A Look at the BRU’s “No on the Six” Ballot Campaign

So far we’ve mostly looked at the "Yes" campaigns for Measure R and Proposition 1A, but there are strong "No" campaigns for each of them also.  While most of the "No" arguments are based on the details of the proposal and have caveats such as "I like the idea of more transit" this campaign doesn’t give any ground.

The Bus Rider’s Union is leading a "No on the 6 Ballot Props" against Ballot Propositions 1a, 4, 6, 8, 9 and Measure R.  Putting aside the propositions that don’t have to do with transportation, let’s look at their arguments against Measure R and then against Proposition A.

In their view, Measure R is about building highways and subways for rich people and about tearing apart the bus system.  Pointing at the regressive nature of sales taxes in general and at the billions of dollars being spent on highway projects and rail projects versus the smaller amount reserved for buses and the BRU argues that the Measure R plan is actually a form of "reverse Robin Hood" where the well of have their transportation needs paid for by those less well off.

One of the BRU’s more creative arguments is to look at the total cost of all rail projects proposed in Measure R and noting that the total cost is $80 billion, a much larger number than the total funds that would be generted by the half cent sales tax.  They argue that the MTA will be faced with a choice to cut bus service to pay for the rest of these projects ignoring that there are plenty of funding sources at the federal and state levels that would help pay for new rail projects and that the firewall that has prevented the MTA from using operating funds to pay for capital construction has held better than in other parts of the country.

The BRU also discounts Metro’s claim that future planned fare hikes will be put off as a result of the funds generated by the sales tax.

And while MTA officials, rail boosters and corporate developers will
highlight the additional “funding” for buses and the “whopping”
one-year fare freeze guaranteed under this sales tax as they attempt to
win over bus riders; the reality is that MTA officials and State
Legislatures have created a flimsy, vague and ultimately raid-able
funding category with no real detail and no real language to expand the
bus system or to reverse MTA’s plan to increase fares every two years
over the next 30 years.

Their arguments against Proposition 1a, the bonding for high speed rail, again note the high cost to taxpayers of the project and the perceived negative impact it would have on those of lesser means.

We know that going from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two hours might
sound cool but it really isn’t when you do a true cost accounting of
the social consequences it has on our communities.  At the end of the
day, the winners will be the state-wide rail lobby, who will fatten
their pockets, getting mostly upwardly-mobile and often white train
riders from LA to San Francisco, while most inner city and rural family
are worried if they can travel cross town as fares go up and bus
services are slashed statewide.

As we near the end of the campaign, after all a week from today is election day, we’ll see if the BRU’s campaign gains any traction outside of South LA.  Metro is counting on an overwhelming vote from the City of Los Angeles to pass their sales proposal.  By crying racism, the BRU is limiting the appeal of their message, but if they can convince enough voters in South LA to vote against the tax, it could be enough of a push to keep Measure R from reaching its two-thirds vote threshold.

2 thoughts on A Look at the BRU’s “No on the Six” Ballot Campaign

  1. Love how you call the BRU’s arguments “creative”. It is the same creative rhetoric, in fact, that we’ve all grown accustomed to hearing from them over the past decade.

    I especially shake my head in amazement in their declaration that “the total cost of all rail projects proposed in Measure R and noting that the total cost is $80 billion, a much larger number than the total funds that would be generted by the half cent sales tax.”

    Of course it is. You would think that the BRU would have learned by now — via osmosis from being at all those Metro Board meetings, if by no other means — that local funds are nearly always used to leverage state and federal funds. That’s how the Red Line got built in the first place; a small portion of the cost was covered by local sales taxes and the Feds put up the rest.

    Even more amazing is that they trot out the usual “MTA will be faced with a choice to cut bus service to pay for the rest of these projects ignoring that there are plenty of funding sources at the federal and state levels that would help pay for new rail projects” which means they know the non-local funding exists but don’t understand (or conveniently deny, take your pick) that the local match formula exists.

    Finally, they claim (apparently to prove they are accomplishing something) that “the firewall that has prevented the MTA from using operating funds to pay for capital construction has held better than in other parts of the country.”

    Total b*llsh*t. Their mantra during the awful years of the consent decree was “if Metro would stop building things, all that money could be used to operate bus service.” As I said at last week’s Metro Board meeting when Manuel Criollo offered a version of that during public comment, the halting of a construction project does not magically make the funds used for them operations-eligible. Indeed, under the aforementioned local/federal matching system, if you halt a project you either have to give the Feds their money back or get them to approve the funds being used for another construction project.

    One of their statements is somewhat true, though, if applied to a different context. 20% of Measure R funds are specifically allocated to bus operations, and if that measure fails next week, the sheer weight of the operating deficit (which wouldn’t be as large as it is if the BRU hadn’t spent ten years getting a federal court to force Metro to add tons of service it couldn’t afford to operate), plus the AIG debacle, will likely force every one of the 25 lowest performing lines to be eliminated … and their howls of protest won’t be able to stop it.

    By the way, that silly “No on the 6” logo is so difficult to read unless you are right on top of it that it looks more like a poster for Proposition 6. Which pretty much lowers the effectiveness of their (illegal) campaign of plastering them on the side of traffic signal control boxes. Maybe someone at the City will read this and charge them the appropriate fines for defacing those boxes. It would be the first positive use of all that grant money they keep accumulating!

  2. I have to question just how much of a campaign this really is. They have plastered a smattering of posters on traffic signal control boxes, as Kymberleigh mentions. Plus they did a small folded sheet outlining their stances–but it isn’t clear that they have been distributed all that widely. And they did the You Tube video posted above. But I see no signs of any real outreach, such as sending masses of organizers aboard buses or holding a press conference/another of their standard issue protests. And I am puzzled at the reference to South L.A. as if they are some sort of political power south of the 10 freeway. AFAIK their alliances are very few, mostly on the far left, and by no means do they carry that much political weight despite their posturing.

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