LOS ANGELES — Depleted city coffers, layoffs and government freebies are top issues facing Los Angeles voters in this election year. With a growing budget crisis, Angelinos could be voting on some new initiatives in 2010 and 2011, asking them to dig deeper in their wallets to keep the city up and running. A lack of confidence in Los Angeles’ mayor may also cause a shift of power.
Here’s a look a few hot-button issues:
Los Angeles library/parcel tax: According to the city’s public library website, libraries in the greater Los Angeles area were forced recently to slash budgets and staff, reducing the work week to five days from six beginning July 18. Friends of the Los Angeles Library now are lobbying to get a proposal on the November 2 ballot that would restore the operating budget.
The proposed initiative would require land owners to pay $39 per year for each parcel of land that they own, raising an estimated $30 million for the Los Angeles Public Library system, restoring services and expanding the collections. Los Angeles voters are supportive of the tax — 68 percent favor it, according to a May 14-18 independent poll. But another economic downturn over the summer could defeat this initiative if it makes it on the November ballot.
Los Angeles billboard tax: Facing a growing deficit, the Los Angeles City Council has been looking for new revenue sources to put the city back in the black. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Councilman Herb Wesson has started an initiative to tax billboards, digital signs and supergraphic advertisements. Wesson says he believes this advertising excise tax could generate up to $50 million per year for Los Angeles.
Supergraphics, a daily sight in Los Angeles, are a revenue stream for local building owners. One side of an office building, for example, can be turned into a multi-story advertisement, typically for a new television show or upcoming movie. As the Times reported in 2009, however, not every Angelino is a fan of these eye-popping ads. A billboard tax could raise needed city funds, but it also might open the door for more supergraphics.
Villaraigosa’s ticketgate: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is in the spotlight for what the local media have dubbed “Ticketgate.”According to the L.A. Daily News, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has launched an investigation into all the free tickets Villaraigosa has accepted while in office, in particular seats at Los Angeles Lakers games.
As an elected official, Villaraigosa must report gifts totaling more than $420 from individual contributors, but there is a big loophole in this rule. If he can prove that he was operating in an official capacity at the Emmy and Grammy Awards, Villaraigosa does not have to report those tickets as gifts. In a cash-strapped city, Villaraigosa’s behavior has some voters asking for a recall.