Ron Kaye: Unraveling Measure J

November 04, 2012

Even if the outcome of nearly every race in California from president on down is certain, your vote still matters when it comes to ballot measures, most of which can go either way: death penalty, three-strikes law, competing soak-the-rich tax-increase schemes and L.A. County Measure J, which more than any other actually has a direct impact on the quality of all our lives.

My own view is that extending the one-half percent sales tax through 2069 just four years after we agreed to pay the Measure R transit tax for 30 years without knowing they would burn our money in just 10 years by borrowing against future revenue is premature and unnecessary.

Worst of all, it's just lines on a map — not a transit system, which requires high frequency of service and good connectivity to get you from where you are to where you want to go. That isn't happening now with a million hours of bus services being cut and fares rising, making life even harder for the transit-dependent and the working poor.


Yet a lot of people I respect, like Ara Najarian — a Glendale city councilman and member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority — tell me I'm dead wrong.

“I was on the ballot pamphlet as an opponent of Measure R,” Najarian told me last week. “But in the last three years I've seen how that money is being put to good use, scrutinized. There's no graft, no payoffs, no bribery.

“What I've seen at the board level, I've seen a lot of rancor, and a lot of argument and discussion. Everyone is watching their neighbors' projects to make sure that no one takes advantage of the funding they've been allocated. That's what the fights are about.”

Say it ain't so, amigo, I said, putting Najarian on the defensive on his beliefs as a moderate Republican in smaller government and lower taxes.

“I think Measure J does a lot of good things. It does help accelerate some of the expensive transit projects. It does give the cities some local return that we can count on and use for our own transit system. It does give our region, the Arroyo-Verdugo region, some equalization money because we don't have an expensive transit line.

“We can use the money for whatever we want, for sound walls, for roads, for transit, for some crossing-safety issues and some freeway-improvement issues.

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