A signature-gatherer asks customers at the Lemon Grove Walmart to sign a petition opposing One Paseo. / Photo by Dustin Michelson

Signature-gathering in California is a major industry, thanks to a system that allows voters to put initiatives and referendums directly before voters.

Complaints of fraudulent tactics and other concerns have long plagued the industry.

Three lawsuits filed in San Diego over the last several months bring many of these tensions to light, Will Fritz reports in a new story.

One signature-gatherer who worked on the 2016 Chargers stadium initiative is accusing signature-gathering firm Arno Petition Consultants of fraudulent tactics that allowed them to stiff workers.

Another suit, filed by backers of the initiative to raise hotel-room taxes in order to expand the Convention Center, also against Arno Petition Consultants, accuses the firm of misrepresenting the number of workers it hired and the number of valid signatures it gathered.

Kellen Arno, the son of the firm’s owner, defended the integrity of the firm.

Speaking of drama over the Convention Center ballot measure …

Alliance Against March Vote on Convention Center Loses Ally

Another drama is brewing between the mayor and the San Diego City Council.

Last week, we reported Councilman Chris Ward was not interested in moving the initiative to raise hotel room taxes to the March 2020 ballot. The measure, which would raise hotel-room taxes to pay for a Convention Center expansion, homeless services and roads, is currently set for the November 2020 ballot.

Labor unions and the mayor are united in the push to move it to March. They’re worried about other competing ballot measures on the November ballot and they hope that a legal loophole may still be open in March that allows citizens initiatives to raise taxes with just a simple majority of voter support.

On the other side is Alliance San Diego and a coalition of progressive groups it lined up to oppose the move to March. They’re adamantly trying to enforce Measure L, the 2016 voter-approved law that puts all initiatives on November ballots by default to ensure they’re decided in elections where the most voters turn out. Labor is serious, too. Alliance San Diego told us they’d faced some blowback as a result of its hostile back and forth with labor leaders.

Perhaps in part because of that, Alliance’s coalition got slightly smaller last week. Alor Calderon, the director of the Employee Rights Center, sent a letter to the City Council revoking its endorsement of Alliance San Diego’s letter and position.

“Our position is that we rushed our support without doing the proper vetting and that under Measure L the City Council has broad discretion to place ballots on primary or general elections,” he said in an email message to Voice of San Diego.

The Council is set to decide April 15 whether to move the vote on the Convention Center expansion tax to March 2020.

U.S. to Mexico: That’s Some Nice Water You Got There

Some ideas to shore up water supplies in the western United States may rely on working with Mexico.

Ry Rivard writes about the various ideas being floated, including some that sound far-fetched, to solve California and Arizona water problems by using water from Mexican desalination plants.

Chuck Cullom, a senior water official in Arizona, said officials in his state had thought about trying to work with California to build an ocean water desalination plant here. But they realized California “would not be a safe place” once they learned about this state’s strict environmental regulations.

So they’re turning to Mexico.

That means working with Mexico on critical infrastructure — infrastructure that isn’t a wall to keep the countries apart but rather pipelines or deals that would bind them closer together.

Skateworld Survives

The San Diego City Council declined to approve the sale of the Linda Vista property that houses the last remaining skating rink, Skateworld. The property was leftover from the redevelopment system and was set to be liquidated. The Council also voted to try to develop it differently, according to the Union-Tribune.

In Other News

  • CalMatters’ Dan Walters has a succinct analysis of what may be one of the most consequential bills to come from the San Diego delegation this year: AB 5, the bill to codify a court ruling that decided drivers in a delivery service were misclassified as independent contractors. The ruling and the law could change the status of all kinds of people who would no longer be considered independent contractors if they do the core work of the organization they’re serving. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez wrote the legislation and she says she’s still open to exemptions.
  • A federal judge on Monday blocked the Trump administration’s policy of requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while U.S. officials process their cases. (Buzzfeed News)
  • The University of San Diego announced it’s renaming Serra Hall, which will now be called Saints Tekakwitha and Serra Hall in order to acknowledge Native American objections to Junipero Serra’s legacy. (Inside Higher Ed)

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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