Prescott Taxpayer Protection Act (2009)

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The Taxpayer Protection Committee Petition Initiative, also known as proposition 401, was on the November 3 ballot in Prescott, Arizona in Yavapai County since its supporters collected enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot. This initiative will change the city's charter to require a vote of Prescott's residents before the City Council is allowed to spend $40 million or more on city projects. This in hopes that the citizens will have a say in preventing large financial obligations to the city without voter's oversight[1]

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.[2][3]

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).

Support

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.[4]

Opposition

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.

Status

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.[5]

Election result

Prescott Taxpayer Protection Act Proposition 401
Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 8320 66.34%
No 4221 33.66%
Total votes 12541 100.00%
Voter turnout  %

[6]

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.[7]

External links

References