As the November 4th election draws closer, a number of ballot initiatives that have the potential to impact the local area are moving closer to the forefront of the election campaign.

This year, there are a number of ballot measures that will be hotly contested, and some local people have been outspoken about the initiatives since they qualified for the November ballot.

Measure R is a transportation initiative that would fund several current and future light rail projects and additional buses through a countywide half-cent sales tax.

Ken Alpern, a Mar Vista physician who has been involved extensively in advancing the cause of mass transportation for several years, believes that passage of the initiative will depend on how soon voters want to see light rail projects completed in the county and especially on the Westside.

“If we want [light rail projects] to be built within five years, then vote for Proposition R,” advises Alpern, the co-chair of a transportation advocacy group called The Transit Coalition. “If you want them to be built within the next 20 years, then vote against it.”

Supervisor Don Knabe is the lone Westside representative to oppose the sales tax measure. The supervisor has publicly stated that he opposes a tax hike and voted against the measure at a board meeting of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in June.

“Now is not the time to burden the residents of Los Angeles County with yet another tax increase,” Knabe, who represents the Fourth District, told his board colleagues. “Taxpayers in our county already pay the second-highest tax rate in California, behind only Alameda County. “Metro’s proposed increase would unfairly push our local tax rate even higher.”

Aaron Nevarez, deputy press secretary for Knabe, said that the supervisor maintains his opposition to the sales tax initiative.

“He still believes that this is not the right time for a sales tax increase for Los Angeles County residents,” Nevarez told The Argonaut.

Metro authorities estimate that the half-cent proposal would cost taxpayers $25 a year to pay for capital rail projects and new bus lines.

State representatives such as Senator Jenny Oropeza and Assemblyman Ted Lieu, who represent much of the Argonaut coverage area south of Santa Monica, both back the sales tax measure.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl believes that voting for the transportation measure should be a no-brainer.

“Without Measure R, gridlock will only get worse,” Rosendahl asserted. “What we consider a bad dream will become a nightmare if this proposition does not pass.”

If the proposition succeeds, the Mid-Cities Exposition Light Rail, or Expo Line, will be able to continue west to Santa Monica. Currently, it is funded to be built from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City.

In addition, the Green Line extension to Los Angeles International Airport has a very good chance of moving up the ladder of projects that could be funded, according to Metro authorities.

Knabe has supported the extension to the airport, which leaves some mass transportation proponents confused as to why he would not back Measure R.

“Will those politicians have a problem spending the funds for their pet projects if [Measure R] passes?” Alpern asked. “Everyone is going to benefit, so everyone should pay a little.”

Bus rider organizations opposed Measure R. They feel that those who depend on buses for transportation will get shortchanged and light rail passengers will benefit more if the initiative passes.

An infrastructure bond initiative is being touted by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as a necessary action that will enhance the learning and teaching environment for both students and teachers.

Measure Q is a school modernization and construction bond that will cost $7 billion, the largest bond initiative in school history.

Supporters contend that the measure is necessary because many schools in the district are in need of refurbishing, which would include fire and earthquake standards and improve essential services like air conditioning and plumbing.

This will be the fifth bond initiative in 11 years that the district has pursued.

The L.A. Unified Board of Education unanimously backs the infrastructure bond.

So does Florence Bracy, whose son attends Westchester High School.

“I think that it’s a good idea,” said Bracy. “The high school needs to have the plumbing upgraded [and] new water fountains.”

Not everyone is on board with the proposed school bond.

“I would not trust LAUSD with any more public funds,” said Paul Duke, a University High School teacher who resides in Venice. “They have completely mismanaged taxpayer money so many times over the years that they have no credibility.”

Critics say that they take umbrage with $2 billion that is a part of the initiative that is listed for unspecified future expenses.

“Every dollar is distributed,” countered Amanda RÌos, L.A. Unified’s special assistant for facilities services. In addition to repairing aging schools, Proposition Q would provide for improved classroom technology and a healthier environment through green technology, among other things, RÌos added.

United Teachers of Los Angeles president A.J. Duffy said that his union is staying neutral on Measure Q.

“We’re neither supporting it or opposing it,” he said.

Perhaps the ballot measure that has received the most publicity is Proposition 8.

Known as the California Marriage Amendment Act of 2008, the measure would reverse the California Supreme Court’s decision in May that overturned a previous ballot measure that prevented California from recognizing same-sex marriages. The 4-3 ruling opened the door for gays and lesbians to wed, and thousands of couples have taken advantage of the ruling to marry.

A local minister who opposes Proposition 8 has defied her church by performing same-sex weddings. The Rev. Janet Gollery McKeithen, a minister at the Church of Ocean Park in Santa Monica, has gone against the doctrine of her church — United Methodist — by officiating at wedding ceremonies with same-sex partners alongside heterosexual couples.

“I decided that there needs to be a prophetic witness that God loves everyone equally,” McKeithen said during an interview in June.

The United Methodist Church doctrine forbids its ministers to perform gay and lesbian marriages, and does not permit anyone who is openly gay to become a minister.

Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor at Saddleback Church, is one of the proposition’s most high-profile proponents.

“For 5,000 years, every culture and every religion — not just Christianity — has defined marriage as a contract between men and women,” Warren wrote in an e-mail distributed to his church members. “There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease two percent of our population.”

McKeithen feels that the right to marry is essentially a civil rights matter.

“There was a time when interracial couples could not be married,” the minister noted. “That was about civil rights, and same-gender marriage is about civil rights too.

“It all comes down to social justice, and believing that we’re all equal.”

To learn more about all Los Angeles County ballot propositions, go to www.easyvoter.com/.

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