Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why You Should Vote "No" On L.A.'s "Gang Tax" In November

Why You Should Vote "No" On L.A.'s "Gang Tax" In November
By Walter Moore, Candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles,
August 13, 2008

Here in L.A., our taxes are already too high. Indeed, City Hall's annual revenues are at an all-time high of $7 billion per year -- up $1.7 billion per year from the 2004-05 budget of $5.3 billion. Think of it this way: in 2004-05, the City spent $605,000 per hour, and now it spends $799,087 per hour.

As a result, City has more than enough money to pay for "anti-gang" programs. Indeed, the City spends $168 million per year on these programs already. Various programs involve riding boats, playing golf and installing urinals. The Mayor's own list of anti-gang programs spans several pages, with some programs operated by the airport, others by the harbor, some by the Cultural Affairs Department, and on and on. Besides spending tax dollars on these programs, moreover, City Hall gives public buildings to private groups running various programs. For example, the City recently "leased" a fire station to a group called "Aztecs Rising" for just $1 per year for 10 years.

There's no evidence, however, that these dozens of programs work at all. Nor is there any evidence that spending even more money would make a difference. The $168 million, moreover, could pay the starting salary ($56,522) of over 2,900 police officers. According to the LAPD's own website, there are about 41,000 gang members, and only around 9,700 police. We should even the odds by adding police, not squander our money on waterless urinal training programs. Chief Bratton believes we need at least 12,500 officers, and said in 2003 that ours is the most understaffed police force in the nation:

"The 'reality' that the LAPD is the most understaffed major metropolitan police organization in the country. East coast and mid-west cities like NewYork, Chicago and Boston all have more cops per capita. Some have almost twice as many officers per capita as Los Angeles."

What Bratton said in 2003 is still true today in 2008. If we had the same number of police per capita as New York City (i.e., over 37,000 officers for about 8.25 million people), the LAPD would have over 17,939 officers instead of our current 9,700."

The City of Los Angeles, moreover, has spent over $1 million of your tax dollars on two separate studies of the City's gang programs: one for $593,000 in 2006, and a second for $500,000 in 2007. Both studies found that no one is overseeing the many programs. No one monitors them to see how the money is spent, or whether the programs do any good. Here is how the more recent study (page 6) described the status quo:

"The City's current approach to anti-gang programming is an uncoordinated and scattered mix of youth, family development, and social service programs, intervention and suppression efforts, job training and placement, and recreational programs provided at a reported cost of $160 million. In fact, more than a dozen departments assert they operate anti-gang and youth development programs for the City's youth population. However, little coordination and communication exists amongst these city departments, which has resulted in some departments unknowingly providing services similar and likely overlapping with those delivered by other departments."

As a result of this lack of oversight, one program, which received $1.5 million one year, was run by a man called "Big Weasel" who was convicted, the following year, by federal prosecutors for possession of machine guns, silencers and other illegal weapons.

The consultants City Hall hired to look into the programs did not recommend more spending. Instead, they recommended better management. Here's a direct quotation from page 2 of the 161-page study:

"This new strategy and reorganization will not require additional funding, but will require redirecting existing funds to more targeted programs, eliminating duplication and streamlining programs, and implementing performance-based contracting and monitoring practices."

Bottom line: We don't need a tax hike. We need our elected officials to do their jobs by investigating these programs before they hand over our money, and monitoring these programs after they hand over our money. Vote "no" on this unnecessary tax hike.

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[Note: to read the original of this essay, with hyperlinks to sources, please visit the "What's New?" page of my website,, or visit the website I've set up to fight this tax, namely,]

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