The anti-subway measure on Tuesday's ballot won overwhelming approval in every council district in the city of Los Angeles, including the heavily Latino Eastside, where voters joined in opposing the use of transit sales tax for subway construction by huge margins.
Proposition A, which prevents the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from using proceeds from the sales tax to plan, design, build or operate any new subway lines once Metro Rail reaches the San Fernando Valley, was approved with 68.1% of the vote countywide.
The verdict was virtually identical in the city of Los Angeles, where it passed with 66.4% of the vote, and across the city's 15 council districts from the Eastside to the Westside, South-Central to San Pedro, and across the San Fernando Valley.
Eastside voters, the majority of whom are Latino, rejected the recommendation of most of their elected political leaders and voted for the measure by substantial margins, even though the area was next in line for a subway line.
A Times analysis of election returns shows that in Councilman Richard Alatorre's district, for instance, the anti-subway measure passed with 64.8% of the vote. And in Councilman Mike Hernandez's district, the outcome was identical.
Fernando Guerra, professor of political science and Chicano studies at Loyola Marymount University, said he was not surprised that Latino voters joined in backing the anti-subway measure despite their elected leadership's nearly unanimous objections. "There is no doubt in my mind that the Eastside and Latino community wanted to punish the MTA for a variety of reasons." He said transit-dependent Latinos on the Eastside want "light rail and buses, now, right now."
Guerra said the strong anti-subway vote was "an emotional response" to the MTA's problems on the $5-billion subway project, including the delays, the cost overruns, and the negative media coverage. And the outcome was to be expected because there was no real election campaign against the measure.
"We're not surprised at all," said Miguel Santana, a spokesman for Supervisor Gloria Molina, who opposed the measure. "This initiative was really a referendum on the MTA. In our district, which is transit-dependent, if you asked for a vote thumbs up or thumbs down, our community would give a resounding thumbs down on the MTA."
But the measure's author, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, said the voters were ahead of their elected leadership on this transportation issue. "What the voters did was vote their transit interests," he said. "They are paying one cent on a dollar in sales tax toward the MTA. They want a return on that investment."
Yaroslavsky, a member of the MTA board, said the overwhelming support for his initiative crossed socioeconomic, ethnic and geographic boundaries. "It didn't matter," he said. "The depth of feeling about this agency is so great that it produced this kind of one-sided result."
The supervisor said the results can only be read as a vote against future subway lines. "The people want a mass rapid transit system. They don't want to wait five generations for it."
Yaroslavsky's own analysis of the results shows that his initiative passed in every Assembly district in the county, including all of those represented by Latino and African American members in Sacramento.
But Dan Farkas, a spokesman for Alatorre, said the measure passed because there was no organized campaign against it. "Anybody can organize a negative campaign based on alleged waste," he said. "There is much more to the issue than that."
Farkas said that Alatorre, a member of the MTA board and longtime subway promoter, believes that voters were not educated about the issue.
Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, vice chairwoman of the MTA board, noted that there were no television or radio ads against Proposition A. She expressed the hope that public sentiment will change once the Red Line to Hollywood opens next year and the line to North Hollywood opens in 2000.
Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden, who has long pushed for a subway into his Mid-City district and opposed Proposition A, also blamed the absence of organized opposition for the measure's passage. The initiative received 62.7% of the vote in Holden's district.
"Had people been made aware of the fact that they've been paying taxes for subways to be built in other communities, and now it's time to have theirs built, like they've been promised, they would have been irate and voted no," he said.
The subway measure passed in Councilman Joel Wachs' district by 69.5%, Councilwoman Laura Chick's by 70.4%, Council President John Ferraro's district by 66.7%, Councilman Michael Feuer's district by 68.7%, Councilwoman Ruth Galanter's district with 64%, Councilman Richard Alarcon's district by 69.3%, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas' by 59.9%, Councilwoman Rita Walters' district by 60.5%, Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski by 67.6%, Councilman Hal Bernson by 69.9%, Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg's district by 66%, and Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr.'s district by 63.5%.