[guest post by JVW]
I’ve been yammering on about Measure EE, a parcel tax measure that the Los Angeles Unified School District foisted upon district residents in order to pay off the lavish and irresponsible promises they made to the teachers’ union in settling last winter’s strike. It went down to ignoble defeat last night, failing not only to achieve the necessary two-thirds margin for passing, but embarrassingly failing to muster so much as a majority. The final totals won’t be official for a few days, but right now it looks like a full 54.6% of voters rejected the tax. Slightly over 300,000 voters cast ballots, a low number to be sure, but not that much lower than the number who came out to reelect Mayor Eric Garcetti two years ago.
Naturally, the education establishment in the city is pointing the blame at others, instead of acknowledging their dishonesty and duplicity in trying to rush this tax past the voters. Mayor Garcetti, who received a great deal of credit for brokering the strike settlement and thus played a significant role in promoting a “yes” vote on the measure, lazily blamed some guy in Washington, DC for the failure:
In response to early returns, Mayor Eric Garcetti said it’s often “rare” for any school district facing opposition on a parcel tax effort to achieve a two-thirds vote.
“The campaign against got two million bucks from Trump’s biggest supporter in the state,” he said at a Measure EE returns party in reference to a donation to an opposition campaign by Geoffrey Palmer, a LA-based real estate developer.
The mayor might want to ruminate for a moment on the fact, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, that unions and other supporters of Measure EE actually outspent their opponents, so this loss can’t be sloughed off as having been purchased by the other side. What’s more, because this was a special election and because this measure was in many parts of the city the only item on the ballot, LAUSD is on the hook for paying for a portion of the $12.5 million it cost to run this election (that’s $40 per vote cast, according to my abacus) along with the $1 million they spent in sending out “informational” mailings that were thinly disguised advocacy pieces. This is a colossal loss for the district, the union, and for a mayor who has higher ambitions.
So where does the district go now? Theoretically they can still fulfill their promises in the strike settlement, but that entails drawing down the district’s reserves which are supposed to be used in emergencies, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education has already threatened a takeover of the district if they can’t get their financial house in order. The district will come back with another parcel tax measure when they feel the turnout among progressives will be more robust, at the November 2020 election for certain if not at the March 2020 primary election. There is a scheduled municipal election in Los Angeles this coming November, but given yesterday’s margin of defeat the district might not be willing to chance another attempt just five months from now. You can expect the LAUSD to go hat in hand to the state for more funding, and you can also expect that the left will re-double its efforts to lower the threshold for approving parcel taxes from two-thirds down to a simple majority. Come the November 2020 election, Californians will also be asked to undo Proposition 13 by changing the way in which commercial buildings are taxed, while naturally vowing to protect residential property taxes. This ain’t over by a longshot, but last night was a good night for the principle that you can’t just demand more taxpayer money to bail yourself out of irresponsible commitments.