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Voters Asked to Decide Phone Tax, Other Issues

November 06, 1988|LEE HARRIS and JAMES M. GOMEZ | Times Staff Writers

Voters in Long Beach and four other Southeast cities are being asked to decide Tuesday on issues ranging from a monthly telephone tax for more police services to a simpler competitive bidding system for some city purchases.

Long Beach voters will be asked to decide two propositions that would speed up the bidding process for purchases of computers, telephone equipment and natural gas.

Proposition CC would allow the City Council, Harbor Commission and Water Commission to switch to a simpler bidding process rather than using formal sealed bids and voluminous technical specifications to purchase high-technology equipment. City Auditor Bob Fronke, who favors the measure, said a simpler bidding process would allow the city to buy the most up-to-date equipment.

Proposition DD would allow the city's Gas Department to eliminate sealed bids for natural-gas purchases. Fronke said that purchases could be made by telephone, resulting in lower gas bills for consumers.

In Lynwood and South Gate, voters will be asked to decide a tax on their monthly telephone bills to pay for more police protection. Bellflower voters, who at one time opposed redevelopment, will decide for the second time in five years if the city should be allowed form a redevelopment agency without voter approval. Voters in Paramount are being asked to decide a measure that would limit residential development.

South Gate's ballot Proposition NN would place a tax of up to $7 a month on residential telephone bills, $14 for business accounts and $2 for low-income elderly or handicapped customers. The telephone companies would collect the tax and send the revenues to the cities.

South Gate could raise an estimated $1.4 million the first year to hire 10 new police officers and five civilian workers, and to buy two squad cars and other equipment. Police Chief Ronald George and other police officers are campaigning for the proposal.

Lynwood officials have taken a low-key approach to their ballot measure, saying they will leave it up to the voters.

Public Safety Funds

Lynwood's Proposition EE would impose a 10%-a-month tax on phone bills. It would raise an estimated $1.2 million a year, mostly for public safety. Low-income elderly or handicapped customers would pay $2 a month.

Pacific Bell, the primary local telephone company in both cities, has become the most vocal opponent of the proposed taxes. The company has spent $24,400 for mailers, brochures and newspaper advertising. Pacific Bell officials said the tax unfairly singles out telephone users.

In Paramount, voters will decide on Proposition FF, which would limit multiple-family housing construction to 22 units per acre.

After public outcry against a building boom of apartments and condominiums, the City Council in May imposed a temporary limit of 22 units. The previous limit had been 70 units per acre.

A petition by Concerned Citizens for Controlled Growth drew enough signatures to qualify the proposition for Tuesday's ballot. The group has raised more than $15,000 and spent $13,000 to get its message out to the city's 12,000 registered voters. The group's chairman, George E. Tanner, listed small fund-raisers as the main source of the money.

On the other hand, Paramount Committee for Progress, which is opposing Proposition FF, has raised $12,000 and spent $9,600. The money has come from a handful of developers and businessmen. The Bental Development Co. of Orange, which plans to build a 304-unit apartment complex in the community, made the single largest contribution of $5,000.

3 Propositions

In Bellflower, voters will decide on Propositions Q, R and S, initiatives that would pave the way for a redevelopment agency.

After a bitter campaign in 1983, voters overwhelmingly approved an ordinance that prohibits the City Council from forming an agency without voter approval. Proposition Q would lift the 5-year-old ban.

Proposition R asks voters to prohibit an agency from exercising its eminent domain power on residential property. The measure was drafted in response to longstanding fears that an agency would have the power to force residents to sell their homes to the city.

The third measure, Proposition S, asks voters to decide a redevelopment corridor that includes commercial and industrial property along much of Artesia, Bellflower and Lakewood Boulevards. The corridor was drafted to exclude the city's mobile home parks and residential sites that lie along those major thoroughfares.

Redevelopment supporters claim that Bellflower has been suffering financially because no redevelopment agency exists in the city. A large percentage of the city's revenue is derived from part of a sales tax on local business. A redevelopment agency's duties include drawing retail development to the city.

Opponents, however, say that redevelopment would mostly benefit wealthy developers. They also challenge the claim that the city is suffering financially, and cite State Board of Equalization figures that indicate Bellflower collects as much sales tax as other cities.

Times staff writer Chris Woodyard contributed to this article.

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