Tuesday, April 19, 2005

L.A. Times Magazine Blasts Away At Proposition 13, Just What You Would Expect

The Los Angeles Times Magazine is said to be about to be revamped, for the umpteenth time. But the revamp, as all the previous ones, is apt to be quite half-hearted. Not until the Times puts much more effort, much more courage and somehow sells much more advertising for its magazine, is it likely to be much better than it is now.

It's still before the revamp, but the lead article in the magazine last Sunday, April 17, on California's Proposition 13, is just what we have come to expect from the magazine, a mishmosh of the glitzy, the inconsequential and the inane.

It's certainly no surprise that the L.A. Times is opposed to Proposition 13. That's been the case for a long time. Yet it's worth recalling that the Times' late prize-winning editorial writer and columnist, Phil Kerby, actually supported Proposition 13 when it was on the ballot in 1978. Kerby had noticed that the state government was getting too big and bloated, and that frequent reassessments were taxing some people out of their homes. He hoped the voters would send a signal to the government.

Sunday's article was by a Lee Green. The magazine never explained who Green is, other than saying he had last written on the U.S. Forest Service. What background he had to even try such an article was never mentioned. Yet, I think, when an argument on a serious issue is presented, the readers deserve to know just who is presenting it, and how exactly he is qualified to speak.

Green wrote one of these cute little articles filled with the conventional liberal wisdom. He called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to summon up the courage to do something about changing Proposition 13. But he never said exactly what, nor did he ever acknowledge that Schwarzenegger is the last politician one would expect to adopt a new course and try to do anything about a ballot measure which still commands substantial loyalty from the very Californians who voted both for Proposition 13 and for the governor in the Recall election.

If the editors of the magazine wanted a realistic article, they might have asked the Times' state political columnist, George Skelton, or one of the other writers in Sacramento to write it. Then, they might have gotten something that more realistically assessed what the current prospects are for a major change in state government.

Yes, the writer they selected, whoever he is, might have been right that Proposition 13 contains blatant inconsistencies, that it allows commercial property to get away with paying little in taxes and that homes of equal value are treated unequally.

But since it requires a popular vote to change the measure, what really can be done with it at this time? And if nothing can be done with it, then what about changing other tax laws, or adding a value added tax and replacing much of the property tax system altogether? That's one way to change it without a vote of the electorate, by going around it.

The Times, as so often, was naive. And don't think its readers don't know it!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken:

Ah, Prop 13. Whatever Green's credentials -- never established, to be sure -- the startling fact remains that identical homes in adjacent parcels generate wildly different property taxes. And the disproportionate, unfair current rates will not go away for another generation.

Ed Cray
Beneficiary of Proper 13

4/19/2005 9:53 PM  
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