With a little more than a week to go before Election Day, Mayor Eric Garcetti handed out M&M's Monday morning to Metro rail commuters entering and exiting the North Hollywood Red Line stop in an effort to campaign for Measure M.
The measure will be on the ballot Nov. 8 in Los Angeles County. It will raise funds for transit initiatives by increasing sales tax in the county by half a cent. The initiatives will include expanding Metro rail lines, repaving roads, maintaining affordable fares for seniors, students and people with disabilities and other projects designed to clean up air and reduce congestion in LA.
Supporters have been attending City Council, Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club meetings. They've been standing in intersections and near subways, but this week, Garcetti said, is when things will really start to heat up.
In addition to his brief Halloween visit, Garcetti and other "Yes on Measure M" campaigners released two new television ads. Supporters also plan to set up shop Saturday at the USC-Oregon football game at the Coliseum.
In early October, Metro estimated each consumer would spend at least an extra $25 every year as a result of the sales tax increase. But Beacon Economics, an independent firm, said that this increase is an underestimate—its estimate is an extra $35 to $65 a year.
At the "M&M's for Measure M" event, Garcetti cited Metro's study, conducted by Cambridge Systematics, and said that $25 a year isn't much in terms of the bigger picture.
"Everyone thinks that it's well worth it to get time back to your family, to get to school on time, to get to work on time," Garcetti said.
Opponents of Measure M argue that the tax is regressive and will ultimately disproportionately affect Angelenos with lower incomes.
Eric Mann, director of the Labor Community Strategy Center and member of the Bus Riders Union, said that this is the fourth sales tax increase that would go to Metro. He questioned Metro's spending habits and the need for a fourth tax.
Mann, like other opponents, has also taken issue with the plan itself.
"These rail projects go in a straight line between one place and another, which is fine if you lived on one end and you went to work on the other—it might be OK," he said.
But for people with a more circuitous commute— for example, your work is four miles from the closest rail station and child care is three miles in a different direction and family members are spread out—an expanded Metro rail does not necessarily help.
"So what happens is you have no real mobility in LA. These rail projects are going to get rich people from the hotel and take them to the Hollywood-Highland mall or something like that. That's what they're good for. They're not good for poor people," Mann said.
But commuters like Sari Rynew see Measure M as a chance to fix LA's transit system and to continue a project—such as the recent expansion of the Expo Line—that has bettered their lives. Rynew used her daughter-in-law as an example. She is a doctor who uses the Metro to get to Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital every day.
"She could not do that job if it wasn't for public transportation because driving a car from Valley Village to MLK would be a disaster. One little accident can completely shut down the city," Rynew said.
Rynew is out campaigning for Measure M with the hope that Angelenos will agree with her that the measure is the best for transportation.
For her and others, Measure M is a chance to do what the failed Measure J sought to accomplish in 2012. Measure J lost by 1 percentage point. In an effort to prevent that from happening again, Measure M supporters will be out in full-force up until the last moment.