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Safest Cities Asking Voters to OK Tax to Keep Them Secure


Two of the San Gabriel Valley's safest cities are asking voters for money to maintain that distinction.

In San Marino, it's called Proposition P, and in La Verne it's known as Proposition H. The bottom line is to raise tax dollars for police, fire and paramedic services.

The stakes are the highest in San Marino, where such a measure has been on the books since 1982. If the public safety tax is not renewed for another four years, the city will lose about 33% of its police budget, 44% of its Fire Department budget and 75% of its paramedic service budget.

"We're very optimistic and hopeful that the residents will back it again," said Lee Marangi, a member of the Citizens for Public Safety Committee, which supports Proposition P. "I think the community in general feels that protective services are very important."

The city, although traditionally ranked among the most crime-free in Los Angeles County, recorded its first murder in more than 10 years when a Taiwanese businessman was shot to death in his driveway June 11. No arrests have been reported.

But anti-tax crusader Ben Austin, who contends the measure only pays for bureaucratic waste, compared the tax to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's aggression in the Persian Gulf.

"There is not much we ordinary citizens can do to curb the insatiable appetite of a bloody dictator in the Middle East, but we sure to God know how to deal with the terrorist tactics of our local small-time politicians," he charged in a newsletter mailed last month to every residence in town. "We can simply vote, 'NO' "

Austin is founder of the San Marino Fiscally Conservative Assn., a 10-year-old group with more than 300 supporters.

If passed by the required two-thirds margin, the measure would raise up to $1.5 million a year in fees added to property tax bills. Payments would range from $266 to $722, depending on the size and location of the lot and home, city officials said.

In La Verne--which last year had one murder, six rapes, 33 robberies and 62 assaults--Proposition H seeks voter approval to raise up to $1.2 million a year through fees of $96 per home.

Although the measure is only advisory, the City Council has vowed not to enact the tax should a majority of voters oppose it. Officials are hopeful, however, that recent events, such as last month's hostage drama at the McDonald's on Foothill Boulevard, have made residents aware of the need for a high level of emergency services.

"The whole thing is geared to trying to preserve La Verne's quality of life," Assistant City Manager Jeff Allred said.

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