At a public hearing of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, county residents offered strong words of protest against the proposed Los Angeles Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure.
The ordinance, designed to improve water quality and reduce trash build-up in local waterways, would establish an annual parcel fee to be paid by property owners located within the Los Angeles County Flood Control District. If the measure is put on the ballot and approved by voters, it would raise $275 million a year for storm water clean up. The typical fee for a single family home would be about $54, according to County officials.
At the public meeting, dozens of local officials, business owners and residents spoke out against the measure and urged the Board not to put it on the ballot. Many objected to the fact that the measure has no sunset clause and would tax county residents indefinitely.
Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar spoke in protest to the storm water fee, saying it “represents millions of dollars out of the pockets of Santa Clarita residents.”
Mayor Bob Kellar
Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Marsha McLean also spoke against the measure, claiming she was “speaking for senior citizens, property owners, and small businesses who will have the cost (of the fee) passed on to them.”
Marc Winger, Superintendent of the Newhall School District, who was at the meeting representing the five school districts of the Santa Clarita Valley, took issue with the timing of the proposed measure. “This fee would take operational dollars (from our schools) when we just stabilized our revenue for the first time in six years,” said Winger.
Santa Clarita Councilmember TimBen Boydston momentarily broke the tension in the room by sarcastically congratulating the Board on the controversial measure. “God sends us rain, and you’ve figured out how to tax it,” quipped Boydston to big laughter and applause from the audience. Following the extended laugh break, Chairman Mark Ridley Thomas joked back, “You are absolutely out of order, because you are not allowed to have better lines than the Board.”
Officials, residents and professional educators from Acton, Alhambra, Bell, Boyle Heights, Burbank, Long Beach, Rosemead, and other Los Angeles cities rose to speak out against the proposed tax.
Rosemead City Councilwoman Margaret Clark spoke against the measure and the way the Board of Supervisors have managed the matter. “This is an unfunded mandate,” said Clark. “I also have a real problem with the deceptive way (that property owners were notified).”
However, not everyone who spoke at the meeting opposed the ordinance. Malibu Mayor Lou La Monte spoke in favor of the measure and urged the board to vote to move this process further and put a ballot measure before voters. Malibu City Councilmember Skylar Peak also spoke in favor of the environmental act.
City of Bell resident Donna Gannon voiced her outrage against the measure. “To put another tax burden on our city is way over the top. It’s a financial difficulty for a lot of people in our area who aren’t working,” said Gannon.
Supervisor Gloria Molina said she believes there is too much confusion about the measure and how the penalties would be collected and used. “I don’t think it’s clear (to the public) what is going on,” said Molina, adding, “I’m not so sure that this is the solution, either. But I don’t think (those protesting the measure) fully understand it.”
But Ronald Esquivel, board member of the Rosemead School District, took issue with Molina, saying, “The cities DO understand what’s going on. They understand they’re going to be taxed. How much more (tax burdens) can we put on the children of our state?”
Supervisor Mike Antonovich has previously come out against the clean water measure. “This ill-conceived tax will have a devastating impact on businesses, schools, houses of worship and non-profits,” said Antonovich.
Dr. Mark Gold, Executive Director of Heal the Bay, a non-profit environmental group working to improve the water quality in Santa Monica Bay and other southern California coastal waters, supported moving forward with the measure.
“It is an equitable county-wide way to protect health and the environment,” Gold said. “We need to invest in green infrastructure now instead of when the costs go up in the future.
But most speakers took issue with the tax and its effect on their local economies. Quipped one speaker, “I’m drowning in fees, not storm water.”