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Taxes, Beach Initiative Top Ballot Issues

Also, Measure M in El Monte asks whether to get rid of the office of elected mayor and rotate its duties among the five City Council members.

October 30, 2005|Eric Malnic | Times Staff Writer

Voters in several Los Angeles County cities will cast ballots Nov. 8 on a variety of local issues, including a beach-protection initiative in Hermosa Beach, whether the elective office of mayor should be eliminated in El Monte and tax measures in Sierra Madre, Signal Hill and the City of Commerce.

Sierra Madre

Measure F would levy a public-safety tax to help pay for paramedic services, new fire equipment and increased salaries for police officers. A two-thirds vote is required for approval.

An impartial analysis by the city attorney's office says the state has reduced the property taxes paid to cities, causing municipal budget problems.

The city's volunteer Fire Department does not have money for scheduled replacement of major equipment and police are paid at least 15% less than their counterparts in other San Gabriel Valley cities, City Atty. Michael G. Colantuono wrote in his analysis.

"Sierra Madre is the only area in Los Angeles County which does not receive advanced life-support emergency medical services by paramedics authorized to administer drugs and insert breathing tubes when needed," the city attorney said.

Colantuono said the measure would allow the City Council to charge up to $140 plus 6 cents per square foot of buildings annually per parcel.

"This is the way for Sierra Madre to remain self-reliant and provide vital emergency services," Mayor George Maurer wrote in support of the measure.

An opponent, Salvatore F. Tesoro III, said the proposed tax "is nothing more than an attempt to conceal financial malfeasance and incompetent leadership in Sierra Madre."

Tesoro said the City Council has refused to consider any alternative means of balancing the budget.

Signal Hill

Measure H would impose a 3% tax on electrical, gas, water and other utility services to finance the construction of a new police station and to pay for new police equipment. A two-thirds vote is required for approval.

In its impartial analysis, the city attorney's office said the new tax would be expected to add about $12.60 per month to a typical utility bill.

The City Council would determine exemptions for senior citizens and low-income households.

"We need a new, modernized police station to bring us into the 21st century," Mayor Edward H.J. Wilson and four council members wrote in a ballot argument supporting the tax. They said the utility tax would be the lowest in the area.

Opponents, including former Mayor Carol A. Churchill and three former council members, said the proposed tax would be unfair, hitting residents and small-business owners hard while giving a break to big businesses like Home Depot.

City of Commerce

Measure A would impose a 12% tax on hotel guests. City Atty. Eduardo Olivo said the revenue would be used for general municipal services.

Unlike the proposed taxes in Sierra Madre and Signal Hill, only a majority is required for approval.

Residents supporting the tax said it would add needed revenue without hurting the hotel business.

They said neighboring cities, including Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera and South Gate, have such a tax.

No argument was submitted opposing the measure.

Hermosa Beach

Measure E would add the city's beach to the restricted open space now encompassing the city's greenbelt. The measure would prohibit "new improvements" on the beach.

An impartial analysis by the city attorney's office says that because the word "improvements" is nowhere defined, "the prohibition could encompass a broad range of structures and facilities, both permanent and temporary."

In their argument favoring Measure E, former Mayor Gary Brutsch and other supporters say it will protect the beach while allowing construction of temporary facilities for activities permitted by the city.

Opponents, including Olympic volleyball gold medalist Eric Fonoimoana, disagree, saying Measure E is poorly written and would ban more than intended, including seating for summer concerts and volleyball tournaments.

El Monte

Measure M would get rid of the office of elected mayor. Instead, beginning in 2007, each of the five members of the City Council would serve as mayor on a rotating basis.

Supporters, including council members Art Barrios and Emily Ishigaki, say the measure is needed to "take the politics out of the mayor's office.

"With the cost of running for mayor approaching $30,000 and the need to raise those funds every two years, the opportunities, pressures and possibilities for influence-peddling are obvious," the supporters wrote in their ballot arguments.

Mayor Ernest Gutierrez and other opponents say the choice of mayor should remain in the hands of the public, rather than City Hall. "I believe that the voters of our city know best about who should be our mayor," Gutierrez wrote.

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