City of Watsonville Naming of Public Places Initiative, Measure J (June 2014)

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A City of Watsonville Naming of Public Places Initiative, Measure J ballot question was on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County, California, where it was approved.

Measure J amended the city charter to require a citywide election to decide on the new name of any public places, such as parks, public buildings, bridges, plazas, courtyards and airports. The process proposed by Measure J was designed to allow each of the seven city council members to propose a name for the public place in question. The names are then, according to the new process, put before voters at an election, and the name that receives the greatest number of votes becomes the official name of that public place.[1]

Measure J was one of three ballot initiatives put on the ballot by the group called Let The People Vote. The other two measures were called Measure H and Measure I. All three were approved.[2]

Election results

Measure J
Approveda Yes 2,740 61.81%
Election results from Santa Cruz County Elections Office


City Plaza name

Notably, there was a lot of contention over an attempt to name the Watsonville City Plaza after Dolores Huerta, the Latino co-founder of the United Farm Workers union. The issue of race was brought up, and some accused those who opposed the proposed name of racial prejudice. Pedro Castillo, a retired UC Santa Cruz professor who signed the official arguments against all three Let the People Vote initiatives, conceded that opponents of naming the plaza after Dolores Huerta might have been motivated by her connections to the union just as easily as by her race. He did speak of the shift to a Latino majority in the city as a driver of events.[3]

Race issue

While conceding that racism might not be a direct cause of Measure J, Castillo did say that the drastic increase in the Latino population of Watsonville was behind Measure J as a driving force. Of Measure J proponents, Castillo said, "This is old Watsonville hanging on. I don't want to pull the race card, but there's been a change and these folks don't like it."[3]

Gerry Martin, a retired teacher, while granting that some might have signed the initiative petitions because of racism or frustration over the power shift, said that all three Let the People Vote initiatives are "race blind, gender blind and age blind." Martin said, "Who's playing the race card? I'm not. I think this is a good idea, fairness to everybody."[3]

David Perez of Let the People Vote said he talked to more Latinos than whites when collecting signatures for the initiatives. Perez said, "I don't recall any Latinos who didn't agree with this." Perez also proposed that, regardless of the transition from a white-dominated city council to a council controlled by Latinos, "replacing one good old boy network with another" would not solve any problems. He said, "we're about letting everybody vote."[3]

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:[1]

Shall the Watsonville Municipal Code be amended to add a procedure that requires public places (as defined) be named only after being nominated by a member of the City Council and voted upon by voters in the City of Watsonville at a General or Special Municipal Election? [4]

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis of Measure J was prepared by the office of the city attorney:[1]

Citizen Initiative - Ordinance

Signatures were gathered to place Measure J on the June 4, 2014, ballot to ask Watsonville voters to approve an ordinance to change how public places are named in the City of Watsonville. This measure would amend the Watsonville Municipal Code by adding a new Chapter 7 to Title 1 entitled “Naming of Public Places.”

Presently, before the Council names a public place, the City’s Parks and Recreation Commission conducts a public hearing to consider the proposed name. Any name recommended is forwarded to the City Council for a second public hearing. If a majority of the Council agrees with the recommendation of the Parks and Recreation Commission, the name is formally adopted by majority resolution. That name remains until the name is changed or abandoned by the Council under the same process. One example of a place named this way is the Gene Hoularis and Waldo Rodriguez Youth Center which the Council named about 1992.

Some public places in Watsonville receive names without Council action. Some parks are named for nearby geographical features, subdivisions or streets: Las Brisas Park, Seaview Ranch Park, and Hope Drive Park. Some are named after the owner of the land: Hansen Temporary Park and Romo Temporary Park. Some places are required by the donor as a condition of a gift of land to remember the person associated with that land: Muzzio Park, Martin J. Franich Park, and Emmet Courts Park are examples. Some places are named by department staff. Some examples are One Police Plaza, the Fowle Booster Pump Station, the Watsonville Slough Bridge, Fire Station 2, and “WaterLab” the new laboratory at the City’s waste water treatment plant shared with UCSC.

The measure would instead require a vote at either a “General Municipal Election” held in November of even numbered years or at a “Special Municipal Election” held on an election date provided by law, before the City may “officially” name any such public place. Public places are defined as parks, buildings, bridges, plazas, courtyards or airports.

The Measure provides that before “the City” seeks to name a public place, each member of the Council is allowed to propose one name for the public place and each name is then placed on the ballot for the next election. The name receiving the most votes will then be used as the “official name” of the public place. The measure would be permanent. It will remain in effect until or unless changed by the voters.

A “Yes” vote is a vote to approve the ordinance and adopt this new method of naming public places. A “No” vote would reject the change and maintain the present status.

This Measure would be approved if a majority (more than fifty percent) of those voting vote yes. [4]

—Alan J. Smith, City Attorney[1]

Charter changes

The full text of the legislation that was enacted by the approval of Measure J is below, including the proposed addition to the city charter:[1]


Title 1 (General Provisions) of the Watsonville Municipal Code is hereby amended by adding a new Chapter 7 (Naming of Public Places).


Sec. 1-7.01 Naming of Public Places.

The naming of all public places within the City of Watsonville or owned by the City outside of the City limits shall be approved by the voters of the City of Watsonville, voting at either a General Municipal Election or Special Municipal Election. It is the intent of the voters that this initiative shall be retroactive to the date of the submission of the Notice of Intent to the City Clerk.

Sec. 1-7.02 Definitions.

The definition of public places, as used in this measure shall mean Parks, Buildings, Bridges, Plazas, Courtyards, or Airports.

Sec. 1-7.03 Procedures for Naming Public Places.

If the City seeks to name a public place as defined in this measure, each of the seven (7) City Council Members will have the right to nominate a proposed name for the respective public place to be named and each nominated name will be placed on the ballot for the voters of the City to vote on. Any City Council Member will have the right to nominate the exact same name as selected by any other Council Member, but any name nominated by more than one Council Member will appear only once on a ballot for the voters to select from.

(a)At no time shall there be more than seven (7) different names on a ballot for the voters to select from for the naming of an individual public place.

(b)The name receiving the highest number of votes at the city-wide election will be used as the official name of the public place that is sought to be named by the City.

PART 2: General Provisions.

In order to ensure the effectiveness of the proposed changes to the Municipal Code, the voters intend to make this initiative retroactive and apply to any proposed names considered for naming by the City Council on or after the date of submission of the Notice of Intent to the City Clerk.


If any provision of these Sections or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provision or applications of the Article which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provision of these Sections are severable.


This Ordinance shall be in force and take effect ten (10) days after the City Council declares the vote of the June 3, 2014, California Primary Election pursuant to California Election Code Section 9217. [4]



The following individuals signed the official arguments in favor of Measure J:[1]

  • Carlos F. Rico Sr., former business owner and former school board member
  • Aurora E. Parker, retired teacher
  • Gerry Martin, retired teacher
  • Daniel Joe Hernandez, retired navy
  • Carmen Garcia Caput, new american citizen

Arguments in favor

Official arguments

The following was submitted as the official argument in favor of Measure J:[1]

Let The People Vote— YES — on Measure I
  • Restore the People’s right to FAIR representation.
  • Retain each resident’s hope for EQUAL opportunity.
  • Rebuild trust in the PROCESS of naming public places.

Thousands of Watsonville signatures were collected to allow each & every city voter the right to have their voices heard!

Measure J is the direct result of this amazing grassroots effort. You now have the ability to take back your rights for fair & equal treatment for ALL the PEOPLE of Watsonville:

Vote YES on Measure J —— for HONESTY
Vote YES on Measure J —— for INTEGRITY
Vote YES on Measure J —— for JUSTICE

Justice will be served by creating a fair method for all City voters to participate in voting for the naming of public places. Plazas, parks, buildings, bridges, courtyards & airports within, or owned by, the City of Watsonville are included. This equal and inclusive voting process brings opportunity for residents to come together and express pride in their community.

Measure J provides for good government and empowers residents to embrace traditions, cultures and personages important to our rich history and diversity. This process energizes residents to participate proactively and keeps the final decision for the naming of public places where it belongs with... “The People.”

Measure J is an important step in taking back our basic right to vote. Watsonville voters need to stay alert, engaged and vigilant over our local government.

PLEASE SUPPORT the “Let The People Vote” effort by voting YES on MEASURE J

RESTORE Justice. Be an integral part of changing the City of Watsonville for the better.

Let’s work together for Honesty, Integrity and Justice!


—Carlos F. Rico Sr, Aurora E. Parker, Gerry Martin, Daniel Joe Hernandez and Carmen Garcia Caput, [1]



The following individuals signed the official arguments in opposition to Measure J:[1]

  • Isaac Rodriguez, community volunteer
  • Leah Sugarman, educator and mother
  • Pedro Castillo, retired university professor
  • Francisco Rodriguez, educator
  • Rev. Joseph R. Barndt, pastor

Arguments against

Opponents of the group Let the People Vote and its three initiative measures argued that, while the group claimed to be a volunteer, grass-roots effort, it was actually just a puppet for outside interests. Critics suggested that an organization called Capitola hired paid signature gatherers to put the initiatives on the ballot in order to impose its own ideology on the people of Watsonville.[1]

Some who opposed Measure J accused the Let the People Vote group of having racial prejudice and using Measure J to make it more difficult to get public places named after a Latino person. Opponents wrote, "Our public parks and building [sic] are some of our most cherished community treasures. But Measure J aims to make it more difficult to name them after any Latino. That is divisive and disrespectful to all of us."[1][3]

Official arguments

The following was submitted as the official argument against Measure J:[1]

We respectfully ask you to vote “NO” on Measure J.

Measure J results from a failed 2010 effort to name only “one” of Watsonville’s 26 publically-owned parks after a Latino leader. Today, there are still no publically-owned parks in Watsonville named after a Latino leader in a city that is over 80 percent Latino. Now, Measure J would make it more difficult to name a public park or building after any Latinos. This is wrong and discriminatory. The diversity of the people of our community is one of our city’s greatest assets and we should support policies that are respectful and inclusive of all residents of our beautiful city. Measure J is not it.

Measure J also does not give the people of Watsonville the power to decide what names to choose for public parks or buildings. Rather, it would only give each councilmember the ability to put a name on a voting ballot, not the people. City-wide elections would also cost taxpayers thousands of dollars rather than simply allowing your elected councilmembers to vote for you as they already do in other city matters.

Measure J is not a “volunteer” effort as claimed. Most signatures were collected by paid signature gatherers hired by a group based in Capitola. This secretly-funded, Capitola group is now trying to impose on Watsonville residents what it wants. The Fair Political Practices Commission is currently investigating this group regarding possible violations of campaign reporting and transparency laws.

Vote “NO” on Measure J. It will only make it more difficult to name a public park or building after a Latino, and is not respectful of all people of our community. [4]

—Isaac Rodriguez, Leah Sugarman, Pedro Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez and Rev. Joseph R. Barndt, [1]

Let the people vote

Measure H was one of three ballot initiatives put on the ballot by the group called Let The People Vote. The other two measures were called Measure H and Measure I. Measure H required council member vacancies to be filled by an election. Prior to Measure H the city charter allowed the remaining city council members to appoint someone to fill a vacancy. Measure I required a rotating mayoral position, meaning the council member from each of the seven city districts gets a turn as mayor over time. Prior to Measure I, the city charter allowed the city council to elect a mayor from among the council members.[5]

Similar measures

Approveda City of Watsonville Vacancies Filled by Election Initiative Amendment, Measure H (June 2014)
Approveda City of Watsonville Mayor Rotate Initiative Amendment, Measure I (June 2014)
Approveda City of Watsonville Naming of Public Places Initiative, Measure J (June 2014)

See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Santa Cruz County elections department, Measure J voter pamphlet information, archived April 15, 2014
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named LPTV
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Race raised as issue in Watsonville election," March 24, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named LTPV