Whatever our politics, I think we all can agree that this election season has been exhausting. Anxiety, doubt, and fear are the messaging tools of the day, and in many cases for good reason. As we count the days until November 9, it would be all too easy to allow our frustration to completely overwhelm us.
But we can’t give up the fight. We still have a chance to make measurable positive change.
Many Santa Monica Next readers likely already are familiar with Measure M, the Los Angeles Country Traffic Improvement Plan, which would offer stable regional funding for a comprehensive transportation system. Here in Santa Monica, we also have a local funding measure and companion advisory measure that would help stabilize local budgets for Santa Monica schools and low-income housing. Together, Measure GS and GSH would provide $18 million per year in reliable funding to our city for these two key community priorities.
Our community is counting on us to make Santa Monica and Los Angeles County a better and fairer place to live, learn, and get around. The combination of Measure M for transportation and Measures GS & GSH for schools and housing offer us a chance to do just that.
Contrary to some false social media claims, if both measures pass, Santa Monica’s combined state and local sales tax rate would be no higher than that of Long Beach and at least four other cities in Los Angeles County. Groceries, prescription medicine, rent, utilities, and gasoline (among other types of life essentials) are exempt.
So how would these funds would make a difference for all of us? As the Brookings Institution and others have shown, there are three key drivers of shared local prosperity. For cities like Santa Monica, it comes down to productivity, inclusivity, and resilience.
Measures GS/GSH and M will make Santa Monica more productive. Education funding will help turn local graduates into the high-quality workforce that Santa Monica firms need to compete in the 21st century. Housing stability improves health and educational outcomes for children. Multiple studies also demonstrate that affordable housing reduces commute times, eases traffic, and increases local spending. Similarly, transportation infrastructure improvements will reduce traffic delays, improve local employee retention, and bring millions of dollars home to Santa Monica to improve our roads, bus lines, bike paths, and sidewalks.
Measures GS/GSH and M will make Santa Monica more inclusive. According to Census data, one of every ten Santa Monica seniors lives in poverty. The same is true for one of every five female-headed households with children under 18. The GS/GSH combination will make a major difference for children struggling with housing insecurity, itself a major barrier to learning. Replenishing our housing funds will help keep long-time residents and working families in their homes, allow seniors to age in place, and prevent homelessness. Stabilizing our education budgets will help SMMUSD fulfill its commitment to educational equity and prevent budget cuts.. And long-term transportation funding will help keep rail and bus fares affordable while improving commuter connections between homes and jobs.
Measures GS/GSH and M will make Santa Monica more resilient. They advance both economic and environmental sustainability. The California income tax base is increasingly dependent on the fortunes of a few. Federal and state funds for education, housing, and transportation are notoriously fickle. Locally sourced—and locally auditable—funding streams put us in control of our shared destiny. Education leads to better careers and income potential, which are critical to navigating economic volatility. Housing affordability increases the proportion of people who can both live and work in Santa Monica, while transportation improvements enable more and more people to trade in their single-occupancy vehicle commutes for safe and reliable journeys by train, bike, bus, and foot, improving physical conditioning and lowering our carbon footprint even further.
Measures M and GS/GSH would cost most people just pennies per day, and significant amount of Measure GS/GSH funds would come from Santa Monica’s many visitors and tourists. With those resources, we can make meaningful progress toward the vision so many of us share: a city and region where all families can live and work in dignity, where all children can learn and thrive, and where everyone can get where he or she wants to go, whether across town or across a lifetime.
Sunset Park resident Shawn Landres has enjoyed nearly three decades of living in Santa Monica. He serves on a number of local boards, including as a volunteer with the Campaign for Public Education and Affordable Housing, but his opinions are his own.