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Election 2002

'Living Wage' Trails in Early Santa Monica Voting

Widely watched plan would set minimum pay for service workers. Riverside County voters extend a sales tax for road projects.

November 06, 2002|Martha Groves | Times Staff Writer

A proposal in Santa Monica that would require some businesses to pay a "living wage" to hotel maids and other service workers was trailing in early returns Tuesday in a contest that drew the attention of labor and business groups nationwide.

Voters in Riverside County approved a proposal to extend a tax for a massive road-building program.

And in Ventura County, voters in four cities were taking up growth-related measures, two sponsored by landowners and two by anti-sprawl activists.

Santa Monica's Measure JJ, the living wage ordinance, had the backing of religious leaders, many of the state's top Democrats and the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees union. It was opposed by hotels, restaurants and retailers, which contended that the measure would chill the city's business climate and prompt businesses to go elsewhere.

The ordinance would require businesses near the coast that bring in more than $5 million in annual sales to pay their employees $10.50 an hour with health benefits and $12.25 an hour without.

Foes viewed the measure as a thinly veiled attempt to force hotels to unionize. Under the measure, the city's two unionized hotels would be allowed to negotiate an exemption from the minimum wage mandated by the measure.

Advocates said the measure would lift families out of poverty and ease their reliance on food stamps and other programs.

Both sides waged emotional campaigns clouded by charges of dirty tricks. On Monday, residents received a mailer indicating that top Democrats, such as Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), opposed the measure when, in fact, they had endorsed it.

In Santa Monica, early returns were going against a proposal that would dramatically alter the way council members and the mayor are elected.

The Voter Election Reform Initiative for a True Accountability System, or Veritas, would replace the city's seven at-large council members with district representatives, thus reducing the power of slates driven by ideology.

It would also require the direct election of the mayor (now chosen by council members), institute a mayoral veto of council actions and impose term limits on city officials.

In Riverside County, the proposed 30-year, $4.6-billion extension of a half-cent sales tax led from the earliest returns and held that lead throughout the night.

It needed more than two-thirds of the vote to pass.

Supporters said the program, known as Measure A, would ease gridlock in the Inland Empire and boost the economy by funding the repair of roads and highways.

The measure could pay for everything from fixing potholes to expanding California 91, a thoroughfare that links the Inland Empire with the rest of Los Angeles.

In Ventura County, a national pacesetter in ballot-box growth controls, voters were deciding the fate of four separate measures.

Landowner-backed development initiatives in Ventura and Santa Paula were widely expected to fail, but so were anti-sprawl measures sponsored by citizen activists in Simi Valley and Ojai.


Times staff writers Jia-Rui Chong and Kishan Putta contributed to this report.

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