Last year, the most divisive policy debate at Los Angeles City Hall centered on cops: how to get more of them, and whether to send voters a controversial half-cent sales tax increase to pay for more than 1,000 new officers, says the Copley News Service. Two election cycles and a new mayor later, the city’s elected leaders have turned their attention away from the volatile tax and safety issue, all but abandoning plans for the June ballot. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who appeared a year ago on television commercials for a public safety tax increase, has largely used his bully pulpit to rally the city behind a takeover of the school district and a massive expansion of the region’s rail system. Councilman Eric Garcetti, who co-chaired the unsuccessful public safety tax campaign, has turned his sights to a $1 billion housing bond measure.
Police Chief William Bratton, who gave an impassioned speech to the City Council last February pleading for a tax to fund more officers, said a sales tax increase is no longer on his radar. The change in political climate comes as homicides citywide continue to decline, falling by 5.2 percent through mid-November — to 419 from 442 — compared with 2004. Even with the decrease, South Los Angeles has had 210 murders so far, or half of all the killings citywide. Villaraigosa and aides to County Sheriff Lee Baca acknowledge that there is probably not enough time to send voters such a measure until November 2006 at the earliest.