While most attention for this week’s primary election is focused on the presidential and U.S. Senate races, there are also some closely watched local races and issues on the ballot.

Three of the five seats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are on the ballot, though only two are up for grabs – seats held by longtime incumbents Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich, both of whom are termed out. Incumbent Mark Ridley-Thomas is running unopposed. Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, is the frontrunner in the race for Knabe’s seat against Ralph Pacheco and Steve Napalitano. The race for Antonovich’s district, covering the northern county, is regarded as much more wide open, with eight candidates in the running. At stake in the two contested races is direction of the board, which has been noted for its fiscal conservatism.

On the ballot measure side, there’s the usual offering of sales tax hikes, utility tax extensions, school bonds, and parcel taxes. But there are also two unusual ballot measures.

One of those is in Pomona, where sign company Bulletin Displays of Long Beach has qualified an initiative to codify a development agreement with the city to allow for the construction of 10 “message centers” – digital billboards – along the four freeways that traverse the city. The measure sets up a bidding process to develop and then administer the billboards, with the bid winner agreeing to turn over $250,000 a year in sign revenues to the city for 40 years ($10 million total).

Mark Kudler, president of Bulletin Displays, said he expects to win the bid and is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to develop the message centers. One of those digital billboards would be on top of a miniature replica of Pomona’s historic Fox Theatre.

“Businesses and residents in Pomona are hungry for other sources of revenue to diversify their tax base,” Kudler said. “These message centers are one way to do that.”

Pomona City Councilwoman Cristina Carrizosa is leading the opposition; in her ballot argument against the measure, she says the digital signs would distract motorists and that the sign developers would reap millions of dollars while making only small installment payments to the city.

The other ballot measure of note is in Montebello, where voters will decide whether to sell the city’s public water system to private operator San Gabriel Valley Water Co. for $14.4 million.

This measure goes counter to the recent trend of residents upset over rising water rates trying to get their cities or nearby municipal water districts to take over private operators. Golden State Water, a subsidiary of American States Water Co. of San Dimas, has been trying to fend off public takeover attempts in both Ojai and Claremont.

In Montebello, the vote comes after a contentious bid battle between San Gabriel Valley Water and California Water Service Group of San Jose. If voters approve the sale, San Gabriel Valley Water would gain ownership of a system it already operates on contract with the city.

Other Ballot News

The California Chamber of Commerce board last month voted to oppose a likely November ballot measure to extend the income tax increase of Proposition 30 until 2031.

Proposition 30, supported by Gov. Jerry Brown and approved by voters in 2012, increased income taxes for individuals earning more than $250,000 a year and families earning more than $500,000. The increase was temporary, set to expire at the end of 2018.

A coalition of unions, school groups, doctors, and hospitals has said it had gathered more than enough signatures to qualify an extension of this income tax increase for the November ballot; they all claim their programs would lose funds if the temporary tax increase expires as scheduled.

After extensive lobbying by Brown, the chamber’s board stayed neutral on Proposition 30 four years ago. This time, the board argued the extension amounts to a permanent tax increase.

The chamber board also voted to oppose another proposed initiative aiming for the November ballot, to cap the total annual compensation paid to private nonprofit and for-profit hospital executives at the level of compensation received by the president of the United States – currently, $450,000. The board noted that with California’s high cost of living, the measure would put hospitals in the state at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting top-level executives.

Finally, returning to the local level, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson last month directed city staff to explore a ballot measure that would extend Proposition D’s gross receipts tax on medical marijuana dispensaries to all cannabis-related businesses. If a ballot measure does come forward, it would go on either this November’s ballot or the citywide election in March.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.