Will Measure R+ Reach the Fall Ballot? At Least Two County Supervisors Need a Change of Heart

(Update: An earlier version of this post identified Don Knabe as voting against Measure R at the Metro Board and again at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors last year.  In fact, Knabe voted for Measure R with the Supervisors but against with the Metro Board of Directors.)

With yesterday’s election in the books, it’s no longer too early to look ahead to the November 6th election day and the very real possibility that a ballot proposition to extend the Measure R transit sales tax will be on the ballot.

This team of politicians from the San Gabriel Valley fought Measure R in 2008. Will construction of their favored Gold Line Extension translate to support for extending the sales tax in 2012?

Battle lines are already being drawn as A.B. 1446, legislation allowing Metro to vote on placing the initiative on the ballot, has already cleared the Assembly.  In the coming weeks, Metro will announce a proposed project list and timeline, information on what projects would be funded by the sales tax and a list of when the current and future projects could be completed.  To nobody’s surprise, Denny Zane and Move L.A. are “bringing the band back together” that pushed Measure R in 2008.  It was Zane who coined the term “Measure R+” to describe the proposed extension.

Mesure R passed with nearly 69% of the vote in 2008.  The sales tax is currently scheduled to expire in 2039.   Passing an extension would allow for more bonding to create those projects faster and increase the number of new construction projects.  The extension would need two-thirds of the vote to pass.

But first it needs to get to the ballot.  To do that A.B. 1446 still needs to pass the State Senate and get signed by Governor Jerry Brown.  Next, the ballot initiative itself needs to be approved by the Metro Board of Directors and L.A. County Board of Supervisors before the end of the summer.

Passing the Board of Directors is probably not a big problem.  In 2008 only three members of the Metro Board of Directors opposed the sales tax, Supervisor Gloria Molina, Supervisor Don Knabe and Long Beach City Council Woman Bonnie Lowenthal.  Lowenthal has moved on to state office and was replaced by Lakewood Mayor Diane Dubois.

Two other Supervisors have signaled opposition to extending the sales tax indefinitely.  Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas sent out a press release outlining his concerns with an open-ended sales tax.  Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who will be the Chair of the Board of Directors beginning in July,compared passage of an open-ended sales tax as “gang rape.

It’s unlikely Mayor Villaraigosa, who is a big supporter of the extension, would struggle to get the seven votes still needed to pass the Metro Board of Directors.  The Mayor’s office controls four positions, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has already signaled his support.  Pam O’Conner sits on the Santa Monica City Council, which recently passed a resolution in support of the sales tax extension.  Transit supporters would need to convince only one more Board Member to clear the Metro Board.

The more difficult vote will be whether the initiative can pass the the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.  Thus far, Yaroslavsky is the sole member of the Board in favor of the proposed ballot initiative with Molina and Knabe having led the battle opposing the sales tax in 2008 and Antonovich and Ridley-Thomas voicing opposition today.

For the initiative to make the ballot, it needs two Supervisors currently opposed to the initiative to change their positions.  This puts tremendous pressure on Metro staff to create a project list for the project that excites two Supervisors.  We already know what would excite Ridley-Thomas, a grade-separated Crenshaw light rail with a station at Leimert Park.  Ridley-Thomas’ predecessor voted for Measure R at the Metro Board, Board of Supervisors and the ballot box.

But that would still have the measure failing 2-3 at the Supervisor level.  Of the three remaining, only Antonovich voted for allowing Measure R on the ballot, and he is the least likely of the three to join a potential Ridley-Thomas and Yaroslavsky alliance.

While Knabe fought the Measure in 2008, and vote against it at the Board of Directors, he did vote for putting the Measure on the ballot at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.  Knabe’s justification for the split votes was that he thought the sales tax was a bad idea (so he voted against it at Metro) but that voters should have the chance to vote on it themselves (so he voted for it at the Board of Supervisors).  In addition, he did Chair the Metro Board of Directors from July 2010 to June 2011 and may have had a change in heart in the meantime.  He has not made a public statement on the extension.

Molina is also unlikely to change positions, although a recent meeting of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments seemed open to pushing the extension despite its opposition to Measure R in 2008.  The San Gabriel Valley is a big part of Molina’s district, so she might also be persuaded with a project list that delivers for her district.

  • Davistrain

    I remember what a “nail-biter” the passage of Measure R was.  I’m reasonably sure it would have gone down in flames if there hadn’t been provision for extending the Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley.  As it was, “R” was a hard sell to many of us SGV residents who saw it as an attempt to pick our pockets for money to build rail lines in the City of Los
    Angeles that would only be of marginal use to us.

  • Juan Matute

    great analysis.  Looks like we’ll be seeing either an underground Leimert Park station or some sort of acceleration for Gold Line foothill 2B & Eastside extensions in the package.

  • Maybe Antonovich would be more likely to support it if there were something for us in the Antelope Valley in it?

  • calwatch

    The analysis fails to consider the statewide issues at play, though. With Los Angeles County 30% of the statewide electorate and the Jerry Brown tax on the ballot there will be a lot of internal polling to see how another tax on the ballot would affect the Jerry Brown tax. Even though this is only an indefinite extension, not a new tax, voters will basically be asked to give the MTA a blank check for projects in the future. 

    Remember, some voters still recall the disaster of the 90’s era long range plan when, due to cost overruns for the Hollywood subway, many rail projects were shelved. The fact that Expo was delayed for over two years, and still has several issues that need fixing, doesn’t help either.

  • Anonymous

     Because SGV residents all work where again?

  • Anonymous

    Most of Gold Line 2A and 2B are in Antonovich’s district: 


    At least the part that’ll get built.

  • Anonymous


    Molina’s District only includes Asuza&Irwindale (2A) and Claremont (2B)(Her district does not, AFAIK, cover the part of Pomona where the line will stop):


    Since the 2A line is a sure thing, and since Claremont isn’t “Latino” enough for Molina to care about:


     it is unlikely she will fight for Measure R+

    (2B only goes through Claremont to get to Montclair TransCenter, which itself will take an act of the State government, and requires SanBag to have the money, so 2B is on shakey ground as it is)

  • calwatch

    Actually, the majority of SGV residents do not commute to the City of Los Angeles. Look at the Trip Distribution Percentages in the most recent Congestion Management Plan for RSAs 25. 26, and 27. Most people in the San Gabriel Valley commute within the San Gabriel Valley, although in RSA 27 (the Pomona Valley) a significant number of people go to San Bernardino County. Even in RSA 25 (west SGV), only 12% COMBINED work trips have destinations of the westside or Downtown LA. 

  • calwatch

    Molina’s district has always included Pomona, as the only city broken apart by supervisorial districts is the City of LA. Molina will not care for Measure R+, but that is because the eastside got a second class light rail line (in her opinion) instead of the subway down Whittier Boulevard.

  • Anonymous

    Calwatch you are quick with the figures.  Thank you.  Still, there is a jobs/housing imbalance that can be helped by connecting Union Station (Metrolink) to West L.A.(Purple Line) and offering an alternative to I-210 (Gold Line).

  • Anonymous

    Plus, the racists at Metro stopped printing Ed Roybol’s name on the Gold Line Schedule folders!

  • I want to drive

    Since 1992, I had voted yes on tax increase on public transportation related tax hiked. I even pushed my dad to vote. He drives cars. I remember he was sick. I had to push him to vote yes in 1992. According to the ad, it would help people like us who don’t driv. Get disappointed over the years. I start to read the content, building more freeway, and railroad. I don’t see any improvement on the buses. It takes forever to get to rail stations. it takes me forever to get to destinations from rail stations. Sometimes, taking the long bus rider is faster than taking long bus riders and rail. I realized nothing changes. Bus service gets worst. It is the people who get to drive benefit rail improvement. Not really, if the rail stations are not near the destination, people drive. You rail proponent can say anything, but we fail to see the improvement. We see lot bus reduction. No they are not duplicate. How do we get around in Pasadena, two legs are faster than taking buses. The rails don’t stop everywhere. LA becomes so obsess with rail. So long rails are built who care how people get to rail stations.. Some people argue people take rail to DTLA or Old down town Pasadena. Remember, life don’t end at rail stations.
    I remember one guy was telling how wonder blue line is. He  and his colleagues could drive to Norwalk stations and take trains to El Seugdon. Then, they take company shuttle. I was going to say something. Then he said again, it is easy for drivers.
    Villaraigosa and his cronies don’t really care. hey they got limo.
    His buddy, Yaroslavsky, knows nothing about public transportation. His famous quote was “WLA is the only place in LA county that does not have mass transit”. he should have driver license revoke and live in other mass transit area in LA. You have bunch brainless zombies in charge of LA public transportation. That is the reason LA public transportation is never going to change despite billion dollar of investment.
    Coming from a guy who never drives

  • Ethan Elkind

    Supervisor Knabe initially voted against Measure R on the Board of Supervisors, in addition to voting against it on the Metro board.  Measure R was therefore defeated by the supervisors for the county ballot in 2008.  However, the MTA board could place the measure on the ballot anyway, but separate
    from other county initiatives at a cost of $2 to $4 million dollars.  After learning this information, Knabe switched his vote a day or two later on a re-vote.  Overall, it was an embarrassing moment for him and for the Supervisors more generally, and it showed the willingness of these leaders to try to hold a popular initiative hostage in order to have their district’s projects prioritized.


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