All Those Ballot Props: A Reader's Guide
San Diego officials are talking about lots of ballot propositions lately – some are around the corner, and some are years away. Here’s your guide.
A flurry of local ballot measures has been bandied about recently.
In the past week alone, both City Council President Todd Gloria and the San Diego Chargers have detailed plans for propositions.
You can expect to hear about more initiatives soon. Three measures will appear on the city’s June ballot and a half-dozen others may also be headed to a polling place near you in the next few years.
Here’s your guide to what’s already on the ballot and a slate of prospective measures that may be coming on a future Election Day.
On the June 3 Ballot
• Prop. A: Changing Up Special Election Rules
A series of special elections last year made it apparent that the city’s election rules don’t always match state law.
After rushing to make various mismatched deadlines, City Clerk Liz Maland proposed changes to the city charter that would give officials more time to hold an election to replace a mayor or City Council member after a vacancy, and to certify election results.
• Props. B & C: Axing the New Barrio Logan Community Plan
Shipbuilders weren’t cool with the City Council’s narrow approval of an updated development blueprint that will eventually separate homes and industrial buildings in Barrio Logan. They set about overturning the vote almost immediately.
The industry and its supporters, including the Chamber of Commerce, gathered enough signatures to place two measures on the ballot. There’s a wonky reason behind the need for two items: The City Council approved the community plan update in September and then tackled related ordinances, including new zoning concepts, in a second vote in October. One ballot measure would overturn the plan itself; the other would overturn the ordinances.
Possibilities for November 2014
• Boosting the City’s Minimum Wage
City Council President Todd Gloria just detailed a ballot measure on Wednesday that would boost the city’s minimum wage over three years, setting required hourly pay at $13.09 by July 2017.
The proposition would also force companies to provide workers five paid sick days a year.
The state is already spiking its minimum wage over the next few years but Gloria wants those increases sooner – and steeper. The state plan would increase required hourly wages to $10 in two years. Meanwhile, a separate ballot push by a Silicon Valley Republican would push the rate up to $12 statewide by 2016.
Gloria’s plan would separately – and incrementally – escalate San Diego’s minimum wage.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer and business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce have already come out against Gloria’s proposal, suggesting it’ll put San Diego at a competitive disadvantage. Gloria and other supporters of the measure are convinced it’ll bring more money to San Diego businesses.
• Making Government More Open
Earlier this year, former Councilwoman Donna Frye and City Councilman David Alvarez pushed a ballot measure that would make all city communications, including any emails and text messages about city business, subject to public records requests and require the city to explain itself when it refuses to release a record.
Their efforts hit a snag in February, when the City Council indefinitely shelved the measure, which they had hoped would be placed on the June ballot.
An Alvarez spokeswoman says they’re now hoping to get the proposition on the November ballot. A City Council committee is set to hear their pitch in June. The City Council will ultimately decide whether it makes it to the ballot.
• Tweaking the City Charter
The scandal that took down ex-Mayor Bob Filner highlighted numerous inconsistencies and unclear passages in the city charter, which essentially serves as the city’s constitution.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s office detailed needed updates for nearly 50 sections of the city charter in a February memo and Goldsmith himself has urged a makeover to what he’s dubbed San Diego’s “ambiguous, outdated and incomplete” guidebook.
In its memo, Goldsmith’s office suggested the City Council could tackle all those problematic passages in two ballot measures, one this November and another in November 2016. Another option is to entirely throw out the current charter and approve a new one. A formal charter review commission has also been floated.
The San Diego County Grand Jury has since zeroed in on the city’s inability to easily oust an elected official and called for a related charter update but city officials haven’t decided how to proceed.
A City Council committee is set to receive a report from the city’s independent budget analyst later this month on how to respond to the grand jury but the full City Council will need to sign off on whether – and if so, when – potential changes should appear on the ballot.
Possibilities for November 2016
• Bolstering City Infrastructure Funding
City leaders have long mulled a megabond to fund fixes to the city’s deteriorating streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure.
Gloria used his temporary mayoral bully pulpit to try to gin up support for a 2016 ballot measure, which would aim to hike taxes to pay for repairs and new facilities, like new fire stations.
But it won’t be easy for city officials to persuade San Diegans to throw more cash at such fixes. State law requires two-thirds of voters to approve such measures.
• Charging Toward a New Stadium
The San Diego Chargers recently made their latest new stadium push public. They’re eyeing a countywide November 2016 ballot proposition that would ask taxpayers to help foot the bill for a Qualcomm Stadium replacement likely to cost roughly $1 billion, an expense economists largely agree isn’t a great investment.
Early Wednesday, Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani told XTRA Sports 1360 the team and the mayor’s office have “reached consensus” that a 2016 ballot measure is their “best shot at getting something passed.”
Fabiani was optimistic about recent city talks, the likelihood of increased cash from the NFL and improving economic prospects but he warned fans not to get their hopes up.
“We still have a long, long way to go in terms of coming up with a plan that works for the mayor, the City Council and the Chargers,” he said.
And county residents. Like the city’s megabond, this measure will require the approval of two-thirds of voters.
Likely Coming Soon, Date to be Determined
• Adding a New Cash Source for County Projects
The regional planning agency has pushed its deadline before, because it says it will only bring a measure forward if it thinks it can win. And SANDAG’s executive director, Gary Gallegos, acknowledges that the city’s infrastructure bond might create a hold-up – voters aren’t likely to approve a countywide tax increase and a citywide tax increase at the same time.
SANDAG’s looking for money to pay for projects in four areas — water quality, habitat preservation, shoreline restoration and major transit improvements — and estimates the price tag could be as much as $33 billion. The agency hasn’t married itself to a specific funding source, but it could be a sales tax, a property tax, transfer tax, a special assessment district, new fees or taxes for development projects or revenue sources normally administered by the state, like the gasoline tax.
• Reining In Convention Center Spending
Attorney Cory Briggs, who’s fighting the city’s Convention Center expansion plans in court, announced Thursday he’s now pursuing a ballot measure to ensure the city doesn’t spend more on the project than it promised.
The city had assumed it could cover its expansion-related debts with a hotel tax increase expected to draw $1 billion over three decades plus an annual $3.5 million from its day-to-day budget.
But in a March memo, two top city officials reported that interest rates had spiked, potentially meaning steeper debts.
Briggs and two San Diego residents filed city paperwork this week so they could begin gathering signatures for an initiative to prevent the city from spending more than it laid out in its initial $973 million financing plan. The 180-day signature-gathering timeline means the measure wouldn’t make the November ballot, so it’s not likely to face voters this year.
Andrew Keatts contributed to this report.