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Wed, Jun

Is Another $1.2 Billion Tax Increase Justifiable?

LA WATCHDOG

LA WATCHDOG - The Homeless Industrial Complex has obtained enough signatures to place the Affordable Housing, Homeless Solutions and Prevention Now Transaction and Use Ordinance on the already crowded November ballot.  This 8,600-word initiative, if approved by 50% of the voters, would repeal the Measure M quarter of cent sales tax that expires in 2027 with a countywide, permanent half cent sales tax that would raise $1.25 billion to fund homeless services, housing production, and homeless prevention and renter support. 

This would raise the City’s sales tax to 9¾% and Santa Monica’s to 10½%. 

There are several issues that need to be considered by voters, including whether the City and County deserve our support, the financial impact of this regressive tax on hard working Angelenos, the disproportionate burden placed on Angelenos, and do we trust the City, the County, and the Homeless Industrial Complex. 

While our elected officials have been very supportive of efforts to assist the homeless, there are reasons to question whether these efforts have resulted in the prudent use of our tax dollars.  For example, the February 2022 audit by former Controller Ron Galperin indicated that the average cost of one unit of permanent supportive housing was $600,000, now an understated amount given inflation.   

Furthermore, in connection with a lawsuit file by the LA Alliance, Judge Carter of the Federal District Court ordered the City and County to hire an independent auditor to review the local homeless programs. The results will be telling as our politicians are already in the damage control mode.   

There was a revealing article in the Westside Current, More Than 1,200 City-Owned Homeless housing Units Remain Vacant Two Years after $800 Million Buying Spree, that demonstrates that the City overpaid for many apartment buildings that remained vacant for years. 

[After deadline, the Westside Current published its second installment of its excellent investigative series, In Los Angeles, 1,200 City Owned Homeless Homes Are Empty. The Question is Why? ]

Maybe it would be a good idea for the City and County to clean up their management act before we fork over $1.25 billion a year! This may involve a major restructuring and the appointment of an independent Chief Executive Officer who has the authority to make implement policy and make tough decisions. 

Little consideration has been given to the impact of this regressive tax on Angelenos.  After all, money does not grow on trees, contrary to the belief of many elected officials.  Since January of 2021, inflation has taken its toll as the Consumer Price Index has increased by around 20%.  Insurance rates for our houses and cars are soaring. In the City, we are also going to be hit with a $700 million increase in the Sewer Service Charge and a substantial bump in the Solid Waste Recovery Fee.  And over the next decade, we can expect that our water and power rates will triple to accommodate the City unrealistic environmental goals.  This will increase DWP revenues by $30 billion, or about $30,000 for a family of four.   

How much more can we endure? 

The County and especially the City bear a disproportionate share of supporting the nation’s homeless individuals.  For example, the City’s 46,000 homeless, many of whom are not native Angelenos, represent 7.7% of the nation’s 600,000 homeless, but we only have 1.2% of the nation’s population. 

Why should we have to shoulder this disproportionate obligation? We need assistance from Sacramento and Washington to help with this nationwide crisis.    

The Homeless Industrial Complex has also promised robust transparency, oversight, and accountability.  Of course, we have heard this line before on numerous occasions when the political establishment wants us to approve additional taxes and fees.  

Who will the County Supervisors appoint to oversee these funds and the homeless efforts? Knowledgeable, independent third parties who will review and analyze the operations with a critical eye?  Unlikely.  Rather, the oversight body will consist of politically appointed insiders approved by the Homeless Industrial Complex, like the less than transparent politically appointed boards of Public Works, Metro, DWP, and the Measure HHH Committee.  

There are so many questions that need to be addressed, especially since voters do not have the trust, faith, and confidence in our elected officials, many of whom are viewed as corrupt or in the pocket of special interests such as the developers and union bosses who are integral part of the Homeless Industrial Complex.  We need straight forward answers and information before we vote, not the usual hot air and promises. 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  [email protected].)

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