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EDITORIALS : ENDORSEMENTS 2008

Add to a treasure

Measure J benefits us all by helping to upgrade classroom technology at L.A. community colleges.

October 03, 2008

Los Angeles' community colleges are an underappreciated treasure of this region. They are the door through which our immigrant culture enters the American workforce -- the educator of nurses and firefighters, and professionals of all types. What's more, in contrast to L.A.'s public schools, the Los Angeles Community College District is a responsibly run system with a record of fiscal and educational success. It has earned voter support for its latest bond issue, Measure J.

District officials are asking the public to approve $3.5 billion in bonds, and are proposing to spend the money upgrading the technology in classrooms at its nine colleges. If this sounds familiar, it's because the district has come to voters before; two previous issues totaled $2.2 billion, but the projects that money paid for are now largely complete. And unlike those in Measure Q, the new projects in Measure J are detailed and specific.

As it is, property owners in Los Angeles pay $17 for every $100,000 of assessed value to the community colleges. If approved, this measure would not alter that, though it would extend the repayment of the district's debt an additional 10 years, so taxes that would otherwise have expired would remain with us for a decade longer. Fortunately, the district has managed its debt responsibly in recent years, and there is no reason to think that will change.

The debate about this sensible measure has been sidetracked by one of its proposed projects, the construction of classrooms at the Southwest Museum, currently undergoing a much-delayed renovation. Museum partisans, who are fighting to see it reopen, have alleged that supporting Measure J would transform the museum into a campus. That's not true. The district is only setting aside funds should space become available. If that happens, classrooms would supplement the museum, not replace it, and building them would represent an entirely legitimate use of this small portion of the bond proceeds. That neighborhood disagreement should not be an excuse to scuttle a measure so important to the entire Los Angeles area.

For information on all the November ballot races, as well as previous Times endorsements, log on to the Opinion section's Vote-o-rama at latimes.com/news/opinion/elections.

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