Voters Reject Increase – Students Respond

Monterey Hills Elementary Students Respond to Editor

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Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, students of Dawn Hull, a teacher at Monterey Hills Elementary School, wrote to the editor in response to the Review’s story, “Voters Reject Increase,” by Sally Kilby. Her article reported that South Pasadena landowners had voted to reject the Proposed Property Assessment Increase from 60.9 percent to 39.1. The measure, if passed, would have paid for maintaining street lighting, landscaping, and traffic signals. The upkeep of these maintenances are paid for by a special assessment on properties, named the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District (LLMD). The City, with general fund dollars, had been supplementing the LLMD. After the measure was voted down, various members of South Pasadena expressed their viewpoints on the issue. Some who voted against the measure cited taxes as their deciding factor. Between the school tax and the utility tax, the proposed increase was seen as unnecessary. Those who did vote for the measure cited the absence of adequate lighting and the general upkeep of the City as their deciding factor. “This will keep our city well lighted and well maintained,” commented long-time resident Barbra Chandler. The fourth and fifth graders of Monterey Hills Elementary School responded with opinions of their own.

Voters Reject Increase

By Sally Kilby  

Landowners in South Pasadena rejected a proposed property assessment increase, 60.9 percent to 39.1 percent earlier this year.

They voted no to a request by the City Council to pay more for maintaining street lighting, landscaping and traffic signals.

The 2,767 valid ballots received since December for the all-mail election were tabulated during the Jan. 18 Council meeting.

“It’s unfortunate we now have to go back to the drawing board,” said City Manager Sergio Gonzalez in an email to the South Pasadena Review following the vote.

“We’ll have to figure out how to maintain our tree canopy and our lighting throughout the city and find a way to close the [budget] gap of approximately $300,000,” he said. “It will continue to grow because as labor costs increase, so do materials.”

The amount of the assessment is the same as that collected in 1997, but costs have exceeded revenues, according to Gonzalez.

“Although the increase proposed was only about $12 to $34 per month, voters ultimately didn’t see the importance or value,” he said.

The deficit had been described by Gonzalez and Paul Toor, public works director, at Council and community meetings in recent months. Toor and his staff had also made presentations to many civic organizations and commissions.

Costs for lighting, landscaping and traffic signal maintenance are paid for from a special assessment on properties, the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District (LLMD). This appears as a separate line item on the annual Los Angeles County tax bill.

Because landowners defeated the increase, the charge will remain the same as it is currently.

Many of the “no” votes appear to have come “from large property owners who do not live in the city,” Gonzalez said in his email.

“State law requires that the vote be weighted and those who own larger properties have more votes,” he said. “A single homeowner would pay about $100 per year and, thus, had about 100 votes toward the election.” He said that the owner of a large apartment building had about 10 times the number of votes.

If the results had been based on the total number of ballots, the measure would have failed by only 29 votes. The ballot return rate was 43.8 percent of 7,025 mailed. This information was posted on the city’s web site following the election.

Owners of multi-unit buildings were not the only ones opposing the rate hike. Mark Hathaway, owner of a single-family home, said, “The amount [$114] sounds reasonable and useful. However, there are a number of other requests [at different times], and it isn’t clear how they all fit together.”

“There was a School District bond, money for water and pipes,” he said. “There’s always the library tax that’s useful and the utility tax that the city gets.”

“All of them taken one at a time are beneficial,” he said. “At some point, I didn’t see the sense of creating added burden for homeowners with no clear value.”

John Duxbury, who voted “no,” said, “I think we have too many taxes. We have a school tax and a utility tax that was extended. I think the city has to manage its needs within its budget.”

He described himself as “a retired long-term citizen on a fixed income.” His assessment, if it had passed, would have been $182.53 annually.

When Gonzalez was asked about charges that the city is not living within its budget, he responded via email to this reporter, “The LLMD is supposed to be self-sustaining, and it has been operating at a deficit for over a decade now. The City has been supplementing it with general fund dollars.”

“Supplementing . . . is actually an example of good decision making,” he said. “We understand that a well-maintained tree canopy and parks, along with adequate lighting, is a great benefit for all.”

“That’s why South Pasadena is the most walkable city in the San Gabriel Valley,” he added. “Our parks are so popular, and we’ve been certified as a Tree City USA for almost 20 consecutive years.”

Property owner Karissa Adams on Hope Street voted for the increase. “We don’t have enough lighting around here,” she said. “Even if I walk from Menchie’s or from the train, it seemed odd [when first moving here] not to have light in a residential area, and I’ve lived in Boston.” Her assessment would have been $114 annually, according to her ballot.

Long-time resident Barbara Chandler also supported the increase. “I’m very proud of our city, and I know it needs money for upkeep,” she said.

“It’s not that I’ll vote on everything,” she said. “This is a good cause. “This will keep our city well lighted and well maintained.” Her assessment would have also been $114.

Gonzalez said currently there is no plan to propose a rate increase again soon. “Although there is no limit to the number of times we can present this vote to property owners,” Gonzalez said, “it requires a lot of staff time to educate [them] and funds to print, mail and tabulate the ballots.”

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Editor’s Note: As a class assignment, fourth and fifth graders at Monterey Hills School responded to the above abreviated article written by Sally Kilby earlier this year. To read the complete text, go to Southpasadenareview.com.

Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am very sorry that the election did not work out because I am in favor of the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District (LLMD). First of all, a lot of people walk around or walk their dog at night and there is no lighting. It is very dark and very dangerous with a very high chance that someone is going to trip and fall. All the people who do walk, have to bring a flashlight and it is very inconvenient. Also, more people would come here to live if it were a better lighted and better maintained city. Without money to pay the gardeners though, the trees and plants would be in terrible condition and the air would be very bad. With healthier trees there would be much healthier air for the city. For the people who voted against the LLMD, perhaps they believe that we have too many taxes or perhaps they think that it is not worth it. For example, I asked my mom and dad which side they voted for. The voted against the tax press because they think we have too many taxes and they do not think it is worth paying all that money for landscaping when they could be spending it on something else. However, I still think that you can not put a price on being safe.

Morgan Lun

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I would have voted no because we already have so many taxes and people that are retired may not be able to pay for more taxes. The Lights aren’t amazing but you can always just bring a flashlight. Plus this tax is expensive. Some people might argue that the lights in South Pasadena need work and improvement and we do need to save the trees. Without trees we wouldn’t be here. With this tax we could keep our city well lighted and well maintained. However, I would still have voted no.

Stella Sheppard

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am in favor of the LLMD. First is that without very much lighting it can get quite dangerous at night. During the night somebody could trip and get injured very badly. South Pasadena has many hills so there is a high chance for somebody to trip, Secondly I think that if our community doesn’t have enough money to pay the gardeners, our trees could get in terrible condition. In our community many people are very fond of the trees we have. If others don’t agree for the tax to pass they probably think there are already many taxes. They might want to spend it on other things. However, I am in favor of LLMD. I think it is unfair for the city not to pay for safety issues.

Trisha Chakraborty

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I was not in favor of law described in the article. I am glad that it didn’t pass. I would have voted if I could. I think many people in the city don’t have street lights on their street, so the government should pay the taxes for street lights not us. I think that it was a good idea not to pay taxes for street lights because we’re already paying enough taxes. The government is supposed to take care of things like that.

Augustus Bove

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I want to raise taxes to help South Pasadena fix street lights and keep property for landowners. This would help South Pasadena have better road signals and keep pollution away from land. Some people don’t want high taxes. They think their money shouldn’t be spent on lights. I want South Pasadena to raise taxes in order to keep South Pasadena safe.

Kenneth Mogel

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am sorry that the tax vote did not pass. If I could have voted, I would have agreed to the tax because my street isn’t lighted very much. I have a dog, so it would be hard to walk him at night. I also think that we need to be able to maintain the trees, especially the Gigantic Moreton Bay fig that’s in front of the South Pasadena Library. I also think we should keep maintaining the trees because its good to keep our city nice and clean, it’s also important because it basically invites people to come to out city which is good for its profits. Also, who wouldn’t want to live in a nice, clean, safe city? It doesn’t mean that I will agree to every tax increase; it just means that I understand that this is for a good cause. When people voted against the tax, they probably voted no because we already pay a lot of taxes and I agree that we do. Some people might also say that they voted no because they can’t afford it, I understand, some people might also say that they voted no because they wanted to. That’s why I have voted for the tax and how people might think why they voted against it.

Linus Sun

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I agree with the outcome of the election. I think the city can make good decisions with the money they already have. If there are more taxes than other cities, residents might move out. People also have other taxes to pay. If this law passed, people could be paying over $100 or more a year.

Residents who voted in favor of the tax might think the city needs to be improved. I can see why. Traffic lights and street lights can be better. However, I think we already have lots of taxes to pay and many are more important.

Ethan Kung

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I think voters should have gone with the increase because I always see lights that are either broken or burnt out. Sometimes there could be a safety problem sometimes with traffic lights and signals. There is also empty space around town so we should have gone with it.

I do understand why some people didn’t want it. Maybe, they believed that we had enough lighting. I also kind of believe we do have enough of most things we were trying to increase though but I still believe voters should have gone with the increase.

Owen Corell

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am glad the measure did not pass. We already have enough taxes to pay for, I don’t know why people want more taxes. It doesn’t sound reasonable for landscaping as well. Our city is perfect the way it is so I don’t want any changes. Every time you buy something it is extra money to pay for it because of taxes. Some people voted “yes” because they think that lighting and landscaping is important, it is hard to pay for an extra tax. However, landscaping is not that important if lighting and traffic signals are other choices.

Anderson Lien

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am a minor citizen who was against the LLMD. I agree with Mr. Duxbury because the City Council needs to learn to stay within its budget without charging its residents. The Council must use their money wisely. Due to unwise decisions, the Council has a budget gap. The Council must do a better job marinating our tax money. Voting no has helped The Council rethink their decisions and be more conservative. If we had voted yes, the problem would have only deteriorated. No new taxes will make the Council realize that they should be more careful. Residents who support the increase may have said that South Pasadena needs better lighting. Nonetheless, I still think the Council will slowly learn to manage their budge now that voters have rejected this.

Max Slattery

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I’m in favor of the increase because I walk my dog at night with my mom right before I go to bed and have to bring a flashlight almost every night. I see the at some streets are well lit. Mr. Gonzalez mentions it takes a lot of money and work to have another election, so voters that won’t be able to pass the tax again for a while.

I know some people voted no on it. I do know that my parents pay a lot for the some bills but we need more light. I know some people can’t afford the money for both the school district and utility tax. The city is on a budget but when they get money from tax they could spend that. There is more tax that you have to pay for but you already pay for it seems you want are city safe.

Delaney Lehman

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am glad the tax didn’t pass. I think that people who don’t live here, but own property here, shouldn’t worry about taxes. There are too many taxes. Such as the school tax and the utility tax that was extended. People who voted with the tax maybe think we need to pay for the tax to keep the landscaping safe and lights on. However, I still think that there are too many taxes in South Pasadena.

Lan Bui

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I was in favor of the law described in the article. I am sorry it did not pass. The reason I wanted the law to pass it because many streets and neighborhoods are filled with darkness! Our plant life needs to be taken care of. South Pasadena will look very nice and pretty when we add more trees, flowers, or any type of plant life. My neighborhood is especially dark. There are only a few streetlights and lamps where I live. My family sometimes goes to the store or market at night, and we can’t walk there and have to take our car, just because it’s too dark. This law seems reasonable to me. The raised taxes are a good cause. Most people who voted no to the tax perhaps think that we already have too many taxes and the money can be used for another cause, However, I still believe that we should add more lighting and take care of our lovely plants.

Isole Kim

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article, “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. It’s hard to take a side because each side has very good arguments. I do think, however that it should have passed. I’ve noticed some places in South Pasadena get really dark at night so it’s hard to see and that is a safety problem. Also, paying for nice lighting would make South Pasadena more enjoyable and would make more people want to come here. On the other hand, people might have voted no because they couldn’t afford to pay more taxes and/or they were worried it would take money away from things South Pasadena needs more. I understand both sides and they both have very good arguments, but I would have voted yes to the tax.

Awen Rose Miller

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am not in favor of the LLMD because I think we have enough taxes and I don’t want my family in South Pasadena to pay more. We could use other taxes the government gets like the utility tax. If it is too dark outside you can use a flashlight. If you’re driving you can just use your car lights. We also have enough trees and good enough landscaping. People who voted yes for the tax might think we need more lighting so it can be safer, although we have flashlights and car lights. The people who voted yes might also ant better landscaping, but I am still not in favor of the tax.

Jack Yang

Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I was in favor of the proposed property assessment increase and was disappointed that it did not pass. If it had passed, fewer packages would be stolen at night because of the bright streetlights. Thieves would be too scared to steal a package when everyone can see them. Trees need to be maintained, so that they do not die. With more money from the tax, the South Pasadena City Council would be able to use money to pay gardeners to take care of trees. Trees are very important to the environment because they get rid of carbon dioxide, and with healthy trees come cleaner air. I believe that the increase would help a lot and that it should have been voted “yes.” I believe that some people were against it because they pay a lot of money for taxes. The money paid for taxes is very important because after some families pay their taxes, they might have very little money left. People who voted against the tax probably also feel that there are too many taxes. However, I feel that the taxes are helpful.

Vir Shah

Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review I am glad the measure did not pass. We already have enough taxes to pay. I don’t know why people want more taxes. It doesn’t sound reasonable for landscaping as well. Our city is perfect the way it is, so I don’t want any changes. Every time you buy something, it is extra money to pay for it because of taxes. Some people voted “yes” because they think lighting and landscaping is important. Even if it is important, it is hard to pay for an extra tax. However, landscaping is not that important if lighting and traffic signals are other choices.

Anderson Lien

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am in favor of the tax increase and I think it should have passed. I agree that we don’t have enough lighting in South Pasadena. When you go walking at night, you must bring a flashlight to see. On my street, there is a broken street lamp and if the law passed, the money would help fix that street lamp. Fixing traffic signals will help prevent accidents and confusion. Also, South Pasadena’s parks are so popular. We have been certified as a Tree City for almost 20 years. The tax would keep it that way for longer. I know that some residents of South Pasadena cannot afford the tax increase, but I think that it will definitely make South Pasadena look nicer and even be more approachable at night. I believe it is for a good cause.

Iris Barrera

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Letter to the editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am in favor of the increase. I think it would be amazing to have the streetlights on at night. There aren’t enough lights in our city. Plus, more landscaping would’ve been great for our city. It would help keep our trees beautiful. This law really should’ve passed. People who voted against the tax might have voted the way they did because it would be way too expensive. It is already expensive to pay for taxes, so if there was more added to what they already have to pay, people many not be left with much money to buy other things. Although it would be really expensive, I still think it would be much better if the tax passed.

Solon McDonald

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I am glad we don’t have to pay the increase. There are too many taxes already. A single homeowner would pay $100 or more. People who voted for the tax maybe think that we need more lighting for the streets and homes. However, you can’t make people pay for safety.

Elena Torices

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I support the “no” votes. I don’t understand why people would want to pay more money in taxes. I don’t think people need more light at night. They should be independent and bring a flashlight. As for the trees, I think people should use tap water to water their plants. I think that people who voted in favor of it might think that when we pay more money, we get better service. Plus, light is for safety, and nobody can forget that. And the tree maintain is important if there is a dead tree leaning over someone’s house, it could be a matter of safety, just like the lights. This is what I think of South Pas.

Abby Scholtz

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I support the “no” votes. I am glad the measure didn’t pass because I think we already have too many taxes so adding MORE taxes would be necessary. (Though the amount of taxes $114 sounds reasonable and useful. Also some people can’t afford much taxes.) People who voted the measure perhaps believe we don’t have enough lighting so more taxes would make the city better lit and safe.

Levi Bar-Cohen

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I support the “no” votes. I disagree with the outcome of the election. I think we should have better streetlights, landscaping and street signals. I think my parents are paying a lot of taxes so one more tax for a good cause would not be bad. On my street if you walk outside at night you will not see anything. That is why I think the people of South Pasadena should have voted for the new tax. I know that there are too many taxes and it would be an added burden. However, I still think that there are lights to be put up and landscaping to be done.

Miriam Dever

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Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I support the “no” votes. I am appalled that people voted against the tax. At night, South Pasadena is so dark. It is hard to walk your dog at night as well!!!!! You would think that apartment owners would want to have it pass so they can attract more people to their apartments. All in all, I think it was a bad idea, to vote against this tax.

Lorenzo Hawk

Letter to the Editor:

I recently read the article “Voters Reject Increase” in the South Pasadena Review. I support the “no” votes. I think the increase should have passed because South Pasadena is slowly breaking down and it could be better. It would be nice to have better streetlights and traffic signals. I also think improving the traffic signals could help prevent the chances of there being an accident. The landscaping would help South Pasadena look better. The people who voted against the increase probably don’t think we need a nicer city or don’t mind the not-so-good things. They might also think that we already pat too much in taxes. However, I still think safety for citizens in South Pasadena is more important.

Daniel Sanchez

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