Prescott Taxpayer Protection Act (2009)
The Prescott Taxpayer Protection Committee, chaired by Brad DeVries, was the main sponsor of the initiative. According to the group's press materials, they believe "A public vote on each applicable project will prevent the City from imposing very large financial obligations on the public without citizen oversight and approval."
Legal opinion was divided as to how many signatures must be collected on the petition before the question could be placed on the November ballot. The group circulating the petition was originally told they'd need signatures equal to 15% of those who voted in the last city election. In June 2009, they were told instead that they needed signatures equalling 25% of those who voted in the most recent city election.
Conflict over requirements
The fact that petition organizers were first told they'd need 15% and later told they'd need 25% has created controversy, and suggestions of a conspiracy have risen as well.
Mayor Jack Wilson sidestepped the controversy, saying, "I don't have a position. As an elected official, I can't have a position. I have to remain neutral."
In an attempt to settle the conflict, the Prescott Town Council on June 23, 2009, in a 5-2 vote, agreed to accept the lower number of signatures (15% or 2,057).
Brad DeVries, the Chairman of the Taxpayer Protection Committee stated that this initiative is about city debt and the right to vote:
"What we're simply doing is restoring the political process that says the citizens of Prescott get to vote on major projects that are going to cost them a lot of money."
One of the reasons Devries stated that signatures weren't difficult to acquire was that the initiative was not a "hard sell." The chairman stated that many people had gathered the information quickly and intuitively, which allowed them to form an agreement that coincided with the committee.
The goal of the Taxpayer Protection Committee, according to their website, is to give residents a voice in major city expenditures that will affect taxes and city services.
When the council voted 5-2 to only require 15 percent of registered voters' signatures, Councilwoman Mary Ann Suttles and Councilman Jim Lamerson voted against the change, citing their concern about not upholding the Arizona Constitution.
City Attorney Gary Kidd also cautioned the Council that if the threshold of 25% were not met, the initiative was potentially vulnerable to a lawsuit.
According to DeVries, the number of signatures required has been turned in, with over 3400 signatures accumulated by the committee. The signatures have been submitted to the city clerk and the initiative is now on the ballot to be voted on in November.
The issue of the election in Prescott had been taken to court, so the status of if the measure will actually be voted on was uncertain. A City Council candidate brought the issue to court after he was not put on the ballot and this has put in jeopardy both ballot initiatives that were also to be voted on. The decision is with the court now and although the city has sent out all the ballots, it is still uncertain if the election will still be held in November.
|Prescott Taxpayer Protection Act Proposition 401|
Many believe this result was due to the residents wanting a say in a water pipeline project that is estimated to potential cost the city $1.7 million. The taxpayers saw this proposition as a way to have a say in that proposed project. Mayor elect did not support the initiative but said that of course the city will still function with it.
- City of Prescott Official Site
- Arizona State Legislature Site
- Arizona Constitution
- Taxpayer Protection Committee Official Site
- The Dailey Courier, "City Council candidates talk issues, from water to Prop 401" September 26, 2009
- General Election 11/3/2009 Sample Ballot
- Prescott News, "Taxpayer Protection Act Organizers Deliver Over 3400 Signatures," July 3, 2009
- Prescott News, "Mayor Wilson Speaks About Petition Fraud, 15% vs 25% & More," June 24, 2009
- Taxpayer Protection Committee, 2009
- The Daily Courier, "Legal wrangling continues as city ballots reach voters," October 21, 2009
- Yavapai County Elections, Official Election Results
- The Daily Courier, "Prop. 401 passes: Big projects are in voters' hands," November 4, 2009