Compton Mayor and City Council Clash Over Money to Fix Potholes

In Compton, the mayor and City Council are clashing over how to proceed with money raised to repair thousands of potholes

Not that anyone is in favor of potholes, but the issue of how to proceed with fixing them has become a lightning rod of controversy for the city of Compton.

Plans to proceed with repairs remain bogged down in Compton City Hall, eight months after voters agreed to pay for them by raising the sales tax in the city a full penny to 10 percent, one of the highest rates anywhere in the state.

"You've got people who are not willing to move the city forward," lamented Tomas Carlos, a Compton resident who campaigned for Measure P and is frustrated the income is not yet being put to use.

"It's hazard to have these potholes," said Mayor Aja Brown, who blames years of deferred maintenance and who pushed for Measure P, but has been unable to get the City Council to support her plan for implementing it.

Complicating matters is the sheer scope of the problem: thousands of potholes on more than 100 miles of city streets. Fixing all of them will cost some $100 million, the mayor's office estimates.

In its first three months, the sales tax increase brought in $2 million, which projects out to $8 million a year.

To augment that, Brown has proposed the city borrow up to $60 million dollars to expedite the work, which she estimated could be done in no more than two years. The money would come from a bond issue, and she said a portion of the sales tax revenue would go to paying the debt service.

"Me and my colleagues are totally against that," said Janna Zurita, the first district council member who previously has clashed with the mayor.  
"We want to first get a history to see what the measure is going to even project. And secondly, I think we should pay as we go,"

Zurita contends it would be "too risky" for the city to take on more debt before there is a fuller picture of the revenue Measure M will generate. In November 2105, area voters also approved a $350 million school district bond measure which boosted property taxes.

What's more, yet to be resolved is a legal challenge to the conduct of the election in which Measure P passed. Opponents contend residents of county areas outside the Compton city limits were mistakenly allowed to vote.

A judge ruled against another challenge to Measure P, Brown said, insisting it's the city's duty to move forward.

"The voters clearly indicated support for repairing the streets," said Brown, who has launched a new website,, as part an effort to encourage residents to pressure council members to support her plan.

So far, instead of being persuaded, council members are pushing back.

"This is just ridiculous when the mayor takes to social media and just puts us all out there like we're doing absolutely nothing," said Councilmember Tana McCoy, who also favors pay as you go.

McCoy and Zurita pointed out that some street repair is being done even without Measure P money. On Tuesday, a crew was using bags of cold asphalt to fill holes on west 134th Street. But the mayor said the cold asphalt patches are only a stopgap measure.

How to proceed with Measure P is due back on the council agenda next week.

Brown is up for re-election in April, and among those challenging her is controversial former Mayor Omar Bradley, who after leaving office was incarcerated for misappropriation of public funds, only to have the conviction later overturned.

Bradley contends the city kept up with street maintenance during his tenure, and argues city hall should re-examine its priorities to make use of existing funds for fixing streets rather than leveraging a revenue stream with debt.

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