Santa Monica Airport Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

Santa Monica Airport
Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

Santa Monica Airport Measures

We aren’t convinced that closing the Santa Monica Airport is a good idea. Whether to give up such a significant piece of transportation infrastructure is not the kind of decision to make lightly or based on political expediency. That is, however, why we oppose a city ballot measure intended to protect it.

Santa Monica City Council members are seeking to wrest control of the airport away from the federal government by as early as next year, presumably to limit or shutter operations. The feds and every court that’s heard the issue have ruled that city officials won’t have such power until at least 2023.

But this hasn’t stopped Santa Monica voters from getting hit with two reactionary ballot measures about the airport’s future.

First came the aviation industry’s self-serving Measure D, which would require Santa Monica to keep its airport open unless and until voters approve some future initiative to shut it down.

The committee backing Measure D has spent more than $500,000 trying to jam it through at the polls — about half that money coming from the Washington DC-based Airport Owners and Pilots Association and some of the rest from private plane owners, including $25,000 from actor Harrison Ford.

Shortly after Measure D qualified for the ballot, city council members put forward the opposing Measure LC. LC would allow the council to decide whether to close the airport (if they ever really get the chance) but require voter approval before converting the land into anything but park space. The committee backing LC has raised about $100,000 from mostly local contributors.

“It’s the money vs. the many,” said Yes on LC, No on D Committee chair John Fairweather. “This debate is no longer about the Santa Monica Airport. This debate is about whether an outside organization will be able to subvert representative government as long as you have enough money.”

We agree. Using the ballot box to prevent elected officials from doing their jobs is bad public policy.

Vote No on D, Yes on LC.

L.A. County Measure P

Public parks, open space, senior centers, youth programs — we support all of these things, so it is with great disappointment that we must oppose Measure P.

Measure P would levy a 30-year countywide tax of $23 per parcel, regardless of a property’s value, that would generate some $50 million annually. The money is intended to replace income from two existing parcel taxes, one ending next year and the other in 2019.

The text of the measure divvies up proceeds among local jurisdictions and apportions them along categorical lines such as upgrades to parks and preserving open space, but it fails to outline specific spending priorities.

This leaves us doubtful that Measure P will make much of a difference when it comes to addressing pollution of beaches and wetlands by trash- and bacteria-laden urban storm water runoff, especially considering that beach and clean water initiatives would share a measly 15% of the measure’s proceeds with county-run parks.

Several local environmental leaders told The Argonaut early this year that infrastructure improvements to control urban runoff would make the biggest difference in improving water quality along our coast.

But county officials backed out of putting a storm water parcel tax on the ballot last year, and it’s difficult to believe voters would support one down the road if they’re already paying for Measure P.

The county should be clearer about its priorities before asking us for money. Let’s hold out for a better deal.

Vote No on P.

State Proposition 1

Three years of drought have taken a toll on California’s water supply, and no matter how much we conserve this is a big and thirsty state.

Proposition 1 would allow the state to borrow $7.2 billion by issuing general obligation bonds that would fund state water supply infrastructure projects including groundwater storage, water recycling, emergency water supplies and watershed protection efforts.

“It’s a lot of money, but it’s a drop in the bucket for what we need,” said Steven Fleischli, water program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Santa Monica office.

“I think the public recognizes the importance of the drought,” Fleischli said, “and understands that we have to take action.”

We hope his prediction is right, or we may soon find ourselves high and dry.

Vote Yes on Proposition 1.

State Proposition 2

Putting 1.5% of the annual state budget into a rainy day account (until total savings equal 10% of spending) makes good fiscal sense and will protect against the kind of devastating cuts that hit public education so hard during the recession.

A provision to cap the amount that individual school districts could hold in their own reserves if and when the state puts money into a supplemental statewide education reserve is an unfortunate byproduct, but one that can be repealed by the Legislature. Stabilizing the overwhelming majority of annual school funding is the more pressing need.

Vote Yes on Proposition 2.

State Proposition 45

Written by the Santa Monica-based nonprofit advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, Proposition 45 would give the state’s insurance commissioner veto power over health insurance company rate hikes.

Opponents argue this is too much power in the hands of one elected official and does not address the costs of delivering medical care, but currently no state authority has the power to stop health insurance price gouging.

While the state health insurance exchange can negotiate deals on federal Affordable Care Act plans, those who purchase insurance outside that system are left dangling.

The auto insurance pricing protections that came with 1988’s Proposition 103, authored by Consumer Watchdog founder Harvey Rosenfeld, have served Californians well. Proposition 45 would enact similar reforms.

Vote Yes on 45.

State Proposition 47

California is sending people to state prison for minor drug offenses or nonviolent property crimes at the same time that its overcrowded prisons are moving more serious offenders into county jails. But because these jails are often also beyond capacity, domestic abusers and other violent offenders sometimes wind up serving only a fraction of their sentences. The whole thing is illogical, unfair and infuriating.

Proposition 47 reduces sentences for the least dangerous criminals by reducing some felony drug and property crimes to misdemeanors, which would relieve the overcrowding that results in early release for more dangerous offenders and, according to state analysts, could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Those savings would go into a new state Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund that, in addition to funding support services for crime victims, would spend 25% of the proceeds on public school truancy and dropout prevention efforts and 65% on mental health and drug abuse treatment — the kinds of programs that stop crime before it starts.

Vote Yes on 47.

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