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Measure R

Pasadena Star News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune: Wrong on Measure R in 2008, Wrong on Extending It Today

9:34 AM PDT on April 24, 2012

Four Years ago, a pair of newspapers in the San Gabriel Valley opposed the passage of Measure R, a county wide transportation sales tax initiative that ultimately earned nearly 70% of the vote county-wide.  The Pasadena Star-News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune, both owned by the same company, followed the lead of their local elected officials and loudly urged voters to reject the sales tax increase citing that there would be no benefit to the San Gabriel Valley despite the money promised for a Gold Line Extension, 710 Big Dig studies, local return dollars, and other projects.

The pols and papers may have led, but few people followed.  The San Gabriel Valley vote count was similar to the rest of the county with nearly two out of every three voters supporting the sales tax increase.

Now the papers are bringing the band back together.  Following Mayor Villaraigosa's announcement that he would be pushing an indefinite increase to the length of the thirty year sales tax on this fall's ballot, both papers printed identical editorials slamming the plan as unnecessarily tying the hands of future generations.

Over half of the editorial is a recap of the battle over Measure R and an update on Metro, on Villaraigosa's urging, beginning a push to get the extension on the fall ballot.  After the jump, we'll look at the second part of the editorial, laying out their reasons for opposing the increase.  Read the Pasadena Star News editorial here and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune version here.

But the voters' approval of the measure has mostly paid off. The long-term commitment to sales tax through Measure R jump-started a host of transportation projects that will have a profound impact on the region's traffic, from the Subway to the Sea to the extension of the Orange Line busway. But no one should rush to judgement about what the Angelenos of the future will need or want to fund.

Translation: we were wrong about the need for a sales tax funding transit projects four years ago, but we're right that we shouldn't extend the same tax to bring more of the same sorts of projects to construction.

Villaraigosa well may be right about the future that metropolitan Los Angeles chooses for itself in the decades to come - but he is also presuming a lot to take the power out of the elected officials of 2039.

The last sentence of the previous paragraph and this paragraph are a terrific indictment of the entire tax system.  Villaraigosa is proposing to increase the transit tax length so that the county can build more transit projects at a faster pace.  Building any transportation project takes power out of future political leaders and generations hands.  Building the Big Dig 71 project will doom future generations to a never ending tide of truck traffic.  Building the High Desert Corridor will open the flood gates for sprawl development, hampering future generations' ability to a quiet, rural lifestyle.  Pretty much the only project that won't have a lasting impact is the widening of the I-405 through the Sepulveda Pass.  The largest impact on congestion from that project will likely be the day construction stops and the construction-related delays go away.

Who knows if we'll even need transportation plans then? We may already be colonizing the moon, or teleporting from place to place, or too busy dealing with the zombie apocalypse to think about more roads and trains.

I do.  We will need transportation plans in 2039.  We won't have colonized the moon.  We won't have teleports.  There won't be a zombie apocalypse.  Good news, if any of these scenarios are true, there either won't be anyone to care about the sales tax increase or our cost of living will be so low due to the elimination of transportation costs that a half cent-sale tax will seem inconsequential.

It's wise for leaders to consider the long term in their policies, but this smacks more of legacy building than wise stewardship. If he wants to lay the groundwork for future L.A. sustainability, Villaraigosa ought to be thinking more about the long-term future of his own city. That's something that very well might expire before 2039.

There is little doubt that Villaraigosa's legacy as Mayor is tied to this sales tax plan in many ways, but that doesn't necessarily mean the plan is bad.  The good news is the wisdom of Gloria Molina, John Fasana and soon-to-be Metro Chair Mike Antonovich won't have final say on this proposal, the voters will.  Those three Board Members joined the papers in a losing quest to beat Measure R four years ago.  History could repeat itself this time around.

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