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Ridley-Thomas questions timing of tax measure sought by Villaraigosa

April 25, 2012 |  6:28 pm

Antonio Villaraigosa, left, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Metro board member Richard Katz
Saying the November presidential ballot is already "full to overflowing," Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on Wednesday expressed "serious reservations" about whether voters should also be asked to endorse a permanent extension of a half-cent sales tax for transportation, as proposed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The original tax increment, passed in 2008, “has been a vital component of funding important transportation projects in the county," said Ridley-Thomas, a supporter of Measure R and a board member of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"Our compact with voters requires Measure R to sunset in 27 years, in 2039, and any proposed alteration of that timetable should be based on overwhelming evidence of urgent need in the public interest," he said, according to a news release.

"What matters here are urgent? Why are we in such haste to alter our compact? What is the rationale for attempting to establish [a] sales tax in perpetuity during a time of such economic uncertainty? Why now?"

In Villaraigosa’s State of the City address last week, he called for indefinitely extending Measure R so the county could more quickly build a series of proposed rail and highway improvement projects. The mayor, who also chairs the Metro board, will be termed out of his city post in 2013.

Ridley-Thomas also criticized the transportation agency for struggling to execute projects "even when it has funds" and said he has yet to see a compelling case to endorse the indefinite extension.

Ridley-Thomas' statement follows a tense moment last week when another county supervisor and Metro board member, Michael D. Antonovich, used the term "gang rape" during a transportation committee meeting to allude to his discontent with the initial campaign to get Measure R approved.

Villaraigosa briefly walked out of the meeting after sharply objecting to Antonovich's language.


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Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, center, and Metro board member Richard Katz confer at a transportation meeting last year. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times