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Voters to Rule on Bond for Colleges

May 18, 2003|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Community College District officials say they need a $980-million bond issue on Tuesday's ballot to deal with rising enrollments and outdated facilities, but critics wonder if the request is for too much too soon.

Voters will decide on Proposition AA, a bond measure intended to repair and upgrade buildings and grounds at the district's nine two-year colleges.

The proposed bond would pay for safety, security and environmental improvements at the campuses and for construction of new computer technology centers and classrooms.

Warren Furutani, president of the district's board of trustees, said the measure would be an investment in a system that, because of its relatively low per-student cost, is "the best bang for the buck in higher education." But opponents said it comes too soon after the 2001 passage of a $1.2-billion bond for community college facilities.

Opponents want to make sure the district spends the previous bond effectively "before we give them another billion," said Robert Lamishaw, president of the Valley Group, an advocacy group focusing on San Fernando Valley issues.

Lamishaw's group wanted to file an opposing statement to appear on the ballot, but was unable to because the bond vote was not authorized until March 4, more than a week after the deadline for submissions.

Proposition AA would add an estimated $11.45 per $100,000 of assessed valuation to a homeowner's property taxes.

Supporters hope that the broad public support for community colleges, shown in the last bond measure, remains. Proposition A was approved by 67% of voters in April 2001. The district's polling found that 13% of Los Angeles County voters did not remember that measure.

Furutani said the earlier measure had been needed to make up for "35 years of neglect" at the campuses. The current bond, he said, would build a foundation for coming years of growing enrollments. Two projects he cited were new satellite centers in the former Van de Kamp's bakery building in Glassell Park and expansion of a center in South Gate that would grow to nearly a full-size campus.

Asked about the challenge of seeking a bond issue in the midst of the state's fiscal crisis, Furutani said, "I don't know when there will be a good time in the next 10 years for the state of California."

In addition to the bond measure, voters will elect a representative to the district's board of trustees. Incumbent Mona Field, a Glendale Community College political science professor, received 47% of votes in the March primary. She is challenged by businesswoman Joyce Burrell Garcia, who finished second in the primary, with 24% of the vote.

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