INGLEWOOD — Residents here have begun receiving their ballots for the Nov. 2 special election when they are being asked to decide whether to raise taxes for hotel stays and real estate transfers.
The City Council declared a fiscal emergency Aug. 3 and then called for the special election to raise the city’s transient occupancy and real estate transfer taxes.
Residents are unhappy with the request to raise taxes, even though most residents won’t be affected by the tax increases.
The opposition stems from the fact that the city has received $15.5 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act that hasn’t been spent or budgeted for.
The U.S. Treasury Department has published guidelines on how the money can be spent, under an interim final rule, but has yet to publish the final rule, which the city claims to be waiting for.
“We have not received final guidance as to how those funds can be used and so we will not be using them until we’ve received final authority on how we can spend them,” Mayor James T. Butts said. “You can’t consider money in a budget that you have no authority to spend.”
Residents disagree and believe the city had a responsibility to disclose receipt of those funds, being that they were received weeks prior to the fiscal emergency declaration.
“When you file bankruptcy, you are required to disclose all assets, and I believe the finance department intentionally concealed these funds to force this special election to meet obligations to the people mover,” resident Marvin McCoy said.
Grant applications detail the city planned to use taxes to meet its obligation to fund the construction of the automated people mover, that will connect the Crenshaw/LAX rail line to the entertainment and sports venues in the city.
The tax measures have caused controversy, especially those opposing them.
Cindy Giardina has publicly voiced her opposition to Measure I, which is the most controversial ballot measure that voters will weigh in on. Measure I seeks to create a tiered tax schedule for real estate transfer taxes that are due once the seller either transfers or sells their property.
“With all the development in Inglewood, the stadium up and running, and major Inglewood companies reporting trillions in income during COVID-19 pandemic, the financial losses of the city are due to faulty decisions,” Giardina said in a statement.
Giardina is a former elected official, serving on both the City Council and school board school board.
She wrote the rebuttal to Measure I that is included with the sample ballot and outlined her experience in attempting to gain documents from the city clerk’s office.
“We were only allowed to view the rebuttal of the proponents of Measure I … 40 minutes before the deadline to turn in our rebuttal to their rebuttal,” Giardina said. “As such, I was forced to submit my rebuttal without the benefit of reviewing their rebuttal arguments.
“When I attempted to visit the office of City Clerk Aisha Thompson, I was met with resistance from the city’s security. I also made several phone requests, for a copy of the city’s rebuttal to my primary argument with no success.”
Emails to Thompson questioning her office’s intervention in the release of public documents went unanswered.
Other residents find no fault with the taxes.
“I support both tax measures and am urging the residents to vote yes, because it is not a tax on residents, in any way, and the real estate transfer tax only affects those selling their house,” said Gil Mathieu, a long-time City Hall critic. “If the funds are earmarked for something helpful to the city, and the residents need value from the stadium, and need an accounting and financial management of this money.”
His support of the measures baffled the mayor and council.
“Gil, we are all sitting here stunned,” Butts said. “You are right. The transfer tax is a fee that is collected when you sell your property.”
The city has provided no definitive response to resident’s questions concerning taxpayer money being spent on the people mover, which is for the sole purpose of connecting people to the sports and entertainment district.
Butts insists that the city “be mature” and step up to the “responsibility” pertaining to the infrastructure.
“The infrastructure is the city’s responsibility, since it will be constructed on the public right of way,” he said.
Inglewood residents can turn in their ballots at drop-off points around the city, which are in front of the Crenshaw/Imperial Library, Darby and Rogers parks, one across from Inglewood High School on Grevillea.
Residents also can vote in person Nov. 2 at Center of Hope, Darby and Rogers parks, Inglewood High School, LaTijera and Monroe Middle School.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.