SAN DIEGO, CA — Today, Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney ordered new language for the ballot question summarizing the tax for a convention center measure expansion in response to a lawsuit filed by voters. The voters had charged that the City of San Diego had adopted a ballot question that was not true, impartial or transparent. The voters’ attorneys successfully argued that the City was using misleading and biased information in the ballot language that would prevent voters from making informed decisions about the measure, which is set to go before voters in March.
Specifically, the judge removed the word “independent” that the City had used to describe the City Auditor who will play a role in reviewing the use of revenue generated from the new tax. The judge also clarified the language describing the tax increase, stating that it would increase to up to 13.75% for hotel guests, a tax rate that also applies to overnight lodging in city campgrounds and other facilities.
Unfortunately, as part of the judgment, the court left voters vulnerable by agreeing with the City of San Diego attorneys that a voter protection law in California does not apply to voters in San Diego because of its status as a charter city. That could embolden the City Attorney, City Council, and the City of San Diego to ignore state election laws intended to protect voters and could erode voter rights.
Andrea Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego, said the following:
“We welcome the judge’s decision to modify the language and better inform voters about what they are being asked to decide. But we are extremely disappointed that officials in the City of San Diego, including the City Council and City Attorney, assert the position that state election transparency laws should not apply to protect voters in San Diego. This is a dangerous direction for a City that has repeatedly attempted to undermine voters. Alliance San Diego will continue to explore ways to empower voters and protect our democracy.”
Margaret Prinzing of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, and counsel for petitioners, said the following:
“We are pleased that the judge sided with voters in ensuring that the language on the ballot measure is more accurate and less biased. It is unfortunate, however, that the decision suggests the City does not have to give San Diego voters important information about how tax increases may affect them.”
Michael McConnell, voter and petitioner, said the following:
“Today, we stand victorious in our fight against the slick politicians at City Hall who tried to tip the scales against the voters by putting misleading and biased information on the ballot. It is essential that we hold them accountable. At the same time, we are disappointed that the judge ruled San Diego voters do not deserve the same type of voter protection and transparency entitled to other California voters.”
Isidro D. Ortiz, voter and petitioner, said the following:
“The change of language in the ballot measure is a victory for voters; it demonstrates that you can hold City Hall accountable to the voters of our diverse communities. Regrettably, it took legal action to get the Ccity to be straight with voters and taxpayers. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, specifically around the notion that California voter protection laws do not apply to San Diego a voters simply because we live in a charter city.”
About Alliance San Diego
Alliance San Diego is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) community empowerment organization working to ensure that all people can achieve their full potential in an environment of harmony, safety, equality, and justice. Our mission is to provide a means for diverse individuals and organizations to share information, collaborate on issues and mobilize for change in the pursuit of social justice, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. We pursue this mission through targeted civic engagement programs and strategic coalitions that focus on specific issues and policy reforms.