LONG BEACH — A proposal to increase local property taxes to pay for expanded recreational programs in this city's parks was sent to committee for long-term storage after it became obvious that supporters lacked the City Council votes to put it on the ballot for a citywide vote.
While the council endorsed the idea of more recreational programs for youths and the elderly, even some of the proposal's proponents conceded the timing was wrong to ask city voters to approve a special levy.
Back in committee, Councilman Clarence Smith said the measure could be "massaged" into something more acceptable, while advocates attempt to orchestrate support for it.
The product of more than a year's work by the city Recreation Commission and the council's Quality of Life Committee, the proposal would have raised $8.2 million a year in additional property taxes. Most of the money would have come from residential levies ranging from an extra $38 to $71 a year.
The extra money was to pay for more free recreational programs at more than 80 school and park sites citywide, more maintenance and more park security.
During several hours of discussion, councilmen railed against higher property taxes, crime and one another.
Vice Mayor Wallace Edgerton, saying he was wholly opposed to the measure, insisted that it was an end run around the state's tax-limiting Proposition 13. "This is not an issue of who's going to support the children. The issue is the property tax. It's the easiest thing for local politicians to go to. Increase the property tax, increase the property tax," he mimicked.
Indeed, Councilman Ray Grabinski retorted, Edgerton advocates increasing the property tax to expand the police force.
Talking at length about society's neglect of children, Grabinski argued that residents should be willing to pay for programs to help youngsters avoid drugs and crime. In years past, he said, "the city was fat, dumb and happy with oil money. That's all gone."
"I think everybody ought to take out their wallet and put it in front of them and determine if it's better to have their money in a house that's not safe," Grabinski said.
After listening to opponents, Smith declared: "I'm tired of that 'but' stuff. 'We love our children, but' . . . I wish someone who opposes this issue would come up with an alternative plan."
One of the proposal's obstacles is potential competition from a possible ballot measure that would increase property taxes to hire additional police officers. Councilman Jeffrey A. Kellogg, for instance, said he would not support the recreation tax until money is found for more policemen.