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City of Signal Hill "Taxpayers’ Right To Know and Vote" Initiative, Measure U (June 2014)

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A City of Signal Hill "Taxpayers’ Right To Know and Vote" Initiative, Measure U ballot question was on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Signal Hill in Los Angeles County, California, where it was decisively defeated.[1]

Measure U would have amended the charter of Signal Hill to require a 2/3 super-majority vote in a citywide election for the approval of property taxes, property assessments, bonded indebtedness, sales taxes and certain city fees. There was some disagreement about what fees would require the 2/3rds supermajority vote for approval. Proponents of the initiative said that the measure would not require voter approval for such city fees as traffic fines, library overdue fines, garage sale permits etc. The city council, city attorney and other opponents of the measure, however, claimed that the amendment was poorly worded and would, in fact, include all city fees and fines.[2][3]

There was a lawsuit over the ballot summary and title, in which this question was argued by both sides. Proponents disapproved of the ballot title and summary because it said that "all taxes, assessments and fees" would require a 2/3rds supermajority vote vote of the people. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien ruled in favor of the city, saying that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that the ballot title was misleading.[2]

Measure U would have also dictated that all taxes and fees be set to automatically expire in, at most, 10 years and would have required an election for re-approval. Under Measure U, assessments would have expired in, at most, 20 years and the city would have had 20 years, instead of 40, to repay bonded indebtedness.[3]

Election results

Measure U
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No93565.61%
Yes 490 34.39%
Election results from County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Election Results

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:

Charter Amendment. Shall the proposed citizens initiative Requiring 2/3 Vote For All Taxes, Assessments And Fees; Expiration Of Taxes and Fees Within 10 Years, Assessments Within 20 Years; Requiring Bond Repayment In 20 Years Initiative Charter Amendment be adopted?[4][5]

Summary

The city attorney prepared the following summary of Measure W:

This initiative measure ("Measure") would amend the Charter of the City of Signal Hill to require approval by a 2/3 vote for any increases in taxes, assessments of fees.

This Measure features:

  • No tax, assessment, fee, charge or bond indebtedness measure can be enacted without being approved by a 2/3 vote of the electors.
  • The ballot must include certain disclosures:
  • The purpose;
  • a revenue collection estimate;
  • length of payments and payment amounts of affected payers;
  • any revenue sharing agreements with any entity,
  • A financial and legislative analysis to be paid for by City must be performed by independent legal and accounting firms jointly selected by project proponents and opponents.
  • Taxes expire in no later than 10 years; assessments no later than 20 years; and fees no later than 10 years from enactment.
  • The time limit for the City to pay off the principal for most bonded indebtedness is decreased from 40 years to 20 years. Requires sinking fund for payment.
  • Fees subject to the election requirements include charges for services and benefits received including franchise fees, or to mitigate impacts caused by any activity or business.
  • Voids charter provisions making ordinances governing municipal affairs superior to state law.
  • If tax assessment or fee is for an economic development proposal, the benefited developer must pay for the election.

[5]

—City Attorney David Aleshire, [6]

Impartial analysis

The impartial analysis provided for Measure U can be revealed below:[3]

Full text

The full text of the initiative charter amendment is available here.

Support

Supporters

  • Signal Hill Community First[7]

Arguments in favor

The following official arguments were submitted in favor of Measure U:[8]

Vote YES on the "Taxpayer's Right to Know and Vote" (TRKV), an amendment to the Signal Hill Charter put on thsi Ballot by almost 20% of Signal Hill's Registered Voters.

TRKV gives you the RIGHT to VOTE on new city taxes, property assessments, property fees and city bond debt.

TRKV gives you the RIGHT to KNOW WHY the City needs your money now, and how much, how long, and who pays.

TRKV requires an IMPARTIAL FINANCIAL ANALYSIS on the same election ballot as the tax increases, so you can judge if it is FAIR and NECESSARY.

When Local politicians want to GIVE your tax dollars to a private business for "economic development." TRKV gives you the RIGHT to decide on your ballot if you approve.

New Taxes and property fees limited to 10 years or less. New property assessments and bond debts appearing on your property tax bill limited 20 years or less. These TIME LIMITS save you money by reducing financing costs.

TRKV puts you in control of your money.

TRKV requires 2/3 voter approval for new sales, use and property taxes, and property fees. TRKV retains 2/3 voter approval for new property assessment and bond debts.

California Crown is exempted from annual property assessment voting.

Ordinary municipal fees and charges are exempted from voter approval. No voting required for regular government fees like bicycle permits, library fines, police and traffic fines, and water fees.

Learn more at www.signalhillfirst.org[5]

Opposition

Opponents

The city council voted to enact a resolution officially opposing Measure U.[9]

Arguments against

The following official arguments were submitted in opposition to the initiative:[10]

Measure U is a complex city charter amendment which purports to give Signal Hill taxpayers additional rights and transparency. In reality, it strips away from all future city councils the power to manage city finances. Measure U also sidesteps and confuses taxpayer protections already in place under State Propositions 13 and 218 and conflicts with newly approved Proposition 26.

Measure U will jeopardize over time public safety and the quality of city services that residents and businesses depend on. Independent experts determined that 13 percent or $2.1 million in city revenues would be in jeopardy if Measure U passes, including $452,641 in funds to the Police Department and $772,622 to the Public Works Department.

Measure U has no financial provision for emergencies, such as earthquakes and civil disturbances. The residents of California Crown will become second-class citizens as their neighborhood's landscape assessment is subjected to a citywide election.

Measure U does not call out any exemptions. All new taxes, assessments, fees, charges and rates are subject to a two-thirds vote of the electorate, as are fee increases overall.<u> Overdue book fees, parking fines, garage sale permits, and dog licensing fees, among many others, will require two-thirds voter approval.

Measure U proponents label this "direct democracy." But it is micro-management of the worst kind, creating a minority veto over all municipal finances. No city nationwide has such a restriction measure. <u>It was drafted in secret without public input or debate. It cannot be changed or amended, a new election will be required to fix it. It will cost thousands in legal fees and take years to judges to untangle.

Signal Hill has been a strong, independent community since 1924. Measure U is an untried experiment we can ill afford. We urge a NO Vote on Measure U.[5]

Editorials

  • The Press Telegram published an editorial urging voters to reject Measure U. The editorial concluded, "The best outcome of the well-intentioned but misguided initiative called the Taxpayers’ Right to Know and Vote Initiative would be that Signal Hill residents know its potential impact and then vote it down."[11]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

Proponents and petitioners gathered over 1,000 signatures in order to qualify this initiative charter amendment for the ballot. They needed valid signatures equaling 10% of city registered voters, which amounted to 830. After investigation by the city clerk, over 870 of the submitted signatures were found to be valid, qualifying the initiative for the ballot.[12]

See also

External links

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