan the City is trying to push this November. We're being asked to pay more taxes for transportation, parks, educational facilities...yet again...but what is our past history of spending.
And THEN City taxpayers get attacked AGAIN for being cruel and selfish. To oppose this homeless measure is being conflated with not caring about the homeless--which itself is a cruel and selfish argument not against those who are questioning this initiative, but against those who are completely oblivious to the City of Los Angeles' horrible history on how its past homeless issues-related spending has gone.
So City taxpayers have to endure being attacked both with more taxes, and then morally pummelled and bullied into spending more taxes--despite a horrible history on how they were spent in the past--and therefore get attacked again.
2) Good planning, and good policies, and good representation, will lead to the acceptance of more taxes and new City initiatives...but the converse is certainly true as well. Bad planning and policies and ignoring the voters/taxpayers won't sit well when they're being asked to do more...and more...and more...and more!
One of the best reasons I support individuals like CD11 Councilmember Mike Bonin is that he takes his own credibility and representing the Westside very seriously...and it is certain that he will bridge the voters, the City workers, and developers into doing the right thing.
It was Mike Bonin, and others, who are leading the fight to avoid LAX from smashing a few critical hundred feet into Westchester and threatening the safety, traffic and infrastructure of the entire region. Others on the City Council caved in to the overreaching of LAX, some with better intentions than others--but poor Planning is poor Planning.
But NO ONE wants, or will ever put up with, poor Planning--particularly when it's almost certainly illegal, threatens neighborhoods, the economy, and both the environmental safety and quality of life solely for the purpose of making a few very rich and connected individuals more rich.
Everyone with a conscience and a brain wants affordable housing, transit-oriented development, and enhancement of our commercial corridors--but trashing neighborhoods to do that? No--it's NOT acceptable.
It's NOT acceptable on the Westside, the Eastside, in the Valley, or South Los Angeles.
Whether it's an amazingly by-right project on Venice Blvd. in the Westside that is several stories higher than other buildings for miles around, and with fewer parking spaces than units, merely because the City of Los Angeles has grossly and immorally misinterpreted state affordable housing laws ...
... or whether the gigantic and out-of-character Cumulus skyscraper in South/Mid-City Los Angeles is being promoted along the Expo Line near the La Cienega station...
...illegal, immoral, environmentally-unsafe and neighborhood-destroying mega-projects are NOT acceptable to a City or County that voted for more transportation options to CATCH UP, NOT WORSEN traffic, and to IMPROVE, NOT DESTROY neighborhoods.
3) Be they black, white, brown, or yellow taxpayers, NO ONE should be a slave to a Downtown Planning Politburo-like system gone amok. And when the taxpayers and voters get stepped on too much, they'll have to face the Hobson's choice of either taking more abuse or screaming NO!!! to new tax initiatives just to make their elected leaders be heard.
The Casden project was a horrible poison pill for Expo Line supporters in the Westside, and the Cumulus project was a horrible poison pill for Expo Line supporters in the Mid-City/South L.A. region.
And "by-right" rules to the otherwise-venerable goals of affordable housing and transit-oriented development, but which establish projects and development that do anything BUT achieve those goals while making a few cruel and scurvy developers richer, is just plain WRONG.
I am not the only transit advocate in agony over whether to promote Measure R-2 or not this November, because more sales taxes are needed to operations of mass transit, fixing our streets, and repairing our infrastructure--but "feeding the beast" is anything but acceptable.
What is particularly sad is that the aforementioned Councilmember Mike Bonin, and former Santa Monica City Mayor Denny Zane have an EXCELLENT and VERY CREDIBLE record on past and planned-future spending of transportation funds, and on acknowledging what is and isn't real transit-oriented development.
But they risk losing, and WE risk losing, a very necessary initiative (Measure R-2) if it will only result in empowering the developers and "the 1%" while disempowering the rest of us and consigning our City into a living hell...to which only the option of moving is available.
To the Mayor, the City Council, the Board of Supervisors, and to our state and federal electeds:
1) Stop attacking taxpayers with poorly-conceived and nontransparent spending initiatives, because they will threaten the ones that ARE well-conceived and transparent.
2) Stop attacking taxpayers for being cruel and selfish when, in fact, they are anything BUT...although those doing the attacking are likely those who truly merit the monikers of "cruel" and "selfish".
We have a City to save, and you're killing our ability to save 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 protected]. 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.)