Our Measure J Op-ed in This Week’s Our Weekly

Next Tuesday, the ballots of Los Angeles County voters will feature Measure J, a 30- year sales tax increase that is projected to generate an additional $90 billion in revenue for the MTA. Measure J is the brainchild of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who sits on the MTA board and directly controls 4 out of its 13 votes. Villaraigosa’s proposed tax hike seeks to extend the half-cent sales tax for transportation passed in 2008, known as Measure R, to 2069. It is currently scheduled to end in 2039.

Every South L.A. voter must ask, how much of the $90 billion will come back to the South L.A. community?

Nearly 1 million of L.A. County’s 10 million residents live in South L.A. and adjacent unincorporated areas. That’s ten percent. 10% of $90 billion is $9 billion. Thus, a fair return to South L.A. of Measure J equates to about $9 billion.

Measure J doesn’t return anything close to $9 billion. In fact, of the $90 billion not one penny is proposed for South L.A. projects. $90 billion and not a single penny.

Call it what it is: taxation without representation. Reverse Robin Hood.

To be clear, the decision to “JACK South L.A. with Measure J” is not a product of Mayor Villaraigosa and the MTA not knowing the transportation needs of South Los Angeles. To review:

1) Just since Measure R was passed over one million hours of bus service has been cut.

2) The Blue Line is America’s deadliest light rail line at over 105 deaths and 1,000 accidents, mostly in the communities of South Central L.A., Watts, Willowbrook and Compton.

3) The Expo Line continues to lack basic safety features requested by internationally-renowned safety experts, and sound mitigation to allow residents to sleep at night.

4) Building the Crenshaw Line at street-level on Crenshaw Blvd will kill the last African-American business corridor in the region through the elimination of over half the parking spaces, chopping down all of the mature median trees, ruining traffic, and putting the lives of pedestrians, many of them school children, in danger.

South L.A. leaders have stormed the MTA board on multiple occasions over the past 3 years to: a) protest cuts in bus service; b) appeal for safety upgrades on MTA’s Blue Line; c) demand legally mandated mitigation on the Expo Line; and d) request additional funding on the Crenshaw Line to add a station at Leimert Park Village and to put the rail underground on Crenshaw Blvd.

Each time the MTA board voted to ignore the calls of the South L.A. community they claimed their decision was done in the name of financial limitations. “We don’t have the money,” was their patronizing excuse.

And now with Measure J, the MTA expects South Los Angeles voters to believe that even with an additional $90 billion – more than four times the annual budget of NASA – they still don’t have the money to address the transportation requests of the South L.A. community.

Folks are smarter than that. This is not about lack of resources. This is about the perception of power.

By voting No on Measure J, South L.A. citizens can personally protect their economic interests, and collectively send a message to MTA, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the many who are watching that the requests of South L.A. must be respected. On November 6th voters can officially say: the days of South L.A. being cut out or settling for crumbs at the table are over.

Vote No on Measure J.

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