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Measure R++? Maybe in 2014. Probably in 2016

When Should Metro Push for a Measure R or Measure J Type Ballot Initiative

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In November of 2012, the Measure J ballot initiative went down to a narrow defeat despite garnering over 66% of the vote. Measure J would have extended the 2008 Measure R sales tax so that further bonding would be possible and promised transit projects could be completed sooner. From pretty much the moment the final vote was counted, transit watchers have wondered when Metro would try to pass another funding measure on the ballot.

The 2012 initiative received 66.2% of the vote. It needed 66.67%. The successful Measure R initiative in 2008 funds almost every rail transit expansion project now occurring in L.A. County.

A staff report discussed at yesterday’s Planning and Programming Committee of the Metro Board of Directors examines the major questions surrounding a proposed future sales tax to fund transit expansion. As The Source notes, nobody on the Metro Board of Directors is saying they support such a measure, yet, but pretty much everyone who watches the agency believes that a new transit funding ballot initiative is just around the corner.

A read of the report raises many questions, but two stand out:

1) What makes more sense, a 2014 or 2016 ballot initiative?

2) Should the initiative fund an extension of the existing tax and project acceleration or should their be a new project list? Read more…

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Garcetti to Mobility 21: We’re Planning for the Next Measure R Campaign


Video provided by the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti

This morning, Eric Garcetti delivered a video message to the 1,000 attendees of Mobility 21′s 12 Annual Transportation Conference. The Mayor, in Washington D.C. to try and raise more funds for local and regional transit projects, stressed some familiar themes: America Fast Forward, Great Streets, Measure R…

But what grabbed my attention was about 20 seconds of text that may serve as the unofficial public kickoff for the next transit expansion ballot initiative campaign. Until there’s a more formal name, let’s call it Measure R++

This is why my first action as mayor was to call together a meeting of regional mayors from across the county to discuss the issues of future development. One common theme that emerged from that gathering back in August was that we desperately need more transportation investments. Currently, all the cities across L.A. County are submitting their ideas for investments as part of another transportation investment ballot initiative. These efforts will ultimately expand our transit system while at the same time increasing planning efforts to deliver vibrant neighborhoods across our transit network.

Read more…

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With Blumenfield in the City Council, What Happens to His Infrastructure Legislation in Sacramento

Following the near-miss Measure J, a 2012  ballot proposition that would have extended Los Angeles’ half-cent sales tax for transportation projects, local legislatures began examining a “fix” to state law. Despite Measure J receiving over 66% of the vote, it failed to reach the 2/3 threshold required by law.

Bob Blumenfield

ACA 8, Legislation introduced by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, will give voters a chance to reset that threshold through a constitutional amendment if the tax would go for infrastructure improvements.* If passed by the Senate, it would place a measure on the November 2014 ballot to reduce the threshold for passage of local infrastructure bond measures to 55% from the current two-thirds, the same threshold that currently applies to school bond measures.

It only takes a majority vote to pass an amendment to California’s constitution at the ballot box.

“ACA 8 will free local communities to determine for themselves the level at which they wish to invest in infrastructure projects and enhance their quality of life,” Blumenfield concluded.

But now Blumenfield sits on the Los Angeles City Council. So what does that mean for ACA 8? Apparently very little. The proposed Constitutional  Constitutional Amendment was passed by the Assembly in June, on Blumenfield’s last day in office. It is awaiting a hearing in the Senate’s Governance and Finance Committee before moving on to the full Senate. Blumenfield’s job change has no impact on the legislation’s progress.

For the many groups that fought for the passage of Measure J in 2012, Blumenfield’s Constitutional Amendment is a sort of holy grail. Barring a major shift in public opinion, a 55% yes vote for a transit tax extension such as Measure J would be easier to attain. After all, Measure J just missed receiving a two thirds vote just last year. In Alameda County, a 2012 vote on a transit tax was even closer. Read more…

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Measure J’s “Rejection” Was NOT an Anti-Transit Vote

Measure J Needed 2/3 of the vote to win. It didn't get it. Analysis to come. Photo:County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder

Maybe a two-thirds local threshold is just too high a bar to cross, maybe the No on J Campaign did its job too well, maybe voter turnout for the top of the ticket was too low. Whatever the reason, Measure J received “only” 64.7% of the vote last night, a full 1.95% short of the two-thirds threshold it needed to pass. “Only in California is 65% a defeat instead of a landslide victory,” wrote Denny Zane on his Facebook page. “…and that has to change.”

Measure J was a proposed extension of the 2008 Measure R sales tax that dedicated a half cent of L.A. County sales tax to transportation projects. Measure J would have extended the tax from 2039 t0 2069 allowing Metro to bond against the new revenue and “build 30 years of transit projects in 10 years.” The Measure needed the support of two-third of L.A. County voters in yesterday’s vote to pass.

There are many lessons that can be inferred from last night’s results, none of which point to a lack of support for transit expansion by L.A. County voters. We will conduct a better analysis after the election results are broken down geographically.

First, credit needs to be given to the No on J Campaign. On a shoestring budget, the group pulled together a county-wide campaign of opposition and planted stories and opinion pieces in newspapers and media outlets both large and small. The campaign also ran a grass roots effort of door knocking, phone banking and handing out literature on buses. Compare the No on J Campaign to the Bus Riders Union’s muddled “No on the 6″ campaign in 2008 and their improved organization could be one reason for the small tilt in support.

For anyone who believes the Bus Riders Union is a political relic, yesterday’s win marks the second time in two years the group has expanded their coalition and pulled off a victory. Working with the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the No on 710 Coalition, the BRU is showing it knows how to work with groups outside their traditional allies to pick up headlines grabbing victories. The first time would be the stopping Westside homeowners groups from exempting the entire Westside from the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project. Read more…

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Beyond the Spin, Breaking Down Measure J

On Monday, October 15, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was feeling good. The Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, which includes the Daily News, Daily Breeze, Long Beach Press-Telegram, SGV Tribune and Pasadena Star-News, had endorsed Measure J. In front of the hundreds of transit advocates and professionals at Railvolution, a sales tax extension that would largely accelerate transit projects was a popular topic. Villaraigosa smiled as he characterized the opponents of Measure J.

“The same familiar chorus is sniping and complaining,” he laughed before launching his applause line, “Of course, the same people are the first in line to spend the money.”

Bus Riders Union members and BHUSD President Brian Goldberg surround Damien Goodmon at a "No on J" press conference. Photo: Sahra Sulaiman

One week later, the “familiar chorus” responded with a pair of press conferences slamming Measure J, Villaraigosa and Metro. In the morning, a rally for the “No on J” Coalition gathered to a smattering of press. Attending were a who’s who of Metro’s harshest critics, including the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, the Bus Riders Union, The No on 710 Coalition, Union de Vecinos and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. L.A. Weekly referred to the gathering as a “Rainbow Coalition.” In the afternoon, two L.A. County Supervisors, one of whom is charing the Board of Directors at Metro, held their own event.

A poll taken last month, and published by L.A. Weekly shows that Measure J, which needs the support of two-thirds of L.A. County voters next Tuesday, is in a tight race. But beyond the spin and politics, the questions remains. Should it? Streetsblog attempts to go behind the spin and politics and takes a look at the same issues surrounding Measure J.

Image by Metro via Move L.A.

With all the discussion of the impact of extending a sales tax until 2069 and “corporate welfare,” at its heard Measure J is about expanding transit options. In 2008, Los Angeles County voters passed Measure R, a sales tax extension that goes largely towards transit expansion with some money set aside for highways, “local return,” transit operations and Metrolink “modernization.” Following the bills passage, Villaraigosa went on a crusade to convince the federal government to change its transportation funding formulas to benefit areas willing to tax themselves. This would benefit Los Angeles by allowing projects slated for construction decades from now to come online in the next ten years. Read more…

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No 710 Coalition: No on Measure J

The No on J Coalition at the start of their October press event. Photo: Sahra Sulaiman

(This is the third of four op/eds on Measure J that Streetsblog will publish this week. Monday, Gloria Ohland of Move L.A. made the case for Measure J and Wednesday Streetsblog Board Member Joel Epstein did the same. In between, the BRU made their case for a no vote. – DN)

Only in the car capital of the world could a proposal to build the next generation of mass transit include an enormous payout to the highway lobby. Measure J will provide $18 billion for highways. If “pro-transit” politicians, environmental, and livable communities advocates choose to ignore the fact that highways are not the future of Los Angeles, but rather our past, why should we have to pay for their misapprehension?

Today in Northeast LA and the San Gabriel Valley, $760 million, a quarter of a billion dollars from Measure R, the current 2009 ½ cent sales tax, is being dished up right now to a few contractors and developers merely to study the 4.5-mile 710 extension tunnels. It does not matter to the developers whether or not this disastrous polluting dangerous pair of tunnels is ever actually built, they are getting that money now. Measure J will extend that tax money until 2069.

This pair of 4.5 mile double-deck tunnels is being planed to run from El Sereno through Alhambra, South Pasadena, Pasadena to connect to the 210 freeway a few blocks from Huntington Hospital. Read more…

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Measure J and the future of [transit in] L.A.

(This is the third of four op/eds on Measure J that Streetsblog will publish this week. Monday, Gloria Ohland of Move L.A. made the case for Measure J, yesterday the BRU made their case for a no vote. – DN)

I am writing this quickly as I pack for a return trip to the land of aggressive public transportation planning and construction.  By Sunday I will be back in Shanghai, a public transit mecca, where the sheer number of residents demands a world-class rail and bus network.  You know what?  So does LA.  And in a little more than a week we have the chance to help make that a reality.  Without the centralized planning that is the hallmark of infrastructure construction in China, it is up to the voters to authorize the building of the rail and bus projects LA needs to make life in Los Angeles more livable.

He voted.

This November there are at least 2 softball questions on the ballot.  The first of course is Obama for president.  There are a million reasons to vote for Barack.  But for my purposes I’ll keep the focus narrow.  If you care about life in the city there has never been a clearer choice for the White House.  Obama believes in the vitality of cities. Only Mitt knows what Mitt really believes and even then it’s subject to change.

The other thing you can do for yourself and your neighbors in November is to vote yes on Measure J.

Do you want a mass transit alternative to driving in perpetual gridlock on LA’s freeways and along its main arteries like Wilshire and Crenshaw?  Do you like the idea that our city may one day have a transit system that efficiently and cost-effectively moves the millions of us who commute daily from home to work.  Measure J does that within our lifetime.

When approved, Measure J will extend for 30 years, Measure R, the existing one-half cent sales tax that was approved in 2008 and is currently set to expire in 2039. The added funds will be used to secure bonds, which will allow Metro to accelerate construction of its needed transit projects.

According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the projects accelerated by Measure J will speed the start of construction on seven rail and rapid transit projects.  Measure J also provides an extra thirty years of continued funding for local city transportation improvements, including countywide bus and rail operations, Metrolink, and Metro Rail capital improvements. Read more…

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Bus Riders Union: Transit Justice, Not Corporate Welfare – No on Measure J

(This is the second of four op/eds on Measure J that Streetsblog will publish this week. Yesterday, Gloria Ohland of Move L.A. made the case for Measure J. – DN)

Framing the public debate on Measure J as between a progressive vision for regional mass transit expansion versus parochialism and anti-tax conservatism conveniently obscures several inconvenient truths about Measure J. Measure J is Mayor Villaraigosa’s swan song for LA as he makes a move for higher office, but the panoply of negative human, environmental, and fiscal consequences will be felt long after he is gone.

Given Metro’s torrid civil rights record dating back 20 years, we have real reason to believe LA’s working class Black, Latino, and Asian Pacific Islander majority will be hardest hit. Given Metro’s pattern of mismanagement and crony dealings with powerful corporate interests — the very interests funding the Measure J campaign — the agency cannot be trusted with a blank check from tax-payers. Serious advocates for sustainable transportation and livable cities have an obligation to examine these inconvenient truths and ought to see Measure J as a huge setback, not the leap forward that its promoters promise.

Inconvenient truth #1: Measure J advances a corporate-driven, Disney-fying and gentrifying vision of the city at the expense of low wage workers and communities of color. Why would the Yes on J campaign receive enormous campaign contributions from the likes of multi-billion dollar companies like Westfield Corporation, NBC Universal, and AEG? Precisely because these companies see Measure J as integral to accelerating their vision of Los Angeles, where public transit’s primary role is to bring people to and from their corporate theme parks and malls. Real estate developers and Metro’s own Real Estate Department like Measure J because it “leverages development.”

But that development – packaged as “transit-oriented development”  – has in neighborhoods as diverse as Hollywood, Boyle Heights, and Downtown followed a now-documented pattern of gentrification: working class transit-using residents are displaced and overall transit ridership around rail stations decreases. Metro’s willingness to let developers dictate projects to the complete exclusion of working class community residents gives us no reason to believe this pattern will change. Boyle Heights is one example. Another is the Crenshaw Corridor, where repeated demands from Black community leaders that Metro invest resources to ensure new light rail not endanger the lives of residents and preserve local businesses have fallen on deaf ears.

Moreover, Measure J will likely accelerate the pattern of service cuts and fare increases, imposing real and unnecessary suffering on transit-dependent employed and unemployed low wage workers — janitors, security officers, domestic workers, hotel workers, etc — struggling to survive the Great Recession. At best, Measure J’s rail expansion vision has the effect of substituting one type of transit rider – a choice rider, a tourist, an urban professional – for a transit-dependent person, generally Black or Latino. It will generate short-term construction jobs at the expense of hundreds of thousands of other working class people. At worst, it’s facilitating a whitewashing of the city.

Inconvenient Truth #2: Measure J is a construction bonanza with no operations plan and therefore not a sustainable transit vision.   Read more…

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Move L.A.: Why You Should Vote Yes on Measure J For Jobs

And what the New York Post and LACBC founder Ron Milam have to say about Los Angeles and public transit

Los Angeles County is darn big and densely populated, a complex conglomeration of neighborhoods, multi-centered, and with complicated commute patterns. It’s hard to believe policy and funding still prioritizes cars when it seems so obvious we need to make every other kind of transport easy and safe — whether by foot or bike, scooter, skateboard, bus, shuttle, car and car-sharing, rail, baby strollers, wheelchairs, carpools, neighborhood electrical vehicles.

Rail will be the backbone of that new constellation of transportation choices, providing the clean, quiet alternative to the car that can travel through and connect up all of LA’s soon-to-be-walkable-and-bikeable neighborhoods. Even as we develop more local economies with retail, services and jobs that you can walk and bike to there will be a need to travel farther — to big job centers, the beach, museums, and airports.

Measure J would accelerate construction of this rail backbone, essentially accomplishing LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s much-vaunted 30-10 plan: Seven rail projects would begin within five years and be completed within 13, instead of 27 years as is currently planned. Measure J does this not by raising taxes but by extending the half-cent Measure R sales tax that voters approved in 2008 for another 30 years.

This longer revenue stream allows LA Metro to finance construction now, when the cost of financing and of construction is super low. Speeding up these projects would also accelerate the creation of 250,000 jobs, according to the private nonprofit LA County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) — at a time when unemployment in the county is painfully high (11 percent). Read more…

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Five Things I’m Thinking About Transportation

When I last took a paternity leave, I returned with a brief column on some stories I would never get to flesh out that occured during my time off. Sometime after that, Steve Hymon started running an occasional “5 Things I’m Thinking About Transportation” series. I’ve rarely done it, but if it’s good enough for a Pulitzer Prize Winner…

1) With the election just eight days away, Streetsblog will be focusing on Measure J this week to try and provide as much information and opinion about the proposed sales tax extension. Over the next four days, Streetsblog will publish four op/eds, two in favor and two opposed to the sales tax extension. Today’s op/ed will be by Move L.A. Tomorrow’s by the Bus Riders Union.

Today also sees a major update to the Measure J Page, including many of the major news pieces on the ballot proposition from the last three weeks. Tomorrow, we’ll have a story by myself and Sahra Sulaiman going into greater detail on both the “yes” and “no” campaigns. And on Friday we’ll have the L.A. Streetsblog election ballot including Romney v Obama, Measure J, and Proposition 37.

2) How awesome is it that “getting Jerry Browned,” the year-old term for getting buzzed by a closely passing car, has mainstreamed enough to be featured in a Los Angeles Times cartoon? Click on the image to see the punchlines.

3) The L.A. Streetsblog editorial board took an informal vote not to endorse or oppose Measure J. However, the lack of endorsement should not be construed as opposition as say the Beverly Hills City Council’s lack of endorsement is. It’s been our tradition to not endorse, despite our legal ability to do so and the board decided to maintain that tradition. This got me to wondering…would anyone care if we endorsed or opposed Measure J? I know a lot of you trust as as a news source, and thanks for that, but I also know Streetsblog readers are very informed and very opinionated. Would an official endorsement give anyone pause in their voting decisions?

4) In one of their first editions of the year, the Beverly Hills High School Highlights, the student newspaper, took a stand against the ongoing campaign of the Beverly Hills Unified School District against the Westside Subway (page 4). It concludes, “Pouring money opposing a project that will likely benefit the city is futile, even if the board is correct in our abilities to regain the money after the case is solved.” Read more…