Not Enough Info for Voters to Move LA City Election

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

The Herb Wesson led LA City Council voted to place Charter Amendment 1 on the ballot.  If approved by the voters on March 3, City elections, which are currently held in May of odd numbered years, would be consolidated with State and Federal elections that are held in November of even numbered years, beginning in November of 2020.

The proponents of this measure believe that consolidated elections will result in great voter participation, a major concern since less than 25% of the electorate voted in the Mayor’s race. 

Opponents are worried that voters will not focus on City elections as candidates and ballot measures will be buried at the bottom of a crowded ballot, after federal, state, and county races.  They also believe that local contests will become significantly more expensive as the cost to reach voters through a maze of competing messages will increase significantly.

While each side will argue back and forth about voter participation versus voter fatigue and the resulting drop off rates as the voter proceeds down the long ballot, the basic question is whether you trust Council President Herb Wesson and the City Council to provide us with adequate information and do what is in the best interests of the City and its four million residents.

A number of issues have surfaced since this charter amendment was placed in the hands of the voters two weeks ago.

For instance, why did the City Council rush this measure to the ballot without discussing its implications with the charter authorized Neighborhood Councils and the voters?

Why did the City Council decide to extend the terms of its members by 17 months instead of shortening them by a similar amount?

For example, if Herb Wesson is reelected this year, his term of office will be extended to December 2020, just in time for him to run for County Supervisor to replace the termed out Mark Ridley-Thomas. This will allow Wesson to collect an extra $500,000 in salary, benefits, and discretionary accounts.  Alternatively, he would have been termed out on June 30, 2019.

Why did the City Council adjust the vacancy election schedules and allow its members to make temporary appointments to fill vacant seats?  Why did the City Council change the schedule for initiative and referendum elections?  And why did the City Council allow initiative proponents to withdraw their measure prior to scheduling an election?

After the Proposition A (the permanent half cent increase our sales tax) was rejected in March of 2013 by 55% of the voters, Herb Wesson and other members of the City Council determined that tax measures would be easier to pass in even numbered years when the turnout was greater and the electorate was focused on federal and state elections and less informed about City issues.

This is why a number of unions are supporting this charter amendment, including the Police Protective League, United Firefighters, the SEIU, and the County Federation of Labor.

Herb Wesson is once again forming a slush fund to support this charter amendment, putting the arm on not only the unions, but real estate developers and billboard companies, all of which want favorable treatment from Jose Huizar’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee and the Herb Wesson led City Council.

A larger turnout for the Mayor’s race would also mean that any initiative or referendum would need more signatures to qualify for the ballot.

There has also been no meaningful discussion about the impact of this charter amendment on the cost for an ordinary person to run an effective campaign against a wealthy individual or a union supported candidate.  And what about matching funds?

And if this amendment passed, would the media devote its time to City candidates and issues or would the press be consumed with the big ticket races for President, Governor, Senator, Congress, or County Supervisor?  Would 250 people show up for the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association debate for Council District 4 or the rumble between Gloria Molina and Jose Huizar in Council District 14?

Once again, the City Council is trying to jam a ballot measure down our throats without providing us with adequate information, very similar to what it did in 2009 with Measure B, Mayor Villaraigosa’s multibillion dollar Solar Initiative, and in 2013 with Proposition A.

Cross-posted at City Watch LA.

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