Los Angeles Reassignment of Funds for Library System, Measure L (March 2011)

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A City of Los Angeles Reassignment of Funds for Library System, Measure L ballot question was on the March 8, 2011 ballot for voters in the City of Los Angeles, where it was approved.[1]

Measure L reassigns funds from the city's general operating budget to the library system.

The library department receives 0.0175% of the assessed value of property in the city. With the approval of Measure L, that amount will gradually be increased over a three-year period to 0.03%. It is estimated that this will generate an additional $18 million a year for the city's public library system.[1] Under the terms of Measure L, libraries will be required to pay for their own direct and indirect costs by July 2014.[2]

Miguel Santana, the city's Chief Administrative Officer, told the city council when it voted to refer this ballot question to the March 2011 ballot that if it is approved, the city council will have to cut those funds from another area of the city's budget.[1]

The motivation for Measure L came from the fact that Mayor Villaraigosa's spending plan to deal with the reduced financial resources of the City of Los Angeles cut two days a week at many city libraries. Measure L does not restore the lost hours, but mandates that a higher percentage of the city’s property tax revenue go toward libraries.[3]

Measure L was one of 10 ballot measures on the March 8, 2011 City of Los Angeles ballot.

Election results

Measure L
Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 113,350 63.32%
No 65,669 36.68%

Election results from the Los Angeles City Clerk as of 2:44 a.m. on March 9, 2011


Cover art of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. City Council member Tom LaBonge said that the ability of future generations of Los Angelenos to enjoy the book may depend on the fate of Measure L

The official voter guide arguments in favor of Measure L were signed by Tom LaBonge and Bernard C. Parks.[3]

At a meeting of the Studio City Residents Association at the Beverly Garland Hotel on January 11, city council member LaBonge fondly recalled his first library book (Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel), going on to say, "It makes me smile every time I go into a library because I know our tax money is well spent there, every penny...Prop L will just have us adjust a little more piece of the pie and dish it out to library service."[4]

Stephen Box, a writer for LACityWatch, said, "I’m pleased that the people of LA have the opportunity to position libraries as an element of our Great City mandate but know that the work has just begun and that we must work together to prevent 'cost recovery' from diminishing any funding increases."[5]

Tomas O'Grady, who ran for City Council in district 4, said, "This is a tough one. I resent that we have to have a measure to FORCE politicians to pay for libraries. Measure L is a poor result of our DEMAND to politicians to cut waste to pay for libraries. Los Angeles Public Library Funding is obviously very important to me, but Measure L would constrain the ability of voters’ representatives to set priorities and allocate limited resources as needed. The library’s budget needs to be set in the context of all City services. I will vote yes myself on this one, just to make sure libraries get their funding. Read our proposal to pay for libraries. But with or without L, I WILL PAY FOR LIBRARIES." [6]


The official voter guide arguments in opposition to Measure L were signed by Joyce Dillard.[3]

The Los Angeles Police Protective League was opposed to Measure L. The organization's president indicated in a statement that their group was "very concerned" that Measure L might draw funding away from "other needs, including public safety."[7]

Newspaper editorials

"No on L"

The Los Angeles Times opposed Measure L, writing:

  • "This measure raises the amount of city revenue dedicated to library operations, but it doesn't increase fees or taxes to pay for the increased library spending. Thus, it asks voters to make budgeting choices without knowing what other services would be cut to pay for libraries. We love libraries, but not ballot-box budgeting."


  • "The problem with Measure L, though, is that it asks the question about library funding in artificial isolation. Dedicating more money to the library system without increasing overall city revenues means that other functions of city government will have to receive less. In the abstract, cutting library hours seems hard to defend. But what if the alternative is to hire fewer police officers, or to cut gang-intervention efforts, or to make new businesses wait longer for permits, or to close down graffiti-removal programs?"[8],[9]

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Measure L: Shall the Charter be amended to incrementally increase the amount the City is required to dedicate annually from its General Fund to the Library Department to an amount equal to .0300% of the assessed value of all property in the City, and incrementally increase the Library Department's responsibility for its direct and indirect costs until it pays for all of its direct and indirect costs, in order to provide Los Angeles neighborhood public libraries with additional funding to help restore library service hours, purchase books and support library programs, subject to audits, using existing funds with no new taxes?[10]

External links