Measure P stirs up debate

Can u guess which side of the vote most city officials are on?

Sales tax ballot battle gears up
Groups organize over Measure P in Pico Rivera
By Airan Scruby, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 09/13/2008 09:55:17 PM PDT

PICO RIVERA – As November’s political races head into the home stretch, this city is gearing up for its own fight.

Pico Rivera voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to approve Measure P, which would raise the sales tax in the city to 9.25 percent from 8.25 percent. If approved, the tax is expected to bring the city about $6 million.

City employees and City Council members have come out in support of the tax hike, saying that without it, Pico Rivera will have to cut about $4.8 million to balance its budget. That would shut down recreational programs, close the swimming pool at Smith Park, deprive many city employees of their jobs and more, they say.

“We have a grass-roots group of residents,” Mayor Ron Beilke said Friday. “We’re going door to door.”

Beilke chairs a new group set up by residents in favor of the tax. He said he and others have opened an office on Telegraph Road, are walking neighborhoods and organizing to tell residents about what they say are the benefits of Measure P.

City Recreation Supervisor Lupe Aguilar said she and other members of the Pico Rivera Municipal Professional Confidential Employee Association support the measure.

Although city employees cannot advocate the tax while they are working or using city resources, they can support it in their off-time.

“We are currently trying to rally our local churches, the youth organization, we’re trying to get different storefronts, and family and friends of course,” Aguilar said.
She said she believes losing money and cutting programs would be difficult for Pico Rivera to recover from, even if cash becomes available in the future.

“Once a city goes backward, it’s very difficult to get the city back on its feet,” Aguilar said.

The Service Employees International Union, a city employee’s union, also supports the tax.

Beilke said even the Pico Rivera Chamber of Commerce has given its support to the measure. Beilke said the group voted 11-2 in favor of supporting the tax.

Chamber Executive Director Roger Hartter said the board did vote in support on Aug. 29 but that no further statement would be given until a press release was issued.

Not everyone supports the measure, however. Councilman David Armenta said he is against raising the tax and that it could make some businesses leave the city.

Although the tax would add just one penny on the dollar, that can mean a difference of hundreds of dollars on large purchases like cars and appliances.

“That one percent is their competitive edge,” Armenta said.

The tax made the ballot despite Armenta’s disapproval. It took a required unanimous vote from council to place it before voters. That vote came when Armenta missed a meeting while on a fishing trip. The council voted 4-0 in favor of sending the tax to a vote.

According to Armenta, no effort has yet been organized against the tax, but he will continue to speak out against it and expects that a group of business owners and a group of residents who oppose it will soon form.