Op-Ed: Join me in voting yes on Proposition 19

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Patrick O’ Donnell

The Signal Tribune provides a space for those wanting to submit an op-ed on issues affecting the communities of Long Beach and Signal Hill. Op-ed’s do not necessarily reflect the views of the Signal Tribune.

Over four million acres have burned this year in California. This is an astounding number, and with our wildfire season just getting started, we are sure to see that number grow.

Here in Los Angeles County, firefighters are battling the Bobcat Fire, one of the largest ever recorded in the County. The Bobcat has taken over 115,000 acres as it tears through the San Gabriel Mountains.

But the state is also facing another threat this year with an unprecedented pandemic that has left city and county budgets in turmoil. And while Long Beach has not been hit by a wildfire, we have not been immune to the hardships COVID-19 has inflicted upon our resources for local services, programs, and on our school districts.

With wildfires certain to continue breaking records in the coming years, and local communities most likely confronting tight budgets for the foreseeable future as they pick of the pieces, it is clear that we need additional funding – now more than ever.

Voters will have an opportunity to help by passing Proposition 19. First, Prop 19 will be a lifeline for California’s fire districts as it creates a historic fund to aid in California’s fire response – hundreds of millions of dollars in the first year alone – and this funding cannot be raided for any other use.

In fact, a recent analysis by a former California Director of Finance concluded that Prop 19 will generate substantial funding increases for fire districts to nearly $100 million at the end of the first year and $6.1 billion by the end of Year 12.

This funding for fire and emergency response will come as a result of Prop 19 closing a property tax loophole often exploited by investors and out of state residents that has resulted in a loss of billions of dollars for schools and local governments.

Prop 19 creates tax fairness and will provide hundreds of millions of dollars annually for local governments, including Long Beach – when we need it now more than ever to help fund emergency services, homeless, housing programs, and schools that have been impacted by the financial losses caused by COVID-19.

Before I began my career in public service, I spent over twenty years in the classroom with students. I understand the meager funds that school districts have to work with. Since then, I have dedicated much of my work to ensuring our educational institutions have funding to provide students with needed programs, like creative arts and career planning – programs that seem to be first on the chopping block with times are tight.

Proposition 19 could be a lifeline for schools here in Long Beach and across the state. The billions of dollars that have been held hostage by this loophole will make an enormous impact on the education of California students.

As a Long Beach native and former City Council member, I know the difference additional funding could make. This funding will help support education, public health, Long Beach businesses and communities, and will provide overall financial resiliency for the City.

That is why Proposition 19 has garnered broad support from Los Angeles County state and local elected officials, as well as Long Beach City and education leaders, and firefighters across the state.

I believe the initiative deserves your support. Join me in voting yes on Proposition 19.

Patrick O’ Donnell is a Democrat representing the 70th Assembly District, which encompasses the Los Angeles Harbor Region and portions of Long Beach.