Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

TIMES ENDORSEMENT

A chorus of no's

October 28, 2005

ORANGE COUNTY VOTERS will be plenty confused by, and many will probably ignore, the four competing measures on the ballot Nov. 8. They needn't be. All they have to know is this: No, no, no and no.

This election is largely the result of a move by firefighters to win a share of sales tax money devoted to public safety for the Orange County Fire Authority. California voters passed a half-cent sales tax increase, Proposition 172, in 1993; part of the money goes to counties and part to cities. Even so, most California counties give nothing to their fire departments, and Orange County supervisors split the funds between the sheriff and district attorney. They note that the Orange County Fire Authority doesn't cover the entire county.

After unsuccessfully lobbying supervisors for a small portion of the Proposition 172 money, the firefighters union gathered signatures to place Measure D on the ballot to force payments to the Fire Authority under a complicated formula. The supervisors responded by putting not one but three competing proposals on the ballot -- Measures B, C and E.

Measure B would limit recipients to the sheriff, district attorney, probation department and lifeguards, and ban the supervisors from giving money to fire services. Measure C would give a set amount annually for capital expenditures for domestic security, and it also would eliminate the possibility of firefighters getting any money. Measure E would give 5% of the county's money to the probation department, and it would allow, but not require, the supervisors to allocate money to fire protection.

Only one measure can win, but they are all losers. The Fire Authority deserves some Proposition 172 money -- it protects huge expanses of brush-laden unincorporated land -- but this is a straightforward case of ballot-box budgeting. The best system is the current one, in which supervisors can decide to distribute money as they see fit, even if that isn't always wisely. Firefighters can continue to lobby within this system for money and public support. The measures put on the ballot in response to Measure D also tie the supervisors' hands, albeit in ways that the board may not mind. B and C are worse because they cut off any possibility of future assistance for fire services.

Of course, none of the measures will take effect without attracting more than 50% of the vote. This scenario was made more likely when the Board of Supervisors placed its three competing measures on the ballot -- and it is also the best possible outcome. Confused people are more likely to vote no on all four measures. Savvy voters should do the same.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|