L.A. County Looking at Millions Less in Property Taxes

LOS ANGELES COUNTY—With the news that Los Angeles County is facing a revenue shortfall far larger than anticipated, one wonders whether the campaign by AIDS Healthcare Foundation to put a mandatory condom initiative on the county ballot in November makes even less sense now than it ever did. AHF president Michael Weinstein and his minions may want the populace to believe that the industry is bluffing when it says it will move out of the state, but they are wrong. The industry not only will move, parts of it already have!

This is precisely what happens when a group of misguided believers glom onto an idea that there is no political backbone to oppose. The only Los Angeles City Council member to vote against the citywide mandatory-condom push by AHF was the one representing Porn Valley, and who knows, maybe he will reap the consequences of that vote come reelection time. The industry, which needs all the legislative help it can get, certainly applauds his courage in casting the lone "no" vote in  sea of "yesses," but no one is fool enough to believe that a vote in support of the porn industry is a politically wise call.

That's because, generally speaking, we're as fucked up politically as we are financially and sexually. With respect to Los Angeles County in particular, which is now faced with taking in $50 million less in property taxes in the next fiscal year than was originally assessed, it's hard to come to any other conclusion.

"Last year," reported the Los Angeles Times this morning, "Assessor John Noguez estimated the county property tax base would grow by almost $18.7 billion for the next fiscal year. But he revised that figure to $5.1 billion last week. Property in Los Angeles County was valued at $1.1 trillion last year.

The biggest drop," the article added., "occurred in properties that declined in value. In December, Noguez estimated that the tax base would drop by about $2.6 billion because of falling home prices. That number changed to about $13.5 billion in his latest report."

With a $23 billion annual budget, another $50 mil may not seem like a lot, but considering the fact that "taxes paid on that real estate is the county's largest source of locally generated revenue and helps fund a variety of services and agencies, including the Sheriff's Department, county education office and Fire Department," every lost million means deep cuts to valued programs or services.

That reality is no doubt what prompted Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to refer to the lost revenue as "inexplicably precipitous" and "shocking, " and what prompted him to say that the new numbers "cannot be accepted without scrutiny and verification."

If the new projection turn out to be correct, however, maybe Ridley-Thomas and his fellow supervisors will take another look at one of the ill-advised initiatives that looks like it will be on the November ballot—courtesy of AHF's questionable methods in getting signatures—and make sure it dies an ignominious death, safe in the knowledge that there is no AIDS pandemic originating within the industry.