By David M. Greenwald
Woodland, CA – Judge Maguire issued his ruling on the petition for writ of mandate filed by Dan Carson last week ruling in large part for the respondents. Still both sides seemed to claim victory in statements following the ruling.
Alan Pryor told the Vanguard in a quick phone conversation that he felt “relief” that the judge for the most part found the claims by Carson to be without merit and “grateful” that the judge listened carefully and ruled accordingly.
Pryor and the No on H campaign will have a more full statement later today.
Meanwhile in a statement from the Yes on H campaign, Councilmember Dan Carson also applauded the ruling by Judge Maguire claiming that he found that “statements submitted by opponents of Measure H for use in the taxpayer-funded Voter Information Guide were false and misleading.”
Judge Maguire found that an opponent statement on project requirements to mitigate traffic falsely said that only one such measure existed when in fact nine separate commitments are among the DiSC baseline features. “The court finds clear and convincing evidence that this statement is verifiably false,” Maguire ruled.
The judge also ruled that an opponent statement related to potential greenhouse gas emissions from the project was “misleading.”
He ordered both opponent statements to be corrected in the Voter Information Guide, which at taxpayer expense is printed and distributed to voters before the election by Yolo County.
“Today’s ruling proves that our campaign opponents made false and misleading statements about Measure H, and should undercut their credibility with all voters,” Carson said. “We are thankful that Judge Maguire has taken a stand in support of truth in politics at a time when the spread of political disinformation is a growing national concern. We hope voters will visit the Yes on Measure H website… to get the truth and facts.”
Judge Maguire in his five page ruling found the statement, “and is still non-compliant with the City of Davis General Plan,” to not need to be stricken or amended.
The judge wrote, “as all agree, the project does necessitate a change to the current General Plan. Second, Real Parties in Interest are entitled to express their opinion that the project is incompatible with certain goals and policies in both the current and proposed amended General Plan…”
Further, he did find the evidence “clear and convincing” that the developer “made almost no binding commitments…” was “objectively false or misleading.” The Judge writes, “The qualifier “almost” imports an element of subjectivity or opinion, which brings the statement within the wide ambit of acceptable political speech.”
However, with respect to the Traffic Demand Management Plan being the only promise, “The Court finds clear and convincing evidence that this statement is verifiably false, because the Transportation Demand Management Plan is one of nine separate traffic-related commitments among the Baseline Project Features.”
Judge Maguire writes, “Real Parties in Interest are free to argue that the other eight commitments are vague, 15 speculative, contingent, or otherwise ineffectual, but as a matter of objective fact they cannot deny the existence of these commitments, which the word “only” does.”
The judge changed the language to “excise the word ‘only.’”
On the issue of “unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions,” the judge notes, “Petitioner argues that this phrase should be interpreted as a factual statement that the project contains no greenhouse gas emission mitigation measures. So construed, it would be objectively false.”
However, “Real Parties in Interest construe the phrase as a prediction that the project will result in significant unmitigated greenhouse emissions. So construed, the phrase would stand as an opinion “about the future effects … if the measure was enacted.””
The judge notes the words are “challenging” in part because they are a heading rather the sentence or assertion. He notes, “The text following the heading discusses the Environmental Impact Report, lending credence to the Petitioner’s interpretation that this is a false assertion that the project contains no greenhouse gas emission mitigation measures.”
However, “the brevity of the text and the inherent ambiguity in converting a heading to an assertion lead the court to conclude that the evidence is not “clear and convincing” that this heading is objectively false or misleading. Therefore, the court will not amend or strike this heading.”
Finally the court did find that 54 million pounds was “misleading.” The judge writes, “This error was made inadvertently and not in bad faith, but still should be corrected, and the figure of 20,000 metric tons will be used instead, as requested by Real Parties in Interest at the hearing.”
A statement by the Yes on H campaign notes, “The DiSC project is required to be carbon neutral – in other words, to offset all greenhouse emissions – by 2040. The project is also required to implement a series of road, transit, bicycle, and other transportation improvements that would improve traffic flows for area roads.”