Despite signs that Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell is backing away from his controversial police protection tax on the June 2 ballot, community leaders and politicians at two rallies in South-Central Los Angeles on Saturday vowed to defeat the measure, assailing it as "a desperate plan that segregates the community."
Farrell authored the ballot measure that would tax homeowners in crime-plagued South Los Angeles neighborhoods an average of $148 a year to put 300 additional police officers on the streets over the next three years.
He said, however, that he will push for defeat of his own measure if the City Council approves a proposed budget that would add 250 officers to the police force citywide.
'Goal Is More Cops'
"The goal is not to be successful in a campaign. The goal is to get more cops," Farrell said in an interview Friday. "If the City Council rejects the budget, then we need to have that initiative passed."
Farrell, a member of the council's Revenue and Finance Committee, is a co-sponsor of the budget proposal designed by Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, the committee chairman.
Besides the extra 250 officers, the finance committee's full police package includes more than 200 new replacement patrol cars and new helicopters, plus a large overtime and recruitment budget.
The committee proposal directly challenges Mayor Tom Bradley's budget plan, which seeks no additional police officers, patrol cars or helicopters and a smaller overtime allocation.
Farrell said the finance committee's plan for additional police is preferable to a South-Central tax because it would spread the cost across the city.
The councilman said he pushed the tax measure through City Council only because violent crime, drug dealing and gangs in South-Central have evolved into "an outrage."
The council is expected to finalize the 1987-88 budget within two weeks before the June 2 election.
Yaroslavsky, who attended one of the anti-tax rallies on Saturday, predicted that the council will approve the police portion of the budget plan.
If the budget proposal is defeated, Farrell's political organization has flyers and campaign materials supporting the tax measure ready for distribution. But he said he hopes a "yes" vote on it becomes unnecessary.
Community leaders, however, decried that fact that the police tax measure is even on the ballot.
At two separate anti-tax rallies Saturday, one sponsored by Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and the other by the South-Central Organizing Committee, more than 200 residents organized to mount an opposition campaign.
'Reneging on the Issue'
They circulated petitions and signed up for telephone and shopping center campaigning.
"Now Mr. Farrell is reneging on the issue. Well, why didn't he find another way to get us more police before he put this extra tax on the ballot?" asked Frances James, co-chairwoman of SCOC's anti-police tax committee, as a group of about 70 people cheered.
She told the group gathered at Bethany Community Church on Hoover Street that they "can't relax" simply on the supposition that the proposed finance committee budget will be approved by the City Council, thus diminishing support of the tax measure.
"We have to fight this issue to the end now that it's on the ballot," James said.
One resident attending the meeting said she has volunteered for phone campaigning because "I don't want the poorest people in this city to have to pay the most for police."
Earlier, Waters told about 150 residents gathered at Will Rogers Park in Watts that she is opposed to the plan because it "sets a serious, dangerous precedent" that could lead to higher taxes on other needed city services such as fire protection and trash pick-up.
"It's a desperate plan that segregates the community," she said. "We don't intend to be treated differently. We want to pay our fair share."