Observations from the Clean Water Clean Beaches tax protest hearing at LA County Board of Superviors Jan 15, 2013
Our prior post on this topic
The meeting filled just about every seat (video clip) in the massive Hall of Administration Board of Supervisors main hearing room in Downtown Los Angeles. There was overflow seating set up. Everyone was accommodated. The agenda item 40 hearing went from 11 am to 430pm.
link to see full video of the hearing (posted in next 5 days)
link to read transcript of entire hearing (posted in next 5 days)
However that's not to say that it was an "easy" process. We were rather frustrated with the screening and searching process just to get into the hearing room. They are far more tedious (slow) than when you get on on airplane or go to court across the street from the Hall of Admin. We were quite perturbed to learn that although we assumed you could not eat in the "Great Hall" you also could not bring food in (this "no food" sign was not visible until you got to the front of a very long line eagerly awaiting their airport style examination). And of course there would be no break for lunch and if you did go to lunch you would loose your place in line or at the hearing. So you could either go home, throw your food out or stack it in a big heap with other peoples food. How nice. Good way to catch the flu.
Most of the comments were quite boring and usual pedestrian stuff of voters complaining about how much the tax would set them back. But there were a few more eloquent people and a few choice quotes. One was from a math professor who said the "measure was 'polluted' with bullsh_t". Others we liked were: "God has given us rain and you have figured out a way to tax it." The other was "We are drowning in fees not stormwater" Those two comments garnered praise by "meeting chair" Mark Ridley Thomas. Thomas also admonished attendees numerous times not to applaud speakers which quite frankly no one paid any attention to, causing Thomas to state that the taxpayer revolt group was honoring Martin Luther King's memory by invoking "civil disobedience". Oy Vey.
Over arching themes in all the protest comments were no "sunset provision" (the tax will last forever) and it was "Alice in Wonderland" like to be taxing other public entities. There were also lots of complaints about the "mailer" which no one realized was a "ballot" and threw it out. Also lots of complaints about the fact that there was not specificity at all about any projects that would be built with this money and or how effective they would be in preventing the pollution of the ocean.
LAAG's position was simply that this Prop 218 "voting mechanism" was not feasible and really was against the drafter's intent. We know the large protest meetings are all dramatic and "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" like but really they need to work out an on line protest form for under Prop 218 (as some people have to work) or better just go to a 2/3 regular vote (outside of the prop 218 structure). The problem with 218 is people that don't vote are counted as "yes" votes in essence as you have to have over 50% of all parcel owners vote "no" and that seldom happens especially when the "ballot" looks like "government junk mail". This prop 218 thing is way more complicated that a "regular" (2/3 vote required) election but it sure does favor the entity that wants to get a tax passed .[ As a late note we add in some info from our friends over at LBReport.com: "County staff said that roughly 95,000 written protests were received (roughly 4% of property subject to the proposed parcel property fee) and said that protests submitted via the internet wouldn't be counted"]
So if you need to mail in the form here it is again Download a new copy.
Locate your Assessor ID Number
Even LAUSD came out against the tax and would be voting "no" for all their 3764 parcels on which they paid property tax. Holy cow that's a lot of property. Remind me to break up that district into smaller chunks. Thomas was quite good at cutting off people that went over a minute, even the "electeds" got cut short. The one minute time limit for all speakers ("elected" or not) was clearly needed given the vast numbers of people there. But this along with the room ambiance, the throngs of people, the Board sitting up there, It just had the appearance of the "little people" (to borrow a phrase from Leona Helmsley) coming to make / plead their poverty/tax case to King Louis XVI at the Palace of Versailles.
The result of the hearing was a good one for taxpayers. Clearly rooms full of protestors has an affect on the "electeds". Late on Jan 15 after the hearing we recived this good news:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Cheryl Burnett
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS APPROVES KNABE’S CALL FOR EXTENSION OF PROTEST PERIOD FOR CLEAN WATER MEASURE
Los Angeles, January 15, 2013 – Following the conclusion of the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure Public Hearing and the testimony of hundreds of concerned stakeholders, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Don Knabe to allow for more time for protesting the proposed parcel tax.
“We continued to hear complaints from residents, businesses, school districts, churches and non-profits that this process has not been open and transparent,” said Supervisor Knabe. “Even as the Board was hearing testimonies at the public hearing, my office was receiving emails and phone calls from residents asking where they could get a protest form and how they could protest the measure.”
Supervisor Knabe’s motion, the public hearing and protest process would be extended for an additional 60 days and address several key issues in the process including the feasibility of an online protest option and addressing the concern of double taxation for those that are already capturing and treating storm water.
“Many property owners and businesses are already doing the things the parcel fees is meant to achieve; this is a double tax for them,” said Knabe. “Renters should have a voice as an increase in parcel fees would likely be passed on to them. Everyone wants clean water – put this to the voters so they can decide if this fee is how they want to try to achieve that.”
Supervisor Knabe’s motion also instructed the Department of Public Works to provide a process for placing the initiative on a general election ballot, define a specific list of clean water projects, determine a possible sunset date for the measure and develop a potential alternative method of funding storm water quality projects. # # #
agenda item 40 (at issue in the Jan 15, 2013 hearing) below:
40. Hearing on the proposed Clean Water, Clean Beaches Fee; acting as the
Governing Body of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, consider
all protests against the proposed Clean Water, Clean Beaches Fee made
by owners of parcels upon which the fee is proposed for imposition; instruct
the Director of Public Works, in her capacity as the Chief Engineer, of the
County Flood Control District to return to the Board with a final tabulation of
written protests; if there is no majority protest, instruct the Chief Engineer to
return to the Board at a future date with a recommendation as to the type of
election to conduct on the Clean Water Clean Beaches Fee; if there is a
majority protest, refer the matter back to the Department of Public Works.
(Department of Public Works) (12-5638)
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