It started with democracy. People would elect leaders to make decisions. Then some other stuff happened, and eventually there was the idea that people could just make the decisions themselves. We now call them measures or propositions or initiatives or referenda. In California, on taxes, we decided those decisions need a special, elevated level of approval – 66.6666 (repeating infinitely, of course) approval. But then a few years ago some judges started saying that wasn’t necessary, if people themselves put the tax on the ballot.
In San Diego, we tested this idea last year, with a hotel tax to expand the Convention Center. It did not reach the elevated approval threshold – it got just shy, 65 percent – but that was more than 50 percent. There were confusing instructions on the ballot, suggesting it did in fact need 66.6 percent approval, even though courts had already said it didn’t. No matter. City leaders since decided that it needed only a majority. And so, they say, the tax passed. Simple stuff.
Now, though, it’s about to get complicated. For the first time.
As Lisa Halverstadt reports, there’s a snag in the city’s attempt to move forward.
That’s because the ballot measure didn’t just increase taxes to pay for a Convention Center expansion, it also authorized the city to borrow money to pay for construction before it collected those taxes.
Issuing bonds – how cities borrow money – has itself required two-thirds voter approval in California, and the other court cases in the state that have set the stage for San Diego declaring that the ballot measure really passed have yet to grapple with the bond question.
Two former elected city attorneys and a handful of outside legal experts agree: The bond issue represents a slight wrinkle in the city’s otherwise very simple legal case.
Mayor Strikes Labor Deal to Increase Services Mayor Proposed Cutting
Mayor Todd Gloria has agreed to new labor contracts with three of the five unions for city employees, 10News reports, and City Council approval of the new deals would clear the way to give employees the pensions they lost from a 2012 ballot measure that’s recently been invalidated in court.
The deal, according to details posted on the website of the city’s white-collar labor union, the Municipal Employees Association, would give those city workers a 4 percent pay bump this July, and another 5 percent raise next year, netting them a 9 percent raise over two years.
“San Diegans have been very clear with me,” Gloria told 10News. “They want higher service levels in their neighborhoods. They want more library hours, more road repair, quicker response times on 9-1-1. By fairly compensating our employees, that’s how we get their higher service levels.”
The raise, which Gloria says will lead to increased levels of services like library hours, comes two weeks after Gloria proposed cutting library services, in his first budget offering.
That idea has been greeted coolly by the City Council. In the coming months, both the labor deals and the budget will need Council approval.
Aside from the raises, city staffers covered by the deals who were hired after the passage of Proposition B in 2012 will now be able to receive defined benefit retirement plans, after they were only eligible for 401k-style plans for nearly a decade. Courts have shot down that measure, and proponents of it essentially ended the fight earlier this month when they decided not to appeal the latest ruling, the Union-Tribune reported.
In Other News
- The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal to waive permit fees for restaurants struggling to recover from the pandemic. (NBC 7)
- A Padres player tested positive for COVID-19 before Wednesday’s game. No other positive test results were reported as of Thursday. (Dennis Lin/The Athletic)
- SDPD released video footage Thursday showing a chase and standoff with a man wanted for several altercations with police that ended with officers shooting the man outside of San Diego High. (NBC 7)
- The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts and Megan Wood, and edited by Sara Libby.