The Hard Sell for LA’s Measure M

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Sacramento insiders are carefully watching the results of Tuesday’s local elections dealing with transportation issues. Resounding support for local transportation tax increases could embolden state legislators to push even harder for a state transportation fix. Rumors hint at a post-election try to get transportation funding before the new legislature is sworn in.

Perhaps a discouraging sign for the tax plans — watching the effort to sway young voters to jump on the bandwagon in support of Los Angeles metro’s Measure M, a permanent half-cent sales tax that will also convert a previous temporary half-cent sales tax to permanent status. The big guns came out to Cal State Northridge (CSUN) last week to lead a student rally. The Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti and state Senator Bob Hertzberg were there along with other officials and business supporters. Mostly the students were missing.

For a time there seemed to be more “suits” in attendance than students. That’s despite the blaring music intended to draw a crowd. In the end 30-40 students heard the speeches encouraging support for Measure M.

The rally was conducted at CSUN because Hertzberg and his San Fernando Valley allies pressured the mayor and the metro board to add bus routes to the valley to benefit the students. The Valley transportation woes had been ignored in past funding proposals. This time the Valley was included.

Garcetti pointed to the endorsement of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) and its president Stuart Waldman, who was in attendance at the rally, as proof of business support for Measure M. Garcetti said business groups don’t endorse tax measures unless they are important. Supporters of the measure claim spending the tax money will create 465,000 jobs.

The students at the rally were told they would be the true beneficiaries of the tax because they would be around a long time to enjoy the transportation fixes planned with the tax money. Of course, that was a reminder to older taxpayers that some of the proposed projects won’t be completed for 40 years—and they won’t be around to use them.

Measure M needs a two-thirds vote to pass. The last Los Angeles tax measure for transportation failed in 2012. It also needed 66.66% of the vote. It received 66.11%.

Maybe students were going to class. Or maybe they were not interested in standing out in the hot sun listening to politicians speak. Maybe the students will come out to vote and push Measure M over the top as the politicians hope. Maybe.

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