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What's in a Letter?

By Jorge Casuso

August 21 -- KK -- the letters reviled by union backers when they were used to designate a hotel-backed living wage measure two years ago -- are back on the November ballot, only this time they will be used to designate a measure backed by the City Council.

Tarnished in 2000 by allusions to the KKK and laughingly called KaKa, the new Measure KK -- a Charter Amendment that would lift TORCA Tax restrictions to free up funds for affordable housing -- is the last of six designations starting with Measure FF picked by the County Registrars office.

County officials said there is no grace period before a designation can be reused and that the letters accompanying the six measures on the November 5 ballot were chosen because they were the half dozen available that were grouped in alphabetical order.

"Santa Monica did not request letter designations, so we wanted to give them six in a row and that's what was available," said Charles Hinojos Jr., who heads the election Planning Section for the County Registrar. "We didn't want to give them scattered."

Some Cities request specific letters for ballot measures, and school districts often ask that education measures not be designated with the letters D or F, Hinojos said.

"Some say don't give me an F," he said. But he noted that "the Downey School District requested D for Downey."

Political experts said ballot order is more important than the choice of letters or numbers, although some designations, such as Prop 13 (which froze property taxes statewide in the 70s) might have positive connotations, while others, such as Prop 187 (which cracked down on illegal immigrants) could have negative fallout.

There is no study (although there is some anecdotal evidence) indicating that certain letters and numbers have positive or negative connotations, said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Senior Scholar at USC's School of Policy, Planning and Development and a top political pundit. But ballot order, she said, has been shown to be a factor.

"It's always better to be close to the top," she said, adding that by State law, bonds precede legislative initiatives, which are followed by voter initiatives. "If you thought (order) didn't matter, do you think (the State Legislature) would have passed the law?"

All the measures on the November ballot are local initiatives. Following is the list of designations accompanied by the wording on the ballot.

Measure FF -- Amend City Charter Re Evictions
Measure GG -- Rent Control Board Compensation
Measure HH -- Governing Board Election Changes
Measure II -- Charter Amendment Conversion to Condominiums
Measure JJ -- Ordinance -- Minimum Wage
Measure KK -- City Charter Amendment -- TORCA Tax Restrictions

For information on the measures visit the City Clerk's Election 2002 page on the City Web site.
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