Three Los Angeles City Council members met with about 200 residents Tuesday night to explain their support for the 10 ballot measures in the March 8 citywide election.
The three spoke to a capacity crowd hosted by the Studio City Residents Association at the l in Studio City.
Paul Koretz, whose district includes the west part of Studio City, Encino, Sherman Oaks and the Westside, said he had some of the more boring and complicated measures to explain.
“Give it to Tom, he will make it sound exciting,” kidded Paul Krekorian, whose area includes most of Studio City, Sunland and North Hollywood. He was referring to his more animated fellow councilman, Tom LaBonge, whose district covers the east part of Studio City, Toluca Lake, North Hollywood and Hollywood.
The measures include taxing oil production and marijuana sales, cutting fire and police pensions and increasing library funding. Krekorian and LaBonge are also up for re-election on the March 8 ballot.
“I have the easy one, transferring more money to the libraries, and it won’t cost anything,” LaBonge said about Charter Amendment L, Public Library Funding, which would increase the percentage of the general fund for the 72 city libraries, but not increase taxes.
“It makes me smile every time I go into a library," LaBonge said, "because I know our tax money is well spent there, every penny.”
He recalled his first library book—Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, with the steam machine named Katy—and how important it was to him.
“Prop. L will just have us adjust a little more piece of the pie and dish it out to library service,” LaBonge said.
Krekorian took on campaign finance in Charter Amendment N.
“This is a big step backward,” Krekorian said. He blamed the measure on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case that invalidated local campaign reforms.
“The independent expenditures are sometimes financed by shadowy forces that hide behind cutesy names … like the Committee for Puppy Dogs and Apple Pie … and they have narrow interests with lots and lots of money,” Krekorian said.
Charter Amendment N rescinds the city’s restrictions, and Krekorian said. “It’s a horrible step back for us, but it’s important to pass it because the city could be subjected to potentially millions of dollars of liability.”
In regard to two other measures, Koretz pointed out that the city could bring in about $20 million to help close the gap of the expected $350-million budget shortage.
“We are limited in our tax proposals, and if there is a tax that could do no harm it is this one,” Koretz said about Proposition O, the Oil Production Tax. “California produces a significant amount of oil and we don’t have a severance tax, so it’s about time we do the same.… It’s a tiny fraction in the scheme of things, and it will have no impact at all on the price of gas.”
Krekorian predicted the oil industry lobby will spend millions of dollars to fight the proposal by scaring voters into thinking the price of gas will rise to $5 a gallon when “it will have zero impact on the price of gas… but you will hear all of that.”
The other tax increase is Taxation of Medical Marijuana (Prop. M). “It would turn the collectives into nonprofits and drop the price dramatically," Koretz said. "And dispensaries themselves are for it because it gives them some stability. They know that the process of dealing with them is a headache for the city.... Hopefully, this is painless to the city residents and will help.”
Krekorian discussed two other ballot measures involving the Department of Water and Power, which he said “had a culture of a lack of transparency and secrecy.” He said he supports Charter Amendment I, which would require the DWP to hire a "ratepayer advocate" to provide independent analysis of water and electricity rates; and Charter Amendment J, which would force the DWP to provide a preliminary budget to help the city figure out how much revenue it could expect from the agency each year.
Claiming the DWP has "pretty much blatantly lied to us,” Koretz said he hoped the ratepayer advocate would keep the agency from stonewalling the City Council.
Another measure that Koretz said he reluctantly supports is Charter Amendment G, which would ratchet down pensions and reduce some health benefits for firefighters and police officers retiring after July 1.
“If we don’t rein in pensions, the city will struggle to survive," Koretz said.
Questions from the audience included how Koretz and Krekorian compared their current jobs in city politics to their previous stints as state officials in Sacramento.
“In Sacramento it’s more dysfunctional than you can imagine," Koretz said. "The partisanship is more than half the problem.... We may not agree with every issue down here, but we work together to solve it and not say: ‘He’s a Democrat or he’s a Republican.’ ”
Krekorian agreed, adding, “The people of Los Angeles know what Los Angeles needs better than Sacramento.”
But Krekorian warned that city services will be cut drastically over the next two years. “There’s going to be a painful series of cuts, and they will be difficult, and you will see a cut in services,” he said.
Check out the video of the councilmen: