Carson voters tax Big Oil to keep services flowing

City of Carson employees in AFSCME Locals 809 and 1017 are celebrating the success of a crucial sales tax measure on Big Oil on Tuesday, in a political win as improbable as it was resounding. A group of deep-pocketed oil companies ran a formidable effort to kill the measure, spending nearly three-quarters of a million dollars on negative campaign ads. By contrast, labor spent about $30,000 to promote the local revenue enhancement measure.

The two AFSCME unions allied with Mayor Albert Robles, a unanimous City Council and other key Measure C proponents to educate the public about the community benefits of this tax. The City is projected to raise an additional $24 million per year to sustain vital municipal services including public safety. Ana Meni, President of Local 809, led up the "Yes on C" effort on the labor side. The measure won overwhelmingly by 72 percent.

"We kicked Big Oil in the pants, even though they outspent us by more than ten to one," Meni said with clear pride. "They pulled every trick to deceive the voters, but this community would not be fooled."

Pipeline owners Kinder Morgan and Shell Oil, as well as Tesoro Refining & Marketing Co., which purchased BP’s Carson refinery in 2013, will be affected by the new tax, which requires them to pay the City one-fourth of 1 percent on their gross revenue.

Statewide, only three other cities have a similar oil tax: Neighboring Torrance and El Segundo, and Richmond in NoCal.  But the ballot victory is also significant for the community because it reflects an underlying cultural and political awakening in this predominantly blue collar, heavily minority area.

Bob Adams, a Council 36 Business Representative, assisted in recruiting foot soldiers in AFSCME to walk precincts to get out the vote in the days prior to Election Day. AFSCME District Council 36, the LA County Federation of Labor, and other local employee associations contributed funds to the "Yes on C" campaign, he said.