The March 7 primary will test whether Los Angeles voters are still committed to fixing some of the city’s most difficult problems.
In November, city voters overwhelmingly backed Measure HHH, a $1.2-billion bond measure to build housing for the homeless. Now, county voters have the opportunity to finish the job by supporting Measure H, a countywide quarter-cent sales tax to fund the supportive services — mental health counseling and drug rehabilitation, for example — that are essential to keeping people off the streets.
But homelessness is a symptom of a larger problem — Los Angeles’ housing crisis. The city has consistently built less housing than needed, creating a shortage that has driven up prices. Now, 1 in 3 renters spends more than half his or her income on rent, leaving little money for food, healthcare, education or savings. Will voters worsen the crisis by supporting Measure S, which would block new development? Or will they reject the false narrative of the measure and leave city officials the flexibility to approve much-needed housing projects on parking lots, vacant public buildings and obsolete strip malls?
Over the last few weeks, the Times ran its arguments for and against candidates and measures on the March ballot. Here is a summary; the full endorsements are available at www.latimes.com/endorsements/.
Measure H (L.A. County sales tax for homeless services): Yes. This quarter-cent sales tax will raise $355 million annually for 10 years for mental health, drug counseling and other services to help homeless people get off and stay off the streets.
Mayor: Eric Garcetti. Garcetti has a smart vision for a more livable, affordable, transit-oriented city, and he could make great progress if he sticks around and uses his political capital to make change happen.
City Attorney: Mike Feuer. Feuer is a good lawyer and a good politician who is helping fix the city’s problems with vigor and creativity. He is unopposed.
City Controller: Ron Galperin. Galperin has had some small victories, but he needs to think bigger and use the bully pulpit more to push for reform. He is unopposed.
Council District 1: Joe Bray-Ali. Newcomer Bray-Ali, a small businessman and bicycle advocate, is more attuned to community needs and concerns with growth and development than incumbent Gil Cedillo.
Council District 3: Bob Blumenfield. Low-profile Blumenfield is unopposed. He’s a capable councilman who ought to take on a more prominent role in water management, technology and other difficult issues.
Council District 5: Paul Koretz. Although he hasn’t been enough of a leader on key issues, Koretz cares deeply for his constituents. His opponents, meanwhile, aren’t up to the job.
Council District 7: Monica Ratliff. Among the 20 candidates for this open seat, Ratliff stands out as an independent problem solver committed to transparency and accountability.
Council District 9: Jorge Nuño. Nuño lacks the experience of incumbent Curren Price, but his entrepreneurship and connections to grass-roots groups make him a strong community-oriented voice.
Council District 11: Mike Bonin. A leader on transportation and housing, Bonin has shown real political courage by advocating for the homeless in his district and citywide.
Council District 13: Mitch O’Farrell. O’Farrell has been a thoughtful, committed representative who has his eyes on the long-term housing needs of the city.
Council District 15: Joe Buscaino. Buscaino’s performance has been adequate. He has pushed for redevelopment in his district and for better street and sidewalk maintenance citywide.
Measure M (city-sponsored marijuana taxes and regulation): Yes. This measure would direct the city to develop much-needed rules covering all aspects of the emerging medical and recreational marijuana industry.
Measure N (industry-sponsored marijuana taxes and regulation): No. This measure was the marijuana industry’s bid to write its own rules. The proponents now support Measure M.
Measure P (longer port leases): Yes. This would allow the Port of Los Angeles to lease property for 66 years instead of 50, making it easier to attract investors to redevelop the waterfront.
Measure S (two-year moratorium on certain developments): No. This is a slow-growth, anti-development measure that will hurt Los Angeles in the long run by worsening the city’s housing crisis and stifling economic development.
Los Angeles Unified Board of Education:
District 2: Lisa Alva. A teacher at a magnet school, Alva would be a refreshing new and independent voice on the board in place of incumbent Monica Garcia, who lacks a record of accomplishment.
District 4: Nick Melvoin. A former teacher and reform advocate, Melvoin is more willing to confront the district’s serious financial problems and bring new ideas to the board than incumbent Steve Zimmer.
District 6: Kelly Gonez. Charter school teacher Gonez is well-versed in both classroom realities and big-picture policies and would bring a collaborative presence to the board.
Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees:
Seat 2: Steven Veres. A former trustee seeking to return to the board, Veres understands both the college system and the dynamics of Sacramento, which funds the system.
Seat 4: Ernest H. Moreno. Incumbent Moreno is a retired district administrator and possesses an impressive level of institutional knowledge.
Seat 6: Gabriel Buelna. Buelna, who heads a community services organization and teaches at Cal State Northridge, understands students’ challenges and needs, while incumbent Nancy Pearlman has few significant policies to show for her time on the board.