Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Are the backers of a monster transportation tax proposal on an upcoming ballot lying to you?

A judge said Tuesday she’s not sure and needs more information before ruling on a request by a coalition of seven Los Angeles County cities for an accelerated hearing on a lawsuit challenging the ballot language for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed half- cent county sales tax measure on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel said the new court papers should consolidate legal points and authorities in support of the petition filed last week by the cities of Carson, Commerce, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes and Signal Hill.

She also directed the lawyers for the petitioning cities to make sure Metro has notice of the new hearing date, now set for Sept. 6.

Strobel questioned why the petitioners waited so long to file their case when they knew the ballot language as of Aug. 16. Lawyer G. Ross Trindle, on behalf of the petitioning cities, said it took time for the communities involved to hold meetings and vote on whether to participate.

The petition alleges that the ballot label for Measure M is misleading and does not include the actual 1 percent total rate of the tax to be imposed. Lawyers for the petitioners arrived too late to Strobel’s courtroom for a hearing Monday, so today was the second attempt to have the matter heard.

The petitioners also say the ballot label for Measure M does not state that the proposed tax would be permanent.

Measure M opponents say the ballot measure leads voters to believe that there will be an equal distribution of projects. In reality, projects in the western and northern of the regions of the county will take priority, while southern Los Angeles County regions will not see any benefits until 2039-2040, the petitioners say.

Yusef Robb, of the campaign on behalf of Measure M, called the lawsuit “a political stunt that has nothing to do with the law or reality.”

“Measure M will build regional traffic-reduction projects across L.A. County, from Claremont to Torrance to Santa Fe Springs and everywhere in between, and will direct funds to each of L.A. County’s 88 cities for their own local projects,” Robb said.

“Measure M was publicly debated and put on the ballot by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in clear recognition of its countywide traffic-reduction benefits,” according to Robb.

—City News Service

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