Los Angeles ended 2006 with the high-profile killings of two children. After those tragedies, says the Los Angeles Times, officials began work on a tax measure that would raise $30 million for anti-gang initiatives, including after-school programs and city-run recreation activities. With crime rates steadily falling and the economic picture growing dire, backers of Proposition A are finding it difficult to remind voters of those tragedies and of the need to avoid future ones. They argue that the tax hike on tomorrow’s ballot comes at a perfect time, just as the city’s anti-gang programs have been revamped and moved into the office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The debate over anti-gang programs also comes as the Los Angeles Police Department is seeing notable successes. Since the hiring of Police Chief William Bratton, the number of killings citywide has decreased 38 percent, from 641 in 2002 to 394 in 2007. If this year’s trends hold, that number could fall as low as 350. Some neighborhood leaders say they are tired of being hit up for more money to fund the city’s public safety initiatives. In just two years, Villaraigosa and the City Council have more than tripled the trash fee for homeowners, raising it from $132 per year to $436 per year to pay for police pay raises, new equipment, and the hiring of 1,000 officers. Proposition A would add $36 to annual property tax bills, regardless of a parcel’s size. Opponents of Proposition A deride say homeowners shouldn’t have to pay the same sum as a large corporation.