Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich

Daily News: Measure J fails by 16,000 votes

Daily News: Measure J fails by 16,000 votes

By Lauren Gold, SGVN

December 4, 2012

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s half-cent sales tax extension, Measure J, failed to pass by less than one percentage point, according to final election results released Monday.

The measure received 66.11 percent of the vote, but needed 67 percent to pass. The difference boiled down to about 14,000 votes, officials said.

The Bus Riders’ Union and members of the “No 710″ group were among the measure’s major opponents, protesting Metro’s reduction in bus services and the plan to extend the Long Beach 710 Freeway through South Pasadena.

“At the end of the day, we opposed Measure J not out of opposing transit projects, but more to get (Metro) to be much more accountable to the people,” Bus Riders Union spokeswoman Sunyoung Yang said. “This is a good lesson for (Metro) to stop their punitive practices on communities and really side with community concerns.”

If it had received the necessary two-thirds vote, Measure J would have extended Measure R’s half-cent sales tax for another 30 years, through 2069, and accelerated some transportation projects.

Despite the loss, Metro officials said they are taking the nearly two million votes the measure did receive as a “vote of confidence.”

“Nearly 2 million Los Angeles County residents expressed confidence in Metro and the Measure R program,” the agency said in a statement Monday. “Progress will continue as Metro remains focused on delivering a dozen new transit projects and 15 highway improvement projects that voters approved four years ago in passing Measure R.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said the approach failed because it wasn’t inclusive.

“Our county’s 88 cities and 134 unincorporated communities voters spoke – Measure J was not the answer to developing a cost-effective regional transit system that meets our entire county’s current and future needs,” Antonovich said in a statement issued Monday. “Unlike Measure J, a new plan will not lock funding to communities at their 2004 population percentages, paralyzing the Santa Clarita, San Gabriel, Antelope Valleys and the South Bay’s ability to meet their transit needs.”

Others who opposed the measure argued that its defeat was a result of grassroots efforts among citizens who were skeptical of what they called a “blank check” for an agency they felt wasn’t listening to the community.

No 710 activist and Highland Park resident Charles Miller said many local activists didn’t trust Metro after the 710 EIR process, which some have criticized for lack of adequate public outreach. Though Metro claimed Measure J would not affect the 710 either way, many were still skeptical.

“I think (Measure J’s defeat) is tied to 710, because we had a built-in group that was already activated and talking to one another, and really when we realized a great deal of money could be siphoned off to fund the project … we didn’t trust the fact that they wouldn’t do that,” Miller said. “I think they misjudged how the public could organize.”

Metro spokeswoman Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap said the agency is in the midst of a “post-election analysis” to determine why the measure failed to pass, but that she did not think the Long Beach Freeway project played a role.

Cities such as Los Angeles and South Pasadena opposed the 710 but endorsed Measure J, and the measure had more yes votes than no votes in nearly all of the cities along the proposed freeway route, according to the Los Angeles Count Registrar-Recorder.

Measure J supporter Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA, said Metro should not be discouraged by the results, blaming the measure’s failure on the requirement for a two-thirds vote.

“I think (the results) encourage the belief that the voters really want to do this and there will be the right moment in a slightly different environment with slightly different partners, maybe a little bit different program and you’ll have a winner,” Zane said. “Meanwhile I think we all have to start thinking about how to amend the California constitution to lower the voter threshold to something reasonable.”

Ortiz-Gilstrap said Metro has not yet decided whether it will place another measure on the ballot. For now, the agency said it is focusing on the projects already funded under Measure R.

“The Measure R transit sales tax for transit – approved in 2008 – continues until 2039,” Metro said in a statement, “so Metro directors have the option of asking voters in the future if they wish to extend the program.”