Los Angeles mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa launched a $490,000 advertising campaign Tuesday featuring a personal appeal for passage of a ballot measure that would boost the sales tax in Los Angeles County to pay for more police officers.
The Eastside councilman appears in the 30-second commercials that will run on English- and Spanish-language television stations and cable systems.
In the ad, Villaraigosa stands in front of a police car and says: "Metropolitan areas like Chicago and New York have about twice as many police officers per person as we do. If we want to get serious about stopping crime, we need more police."
Echoing arguments from leaders of the Measure A campaign, Villaraigosa says that raising the sales tax from 8.25% to 8.75% would put 5,000 new police officers and sheriff's deputies on the street, strengthen the 911 emergency communications system and fund crime-prevention programs to keep kids out of gangs.
Money to pay for the ads comes from a Villaraigosa campaign fund leftover from his tenure as speaker of the state Assembly.
Cal State Fullerton political science professor Raphael Sonenshein, an expert on Los Angeles politics, said Villaraigosa's ad is "a clever expenditure of money" that the councilman otherwise could not use in the mayor's race.
The city of Los Angeles restricts the amount of campaign contributions that can be raised from a single individual or business, but the state did not impose such limits at the time Villaraigosa was speaker.
The commercials being broadcast this week by Villaraigosa fill a gap created by the decision of the main Measure A committee to stay off the air this week and conserve their resources for a $1.5-million television advertising blitz in the final week before the Nov. 2 election. At a news conference Tuesday in the jewelry district of downtown Los Angeles, Sheriff Lee Baca apologized for the use of fake headlines on the opening page of the campaign's website. The phony headlines placed on top of an article from an Arkansas newspaper claimed that the crime rate is at an all-time high, which is not true.
Appearing with Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, Mayor James K. Hahn and others, Baca acknowledged the material posted on the website was wrong. It was removed Monday.
"The campaign consultant has apologized and accepted full responsibility for the error," the sheriff said. "Had I checked that website myself, I would have caught that and we wouldn't have had the embarrassment."