Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa briefly walked out of a transportation committee meeting Thursday after another elected official used the term “gang rape” in a reference to a transit sales tax championed by the mayor.
The dust-up came at a committee meeting of several Metro board members who were discussing whether to endorse state legislation clearing the way for a November ballot measure to indefinitely extend Measure R, the half-cent sales tax for transportation projects.
Villaraigosa was chief proponent of the Measure R, which was approved by voters in 2008, and has launched the current effort to extend the tax.
Board member and county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich made the "gang rape" remark, apparently alluding to his discontent with the initial campaign to get Measure R approved. Villaraigosa objected to Antonovich's language and left the meeting.
"The point is Measure R is a countywide tax -- not a just an L.A. city tax," Antonovich spokesman Tony Bell wrote in an email. "Any extension requires the input of all the county’s town councils, cities and regional associations.
"If L.A. city wants a tax to pay for their individual projects, then they should vote to tax themselves without including the rest of the county -– who have their own vital transit needs," he wrote.
The mayor’s office declined to comment on the incident.
Villaraigosa returned to the meeting a short time later for the vote to back the tax-extension legislation, written by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles). It was endorsed by the panel on a 3-2 vote.
-- Ari Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times