By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The plan would pay for 1,500 acres of solar panels citywide at an initial cost of about $3 billion to ratepayers. But it’s the loophole-filled fine print — the unspecified future costs needed to make the huge, experimental system work — that has economists and others getting anxious about the effect on economically hammered residents and businesses.
Patsaouras, normally an ardent backer of Villaraigosa, rails: “What they are asking the ratepayer to do is give a blank check at a time when the economy is its worst in 35 years. It is absolutely outrageous!”
Even the controversy-shirking L.A. Chamber of Commerce is sounding sour, with CEO Gary Toebben saying that the solar plan has created “skepticism out there ... and not just in the business community.”
But at least voters get to make that decision next March. Not so with the revised 2008-2009 city budget, which has increased car-towing fees by more than 100 percent to $100, hiked parking tickets dramatically, and almost doubled city campsite fees to $10 per night at places like Camp Decker.
Larry Kosmont, president and CEO of Kosmont Companies, who publishes an “annual cost of business survey” that rates California cities on their success in wooing good jobs to town, has little faith that Villaraigosa and the City Council know how to reverse their habit of driving jobs out of L.A.
“Medium- to large-sized businesses have left,” Kosmont says. The city is almost entirely “an economy of small business” because so many others have fled.
The upcoming 2010 U.S. Census is feared to show that the Los Angeles middle class, on which City Hall heavily leans for its taxes, has been hollowed out, with professionals and highly skilled residents fleeing to Seattle, Portland and Las Vegas. Even the hated “big boxes,” a key source of city sales taxes, are avoiding L.A., according to Kosmont. “If you were to draw a map of large retailers, it would draw the borders of L.A.,” he says. A Costco store might face business taxes as high as $400,000 a month in L.A., while close-in suburbs like Glendale and Hawthorne might charge $1,000 to $100,000, he says.
A final tally of votes for Villaraigosa’s “gang tax” shows that, when asked to weigh in on paying for City Hall’s pet projects, L.A. voters can bite back. The failed Proposition A tax would have forced homeowners and businesses, regardless of income level, to pony up annual payments ranging from $36 to several hundred dollars, based on the number of “parcels” they owned. It would have raised about $28 million annually for Villaraigosa’s untested and vaguely defined antigang program.
“They had the gall,” says Kris Vosburg, of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, “the outrageous nerve, to put a gang tax on the ballot when they are sitting on tens of millions,” raised by showering city residents with numerous extra fines and charges.
In the next few weeks, key City Hall proponents of charging residents even higher fines, fees and surcharges, including council members Janice Hahn and Wendy Greuel, are expected to suggest a slew of creative new “revenue streams.”