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Half-Cent Tax Measure Fails to Make Ballot

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In a remarkable setback for the Mayor, yesterday the Council rejected the proposed half-cent sales tax increase for more cops for the May ballot. Needing 2/3 of the Council vote, the measure passed 9-6, falling short by one vote. Councilmembers Villaraigosa, Parks, and Weiss voted against it from the “Anything The Mayor Wants is a Bad Idea” camp. From the “Any New Taxes Are Bad Because We’re From the West Valley” group came Councilmen Zine and Smith. And shockingly enough, Council President Alex Padilla represented the “This is Bad Public Policy” group and was the deciding vote to kill the measure. The biggest loser in this battle is Mayor Hahn. He coveted having the measure on the ballot for the May runoff, when he could not only use it as part of his campaign, trumpeting drops in crime and the hiring of Chief Bratton simultaneously, but also because of its financial implications: such a ballot measure would facilitate setting up an independent expenditure (IE) committee to support the measure, where normal campaign finance laws don’t apply. With IEs, campaigners can raise an unlimited amount of money from contributors instead of the normal $1,000 limit. In addition, they can send out mailers that support a particular candidate, as long as they’re not connected to the candidate’s campaign. Had this measure gone to the ballot, the Police Protective League (the Police officers’ union), which has endorsed Hahn, would have undoubtedly sent out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of mailers to support the measure–and Jim’s reelection.

Now, is this good policy or bad policy? Under normal circumstances, LAist would support putting the measure on the ballot, but because of the political implications it takes on a separate existence, in our opinion.

Proponents of the sales tax increase have been saying on the Council floor that the half-cent proposal for more cops "should be put in the hands of the voters." But that's not all that this measure would do, and it's naive to pretend that this is simply a policy decision being made by ordinary Angelenos. Putting the proposal on the ballot has large, obvious political implications that will greatly affect the mayoral election's outcome, and the populist

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rhetoric from the notoriously insulated Council is fairly ridiculous.

While it's hard for us to congratulate Councilmen Villaraigosa, Parks, and Weiss, because they hate the Mayor (and the Mayor hates them), we applaud Councilmen Smith and Zine for listening to their constituents (even if they are from the West Valley), and especially Council President Padilla for standing up and saying that this is bad policy, and a part of the Mayor's race into which the Council shouldn't stick its oversized fingers.

Would you have liked to have seen this measure before you, fellow Angelenos?