City Attorney Weighs In: MEASURE J IMPERILED?

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According to a legal opinion by City Attorney Harriet Steiner, the next city council will have broad discretion in determining the shape of Measure J.

Measure J is the provision that requires a citizen’s vote for any land-use change or annexation of land out of the city’s current boundaries. Without Measure J in place, it is likely that the vote on Covell Village would never have occurred. The voters by a 60-40 margin rejected a large development outside of the city that was approved by the city council by a 4-1 vote.

Measure J sunsets on December 31, 2010. The City Council will be required prior to December 31, 2010 to place on the ballot one of four options.

The city attorney writes:

“Measure J was a City Council-initiated ballot measure that was approved by the voters in March 2000. Measure J will remain in effect until December 31, 2010, unless it is extended, amended, or repealed before that date.”

Moreover:

“By its own terms, any changes to Measure J, including amendment, extension, or repeal, must be approved by the voters of the City of Davis at an election held in accordance with state law.”

Harriet Steiner believes that the city council has four options.

  1. Not extend Measure J
  2. Extend Measure J as is
  3. Extend Measure J with an amendment or amendments
  4. “Place two or more measures on the ballot; one to extend Measure J as is and one or more additional measures to amend Measure J. The measure or measures that would go into effect would depend on how the measures were drafted, and how many votes each received, as explained below.

In addition to the council options, “the voters have the right to proceed with an initiative measure by collecting signatures and submitting an initiative petition to the City Council.”

The two measure option would place competing measures on the ballot simultaneously.

“If two competing measures amended the same municipal code sections and both measures were approved by the voters, the one that received the most votes would prevail. If only one measure passed, then the measure that passed would go into effect. If neither passed, then Measure J would expire by its own terms on December 31, 2010.

What is clear from this legal opinion is that the next city council will go a long way towards determining the shape of the next Measure J. The options give the council the discretion to alter Measure J or to even put competing measures on the ballot in an attempt to either confuse the voters or make the process more difficult.

While the citizens retain the right to put their own measure on the ballot, such an endeavor is risky and expensive with strong forces lined up against a successful effort.

The simplest way for the voters of Davis to ensure that Measure J remains part of the vital citizen-controlled process is to elect a city council that will pledge to keep Measure J in place as is and to make it permanent so that we do not face this type of vote every ten years in the future.

Where do the candidates stand on this? Both Sue Greenwald and Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald have come out in favor of making Measure J permanent and maintaining it as it is currently written. Cecilia has talked about it in her literature and on her website and Mayor Greenwald stated her position at the first candidates debate.

Rob Roy on his website vows to:

“Work to make Measure J permanent in 2010. It is important that Davis voters enjoy the direct democracy of choosing if, when, and how the city will expand. With the looming cost of our Wastewater treatment facility reaching its brink Davis cannot afford massive population increases (ie. projects like Covell Village).

Sidney Vergis during the candidates forum suggested that she would keep Measure J but make “non-substantive changes.” She has however devoted very little time or space to talking about land use issues. And she is surrounded by those who supported Measure X and opposed Measure J in its original inception.

While Stephen Souza has frequently used Measure J as a reason why we can retain the 1% growth guideline among other things, he does not mention it on his website. Nor does Don Saylor.

Perhaps the most important issue that will face the next city council will be the renewal of Measure J. For those citizens who wish for the residents of Davis to retain their choice of how, when, and where we grow, it is important that we hold our council candidates to the fire on this issue and support those who will retain Measure J in its permanent form and make it permanent. After all, it is the citizens that should have a right to determine the future of their city.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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52 thoughts on “City Attorney Weighs In: MEASURE J IMPERILED?”

  1. Anonymous

    The critical question that each voter must decide is do they want to risk placing Measure J at the mercy of campaign promises made by candidates that are at odds with their past public record?

  2. Anonymous

    The critical question that each voter must decide is do they want to risk placing Measure J at the mercy of campaign promises made by candidates that are at odds with their past public record?

  3. Anonymous

    The critical question that each voter must decide is do they want to risk placing Measure J at the mercy of campaign promises made by candidates that are at odds with their past public record?

  4. Anonymous

    The critical question that each voter must decide is do they want to risk placing Measure J at the mercy of campaign promises made by candidates that are at odds with their past public record?

  5. davisite

    If an amended and original version of Measure J are placed on the ballot along with a vote to repeal Measure J in its entirety, it is very possible that the pro-Measure J vote could be a distinct majority but split between the two with the distinct minority vote to repeal winning the most votes of the three options. There would need to be some form of choice voting here to accurately reflect the will of the electorate. The current Council candidates who may be making these decisions need to be pressed for their positions on this.

  6. davisite

    If an amended and original version of Measure J are placed on the ballot along with a vote to repeal Measure J in its entirety, it is very possible that the pro-Measure J vote could be a distinct majority but split between the two with the distinct minority vote to repeal winning the most votes of the three options. There would need to be some form of choice voting here to accurately reflect the will of the electorate. The current Council candidates who may be making these decisions need to be pressed for their positions on this.

  7. davisite

    If an amended and original version of Measure J are placed on the ballot along with a vote to repeal Measure J in its entirety, it is very possible that the pro-Measure J vote could be a distinct majority but split between the two with the distinct minority vote to repeal winning the most votes of the three options. There would need to be some form of choice voting here to accurately reflect the will of the electorate. The current Council candidates who may be making these decisions need to be pressed for their positions on this.

  8. davisite

    If an amended and original version of Measure J are placed on the ballot along with a vote to repeal Measure J in its entirety, it is very possible that the pro-Measure J vote could be a distinct majority but split between the two with the distinct minority vote to repeal winning the most votes of the three options. There would need to be some form of choice voting here to accurately reflect the will of the electorate. The current Council candidates who may be making these decisions need to be pressed for their positions on this.

  9. food for thought

    A Council majority of Asmundson, Saylor and Souza will in all liklihood be a LAME-DUCK majority in 2010. Souza has publicly declared some time back that,if reelected to the Council in 2008, it would be his last run for elected office. It is fair to speculate that Ruth Asmundson will not run again for our City Council
    after serving 2 stints as Mayor. Don Saylor is seeking reelection to our Council because the Yolo Dems denied him the opportunity to be on the Dem State Assembly primary ballot this June. It is again fair to speculate that he will try again for higher office at the first available opportunity. Do you feel comfortable placing the fate of our Measure J in the hands of a lame-duck council majority that cannot be held politically accountable soley to Davis voters?

  10. food for thought

    A Council majority of Asmundson, Saylor and Souza will in all liklihood be a LAME-DUCK majority in 2010. Souza has publicly declared some time back that,if reelected to the Council in 2008, it would be his last run for elected office. It is fair to speculate that Ruth Asmundson will not run again for our City Council
    after serving 2 stints as Mayor. Don Saylor is seeking reelection to our Council because the Yolo Dems denied him the opportunity to be on the Dem State Assembly primary ballot this June. It is again fair to speculate that he will try again for higher office at the first available opportunity. Do you feel comfortable placing the fate of our Measure J in the hands of a lame-duck council majority that cannot be held politically accountable soley to Davis voters?

  11. food for thought

    A Council majority of Asmundson, Saylor and Souza will in all liklihood be a LAME-DUCK majority in 2010. Souza has publicly declared some time back that,if reelected to the Council in 2008, it would be his last run for elected office. It is fair to speculate that Ruth Asmundson will not run again for our City Council
    after serving 2 stints as Mayor. Don Saylor is seeking reelection to our Council because the Yolo Dems denied him the opportunity to be on the Dem State Assembly primary ballot this June. It is again fair to speculate that he will try again for higher office at the first available opportunity. Do you feel comfortable placing the fate of our Measure J in the hands of a lame-duck council majority that cannot be held politically accountable soley to Davis voters?

  12. food for thought

    A Council majority of Asmundson, Saylor and Souza will in all liklihood be a LAME-DUCK majority in 2010. Souza has publicly declared some time back that,if reelected to the Council in 2008, it would be his last run for elected office. It is fair to speculate that Ruth Asmundson will not run again for our City Council
    after serving 2 stints as Mayor. Don Saylor is seeking reelection to our Council because the Yolo Dems denied him the opportunity to be on the Dem State Assembly primary ballot this June. It is again fair to speculate that he will try again for higher office at the first available opportunity. Do you feel comfortable placing the fate of our Measure J in the hands of a lame-duck council majority that cannot be held politically accountable soley to Davis voters?

  13. Mike Hart

    “Put not your faith in princes..”

    Why not have the people who organized the “No on X” campaign create “Son of J” campaign? We then collect signatures to qualify it for the 2010 ballot, raise money and have it a completed task before the next city council manages to pick out their nicknames and team jackets?

    The whole point of Measure J is simple it says “We don’t trust our city council with important decisions”. Why trust them with the decision of which form Measure J will take when brought to the voters?

    What if it comes out with just a few “subtle changes” but in general is still the same? Where would we stand? It would force Davis voters into choosing between most of what they want, and becoming a suburb of Woodland. Why let them choose?

  14. Mike Hart

    “Put not your faith in princes..”

    Why not have the people who organized the “No on X” campaign create “Son of J” campaign? We then collect signatures to qualify it for the 2010 ballot, raise money and have it a completed task before the next city council manages to pick out their nicknames and team jackets?

    The whole point of Measure J is simple it says “We don’t trust our city council with important decisions”. Why trust them with the decision of which form Measure J will take when brought to the voters?

    What if it comes out with just a few “subtle changes” but in general is still the same? Where would we stand? It would force Davis voters into choosing between most of what they want, and becoming a suburb of Woodland. Why let them choose?

  15. Mike Hart

    “Put not your faith in princes..”

    Why not have the people who organized the “No on X” campaign create “Son of J” campaign? We then collect signatures to qualify it for the 2010 ballot, raise money and have it a completed task before the next city council manages to pick out their nicknames and team jackets?

    The whole point of Measure J is simple it says “We don’t trust our city council with important decisions”. Why trust them with the decision of which form Measure J will take when brought to the voters?

    What if it comes out with just a few “subtle changes” but in general is still the same? Where would we stand? It would force Davis voters into choosing between most of what they want, and becoming a suburb of Woodland. Why let them choose?

  16. Mike Hart

    “Put not your faith in princes..”

    Why not have the people who organized the “No on X” campaign create “Son of J” campaign? We then collect signatures to qualify it for the 2010 ballot, raise money and have it a completed task before the next city council manages to pick out their nicknames and team jackets?

    The whole point of Measure J is simple it says “We don’t trust our city council with important decisions”. Why trust them with the decision of which form Measure J will take when brought to the voters?

    What if it comes out with just a few “subtle changes” but in general is still the same? Where would we stand? It would force Davis voters into choosing between most of what they want, and becoming a suburb of Woodland. Why let them choose?

  17. Anonymous

    Thank god I live in Davis! I agree with all of the above comments and take comfort in the visible fact that we are part of a very intelligent and suspicious electorate. Most concerning is the observation about the “lame duck” status of a majority of city council members. Most political history will confirm that the most political mischief antagonistic to any electorate is committed by “lame ducks” who have one foot still committed to the voters and one foot pointed toward their next meal ticket.

  18. Anonymous

    Thank god I live in Davis! I agree with all of the above comments and take comfort in the visible fact that we are part of a very intelligent and suspicious electorate. Most concerning is the observation about the “lame duck” status of a majority of city council members. Most political history will confirm that the most political mischief antagonistic to any electorate is committed by “lame ducks” who have one foot still committed to the voters and one foot pointed toward their next meal ticket.

  19. Anonymous

    Thank god I live in Davis! I agree with all of the above comments and take comfort in the visible fact that we are part of a very intelligent and suspicious electorate. Most concerning is the observation about the “lame duck” status of a majority of city council members. Most political history will confirm that the most political mischief antagonistic to any electorate is committed by “lame ducks” who have one foot still committed to the voters and one foot pointed toward their next meal ticket.

  20. Anonymous

    Thank god I live in Davis! I agree with all of the above comments and take comfort in the visible fact that we are part of a very intelligent and suspicious electorate. Most concerning is the observation about the “lame duck” status of a majority of city council members. Most political history will confirm that the most political mischief antagonistic to any electorate is committed by “lame ducks” who have one foot still committed to the voters and one foot pointed toward their next meal ticket.

  21. Christine

    I’d hate for Davis to blend in with neighboring cities; ultimately I see the sequelae of that being all of us ending up as Sacramento suburbs.

    I know, slippery slope at it’s best (worst?).

  22. Christine

    I’d hate for Davis to blend in with neighboring cities; ultimately I see the sequelae of that being all of us ending up as Sacramento suburbs.

    I know, slippery slope at it’s best (worst?).

  23. Christine

    I’d hate for Davis to blend in with neighboring cities; ultimately I see the sequelae of that being all of us ending up as Sacramento suburbs.

    I know, slippery slope at it’s best (worst?).

  24. Christine

    I’d hate for Davis to blend in with neighboring cities; ultimately I see the sequelae of that being all of us ending up as Sacramento suburbs.

    I know, slippery slope at it’s best (worst?).

  25. Anonymous

    Since we’re too good for those around us, let’s build a border fence. It would establish a more permanent visible permimiter. Even if everyone around us expands to the outside of that fence, we can still maintain the insulated bliss and small-town feel that is the essence of Davis — the epitome of a gated community.

  26. Anonymous

    Since we’re too good for those around us, let’s build a border fence. It would establish a more permanent visible permimiter. Even if everyone around us expands to the outside of that fence, we can still maintain the insulated bliss and small-town feel that is the essence of Davis — the epitome of a gated community.

  27. Anonymous

    Since we’re too good for those around us, let’s build a border fence. It would establish a more permanent visible permimiter. Even if everyone around us expands to the outside of that fence, we can still maintain the insulated bliss and small-town feel that is the essence of Davis — the epitome of a gated community.

  28. Anonymous

    Since we’re too good for those around us, let’s build a border fence. It would establish a more permanent visible permimiter. Even if everyone around us expands to the outside of that fence, we can still maintain the insulated bliss and small-town feel that is the essence of Davis — the epitome of a gated community.

  29. Anonymous

    Amen. And while we’re at let’s not notice that the growing population in other areas around us portend significant shifts in supervisorial districts which also foretell major changes in political influence and representation on the Board.

    But still…Measure J! Measure J! Measure J! To arms!

    Ostriches follow me! To grow or not to grow! That is the question!

  30. Anonymous

    Amen. And while we’re at let’s not notice that the growing population in other areas around us portend significant shifts in supervisorial districts which also foretell major changes in political influence and representation on the Board.

    But still…Measure J! Measure J! Measure J! To arms!

    Ostriches follow me! To grow or not to grow! That is the question!

  31. Anonymous

    Amen. And while we’re at let’s not notice that the growing population in other areas around us portend significant shifts in supervisorial districts which also foretell major changes in political influence and representation on the Board.

    But still…Measure J! Measure J! Measure J! To arms!

    Ostriches follow me! To grow or not to grow! That is the question!

  32. Anonymous

    Amen. And while we’re at let’s not notice that the growing population in other areas around us portend significant shifts in supervisorial districts which also foretell major changes in political influence and representation on the Board.

    But still…Measure J! Measure J! Measure J! To arms!

    Ostriches follow me! To grow or not to grow! That is the question!

  33. davisite

    The future scenerio for Davis growth has been well laid out here on this blog. We need to take this precious time when there is a housing glut for Davis to vigorously work to increase its commercial tax base. This could then supplement the city-finance-director’s analysis of negative bottom-line city revenues from future higher density and affordable residential development. The Hunt-Wessen site should not be rezoned residential for the near or intermediate future while this plan is pursued.

  34. davisite

    The future scenerio for Davis growth has been well laid out here on this blog. We need to take this precious time when there is a housing glut for Davis to vigorously work to increase its commercial tax base. This could then supplement the city-finance-director’s analysis of negative bottom-line city revenues from future higher density and affordable residential development. The Hunt-Wessen site should not be rezoned residential for the near or intermediate future while this plan is pursued.

  35. davisite

    The future scenerio for Davis growth has been well laid out here on this blog. We need to take this precious time when there is a housing glut for Davis to vigorously work to increase its commercial tax base. This could then supplement the city-finance-director’s analysis of negative bottom-line city revenues from future higher density and affordable residential development. The Hunt-Wessen site should not be rezoned residential for the near or intermediate future while this plan is pursued.

  36. davisite

    The future scenerio for Davis growth has been well laid out here on this blog. We need to take this precious time when there is a housing glut for Davis to vigorously work to increase its commercial tax base. This could then supplement the city-finance-director’s analysis of negative bottom-line city revenues from future higher density and affordable residential development. The Hunt-Wessen site should not be rezoned residential for the near or intermediate future while this plan is pursued.

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