Lead Story West Edition

Sharif, Chambers win Compton City Council seats

COMPTON — The two City Council candidates who finished second in the April primary election bounced back to win seats on the Compton City Council June 4.

District 4 incumbent Emma Sharif, who received only 31.16% of the vote April 16, won her second four-year term on the council by overcoming Justin Blakely.

Sharif received 695 votes in Tuesday’s balloting to defeat Blakely, who received 598 votes, according to unofficial vote totals from the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters Office.

In District 1, incumbent Janna Zurita was overwhelmingly defeated by Michelle Chambers. Chambers received 1,192 votes to Zurita’s 629.

In April, Zurita received almost 41% of the vote in a race that featured three other candidates. In the general election, however, she received only 34.54%. She was seeking her third term on the council.    

In other election news, the Los Angeles Unified School District was dealt a major financial blow when voters rejected a parcel tax that was expected to generate $500 million a year for the next 12 years.

Measure EE needed a two-thirds majority to be approved but wasn’t able to receive a majority of yes votes, losing 54.32%-45.68%, according to semiofficial results.

The measure would have imposed a parcel tax of 16 cents per square foot of building improvements on properties within the district. Winning approval of the tax was considered vital for the district, which was relying on the new revenue source to help cover the costs of staffing and salary agreements it made with the United Teachers Los Angeles union to resolve a teachers’ strike earlier this year.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl and Superintendent Austin Beutner, who are often at loggerheads politically, presented a unified front on the campaign trail in support of the measure, insisting it was vital for the district’s financial future.

The measure also had the backing of political heavyweights, led by Mayor Eric Garcetti.  

“Voting yes on EE will reduce class sizes and add nurses, counselors and arts and music in our local schools,” Garcetti said as he urged people to go to the polls. “If people stay home, nothing changes for our children, and the future for all of us will pay the price.”

The measure was opposed by business interests, led by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber contended there was no guarantee the money raised by the measure would go toward reducing classroom size or funding nurses and librarians in schools — all while the district has no plan for addressing its “unfunded pension obligations, increasing health care costs or cost structure of a large organization with declining student enrollment.”

“We agree with the goal of having a strong public education system — it’s essential and we will keep fighting for it,” chamber President/CEO Maria Salinas said before the election. “But Measure EE is not the answer and we need to say no to this rushed tax measure.”

LAUSD officials insisted there would be an independent oversight committee monitoring the use of money raised by the tax.

“The committee will help ensure every dollar is going to support schools and the needs and education of our students,” Beutner said prior to the election.

The day after the election Beutner had accepted the defeat.

“Life has taught me the value of persistence,” Beutner said. “When you get knocked down, you get back up and you keep moving forward.”
Beutner insisted the district made the right decision by taking Measure EE to voters in a special election instead of waiting for a likely higher-turnout regional or statewide ballot. Beutner also insisted that despite the defeat of the parcel tax proposal the district will find a way to meet its financial obligations over the next three years.

“We’ll continue to reduce the bureaucracy and make sure every nickel of the taxpayers’ [money] goes to schools,” he said. “We’re going to ask to Sacramento to make it possible to raise money to hire a teacher in the same way we can build a school.

“We’re going to continue to work with the governor and the Legislature for additional funding for our schools, and we’ll continue to inform the communities we serve about the need for additional funding,” he added.