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Antonucci: Los Angeles unions open campaign spigots for special elections

Mike Antonucci | April 16, 2019

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

Campaign season came a little early in Los Angeles this year, with the open District 5 school board seat and Measure EE, the parcel tax proposal to fund city schools. United Teachers Los Angeles is devoting its sizable war chest to these elections, and its union allies are also chipping in.

First up is the board seat election on May 14, where UTLA-backed Jackie Goldberg has to be considered the favorite in the runoff against Heather Repenning. Goldberg rang up almost four times as many votes as Repenning in the opening round and nearly captured an outright majority.

Repenning has the backing of a number of labor unions, most prominently SEIU Local 99, which represents L.A. Unified’s support employees. She raised almost $338,000 in direct contributions, significantly more than Goldberg’s $265,000. However, the California Teachers Association’s political action committee spent $142,000 on Goldberg’s behalf in the first round and has added another $41,500 for the runoff.

Next up will be Measure EE on June 4. The proposed parcel tax, which would require a two-thirds majority of votes to pass, would assess a 16 cents per square foot tax on habitable structures. Business groups are promising a $4 million campaign to defeat it, but unions have the jump on them, according to the most recent campaign disclosure reports.

As of April 15, the No on Measure EE committee had raised $159,000. The lion’s share came from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association ($100,000), with the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles adding $25,000 and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce contributing $23,000.

The Yes on EE campaign has almost 10 times as much. UTLA’s Issues PAC contributed $500,000 and SEIU Local 99 added $300,000, with the regional and national carpenters union combining for $250,000.

The YES campaign also picked up $250,000 from the HNTB Corporation, which is an infrastructure services business.

Even though the unions are focused on the elections in the next two months, they are also keeping an eye on 2020, when the split-roll property tax initiative will be on the ballot. CFT, the smaller of California’s two statewide teacher unions, has already contributed $250,000 to the campaign. CTA has pledged to follow suit but has yet to make an initial appropriation of funds.

That initiative has also received $185,000 from Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy, the political action committee of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

UTLA’s agenda has always been a multi-step process. Though much delayed, the strike, control of the school board, and new revenue streams have been the goals since at least 2016. These elections will either accomplish those goals — or stop them in their tracks.

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