The final language to Measure O now reads, “Shall Ordinance No. 2432, which would authorize the City of Davis to reauthorize and extend the existing half cent sales and use tax for general government purposes and increase the sales and use tax by an additional half cent, for a combined one cent tax, through December 31, 2020, be adopted?”
As the staff report noted, “Staff has been made aware of citizen concerns relating to the wording of the measure language and believes there is merit to bringing the issue to City Council to discuss.”
According to California Election Code, the council may amend any measure until the 83rd day prior to an election by filing a resolution stating the specifics concerning the amendment. The 83rd day prior to the June 3, 2014 election falls on Wednesday, March 12, 2014.
The previous language was, “Shall Ordinance No. 2432, which would authorize the city of Davis to continue to collect a sales and use tax for general government purposes at the total rate of 1 percent through Dec. 31, 2020, be adopted?”
Mr. Dunning argued that the use of the word “continue” might suggest to voters that a “yes” “vote will merely sustain the status quo by extending a tax that is already in effect.”
He noted, “No mention anywhere of the half-cent increase we’re being asked to approve. Also no mention that the current half-cent sales tax is set to expire in 2016.”
Mr. Dunning immediately jumped into nefarious assumptions as opposed to sloppy or legalistic explanations. He wrote, “Why the council didn’t simply state those facts in plain, simple English is unclear. Maybe they think we’re stupid. Maybe they think we aren’t paying attention. Or maybe they hope they can slip this one past the censors with no one raising a red flag.”
He wrote, “Apparently, enough of us complained about this abuse of the language that the council has been sent back to the drawing board after having been taken behind the woodshed by an angry electorate.”
Dan Wolk and Lucas Frerichs originally backed Mr. Dunning’s preferred alternative, Option 2. Mr. Dunning stated, “Staff has given the council three options if it chooses to make things right with the voters. Sadly, only one of those three options — Option No. 2 — fully and accurately describes exactly what we’re being asked to approve come June 3.”
Brett Lee originally argued for the staff preferred alternative of Option 1. Mr. Dunning argued that this option “fails to mention that the current half-cent sales tax is set to expire in 2016.”
Instead, he argued, “Option No. 2 tells us exactly what we’re authorizing, but its chances of passing are slim, perhaps because it’s so straightforward it might cause some citizens to vote ‘no.’”
The council, after considerable discussion, paused the item before coming up with the compromise language.
Jose Granda, who has opposed every school parcel tax before the voters, and is leading the charge against this one, argued, “It is deceptive. It makes it appear that we are voting to continue what already exists. If that is the case why we are having a special election in June?”
He would add, “Unaware the voters will be extending a tax already in effect until 2016 without the corresponding election. By lumping both taxes into one and both elections into one the Council is presenting a false and misleading measure.”
“How do you extend a tax and at the same time continue a tax on the same sentence, same election. It violates the single subject requirement of the California Constitution regarding ballot elections,” he asked.
However, what the city council has basically done is combined the current half cent sales tax with a new half-cent sales tax and extended the sunset date until December 31, 2020.
—David M. Greenwald reporting