City Hall's Mad Rush on Ballot Measures: Mansion Tax, Solar Dollars

Desperate for cash and always happy to kowtow to unions whatever the cost, the City Council is frantically trying to rush measures to the March 3 primary ballot that would soak the rich and make businesses pay a premium for solar energy.

The deadline for candidate filings and initiatives to get on the ballot is little more than a week ago so the council is pulling out all stops to draft a measure for a luxury tax on large homes -- those over 5,000 square feet -- that its own adviser warns is probably illegal and certainly will be challenged in court.

And then there's the solar energy plan that has the backing of the powerful county union boss Maria Elena Durazo and the even more powerful head of the DWP union, Brian D'Arcy. It would create hundreds of high-paying DWP jobs by requiring government agencies and commercial and industrial property owners to hire the utility if they want to install solar energy units on their rooftops. The cost isn't know but estimates run as high as $3 billion.

"Unfortunately, we don't have the time to fully understand and analyze this proposal," said Councilman Richard Alarcon as he voted to draft the ballot measure which passed 14-0..

Such is the politics of City Hall. The rush to get the measures on the ballot gained momentum with the prospects that the primary would be so lacking in public interest, a virtually coronation for incumbents and officeholders, that the outcome could easily be controlled with special interest money and manpower.

But that could change with the entry of DWP Commission President Nick Patsaouras into the City Controller race against favored Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and the possibility developer Rick Caruso will challenge the mayor.

Still, it's time for decisions and  there's a a lot to decide like the proposed ballot measure to resolve -- without actually resolving anything -- the dispute between Controller Laura Chick and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo over whether she can conduct performance audits of how he handles worker compensation and other liablity claims.

The luxury home tax is far and away the most fascinating and the drafting the measure is on the council agenda today, the deadline day for deciding whether to go forward.

Back in May, Alarcon and Councilman Ed Reyes proposing taxing owners of homes over 5,000 square feet an extra $1,000 a year scaling up to $6,000 for homes over 10,000 square feet based on their theory that larger homes "utilize more city resources and services" like water and power than smaller homes.

"Fortunately many Angelinos are incredibly blessed in the City of Los Angeles and now will have the chance to pay their fair share for city services provided them,'' their motion says, referring enviously to "luxurious mansions" and "lavish lifestyles" while so any are "have-nots."

The Chief Legislative Analyst looked into the issue and found there are slightly more than 6,000 houses that would qualify for the luxury tax out of the city's 561,314 single-family residences. The breakdown by neighborhoods shows most large homes are in hillside areas but there are 35 in South L.A., 3 in Arleta-Pacoima and 23 in Westlake.

The tax as proposed would raise $15.1 million a year but it would be an illegal property tax, the CLA reported. But working with the City Attorney, a way was devised the could possibly stand up in court while raising $9.5 million a year.The trick would be to eliminate the steps and simply make the tax $1,000 on homes above 5,000 square feet and $6,000 above 10,000 -- although the logic is more than a little fuzzy.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us