Los Angeles city voters made books and animals the winners in Tuesday's elections, overwhelmingly approving improvement bonds for libraries and the zoo, but left sidewalks to crumble.
Of the city's eight ballot measures, five were approved. Three were mostly administrative changes, including changes to the fire and police department pension system.
Among the defeated measures were the whopping $770-million sidewalk tax and an Exposition Park bond, intended to spruce up the rose garden and the Olympic Swim Stadium and to pay for new exhibits at the Environmental Science Learning Center. Both of those required a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority.
And, in a victory for an unusual coalition of top elected city officials, union leaders and bureaucrats, a controversial charter amendment was rejected. Charter Amendment HH would have granted broad authority to the City Council and the mayor over the city's semiautonomous agencies, such as the Department of Water and Power and the airports and harbor departments.
Just over a week ago, an opposition campaign was mounted to inform voters about the little-noticed proposition. It was approved by the council without debate and only recently came to light as what critics said could be a power grab on money-making departments.
Mayor Richard Riordan, who took a stand against the charter change but supported the library and zoo bonds, was pleased with the election results. "I think the voters were very intelligent and thoughtful," he said. "They were very discriminating."
Council President John Ferraro, whose district includes the Los Angeles Zoo, issued a statement thanking voters for supporting the zoo bond; it passed with a 79.1% majority and will cost average homeowners $1.89 a year.
"It will make it possible for us to continue to improve the quality of life for the zoo's remarkable animal collection and to expand the fine education programs the zoo provides to our young people," Ferraro said.
The library bond, which was approved with a 71.8% majority and will cost the average property owner $7.06 a year, received wide support throughout the city. Riordan campaigned for it as well as Councilwoman Laura Chick, who created a fund-raising committee to support the measure.
"I don't know if you can hear it, but I'm grinning," she said in a telephone interview. "I think the message back from the public is that they understand what it takes to create healthy communities: libraries."
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pushed for the Exposition Park bonds, said he is weighing the option of placing a similar proposal on the ballot next spring.
"Sixty percent of the voting public said yes, which is a pretty substantial majority but not sufficient to pass," Ridley-Thomas said. "The museums president and directors were quite encouraged by our showing."
The sidewalk tax, which also needed a two-thirds majority, was defeated, with only 43% of voters supporting it. Riordan opposed the sidewalk tax, saying that in the car capital of the world, streets should be a higher priority for city funds.