Ventura County Clerk Enabling Blurring of Ballot Measures Transparency?

By George Miller

It was brought to our attention by Richard Michael, a statewide bond issue and ballot measure watchdog, that County Clerk/Recorder/Registrar Mark Lunn has again released the public notice of local ballot measures without their titles. In some cases. titles submitted to the county appear very prejudicial, in violation of state law and definitely not in the spirit of transparency. But, voters have no opportunity to see that in the public notice and will not even learn of it until they see the ballot. Therefore it is harder to be able to contest it. Furthermore, the title omissions may be illegal, putting the validity of their ballot listings in question. We’re no legal experts, but someone may want to look into this. Today, July 30, is the deadline for the ballot measure argument public notice, so it will be interesting to see how these are handled, as well.

Then, there’s also the alleged prejudicial language of some measure descriptions. Jurisdiction officials/attorneys are responsible for wording the measures (and titles) in neutral, objective, balanced language. The County is supposed to police that, but seemingly did not. The ballot measure description is supposed to say what it does, not contain the jurisdiction officials’ or proponents’ arguments pro or con. That is reserved for the ballot arguments or rebuttals. UPDATE 7/30 10:25 PM: Aaron Starr told me he filed a lawsuit against Oxnard for improper language on three of his ballot initiatives today. More on this when we get something.

This gamesmanship occurs because officials know that most voters can’t or won’t take the trouble to study the actual measure details, arguments and rebuttals and will only read titles and very brief summaries on the ballot. Some say is a cynical ploy.

I called the Oxnard City Clerk’s office to confirm that they sent the ballot measures to the county with titles. They confirmed that they did and City Clerk Michelle Ascencion even sent me copies within minutes. Here’s just one example: Permits Measure

We submitted questions to the County Clerk’s office on this. I received a call at 530 pm from Mitch in their office. He said that the titles had been added to the site, but I still didn’t see them on the above listed page as of publication of this article. I was not able to get him back on the phone, as it was after hours. I also asked him what the mechanism is for triggering a county review of ballot language. He said he din’t know and would get back to me. We agreed that county officials may not be as close to the issues as local people and might not be as aware of what is prejudicial language. UPDATE 7/30 10:25 PM: Also received a message from Christie from their office. She said they were working on getting the titles up on the County web site by 7/31 afternoon. Nothing was said about reissuing the public notice. I’ll check on that.

This is happening with statewide measures, too. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association just filed to change the language on Proposition 15, which is the so-called “split roll,” which would begin the dismantling of Proposition 13, passed to stop runaway property tax increases a half century ago. The state named it “The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020,” which doesn’t even refer to the fact that it is a huge tax increase on many businesses (from press release):

(PR): HJTA FILES SUIT AGAINST ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR BALLOT MATERIAL DECEPTION

Today (29) Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit against California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for his abject failure to produce impartial ballot material related to Proposition 15, the “split roll” attack that seeks the partial repeal of Proposition 13.  Past criticism of Becerra’s bias has been vocal but has now reached a crescendo. Just […]

More

 

I spoke about this with local civic activist Gloria Chinea, who is often in involved ion elections issues. She said that there has to be transparency and full disclosure, so that we can understand what it is all about. She added that the state was allocating funds for education on election matters and wonders if some of that couldn’t be directed to help illuminate the ballot initiatives.

 

Here’s the public notice link appearing on the Ventura County Elections Division website when we last looked:

https://recorder.countyofventura.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Ballot-Labels-Local-Measures-3.pdf

Here’s the text (note no titles- (“Measure X” doesn’t count):

Local Measures
November 3, 2020 Presidential General Election

MEASURE “E”
City of Oxnard
Shall an ordinance establishing 1½¢ sales tax to maintain 911 emergency response times, natural disaster, public health/emergency preparedness; prevent fire station closures; address homelessness; attract/retain local businesses/jobs; keep public areas safe/clean; secure Oxnard’s long-term financial stability; maintain general services/infrastructure; requiring annual audits, public disclosure of all spending; providing $40,000,000 annually until ended by voters, used only for Oxnard, be adopted?
Yes_____ No_____ % of votes required for passage: 50% + 1

MEASURE “F”
City of Oxnard
Shall an ordinance be adopted to require expedited processing of certain city-issued development permits if projects meet specific requirements and project applications are filed by specified professionals who receive required training pursuant to a new program that includes audits of approved permits and appeals of adverse audit results, certain denied permits, and adverse certification actions against specified professionals to a designated appeals board, the decision of which may be appealed to the city council?
Yes_____ No_____ % of votes required for passage: 50% + 1

MEASURE “G”
City of Ojai
Shall the measure approving an immediate 3% tax on cannabis businesses, which will potentially add $465,000 – $1,550,000 annually to fund general city services, and approving authority for the City of Ojai to increase the tax on cannabis businesses up to 10% of gross receipts in the future, until the voters decide otherwise, be adopted?
Yes_____ No_____ % of votes required for passage: 50% + 1

MEASURE “H”
Ventura Unified School District
To preserve and improve academic programs including reading, writing, music, art, science and math; fund computer technology; retain highly qualified teachers; maintain career and technical training programs; and maintain small class sizes, shall Ventura Unified School District’s measure to renew its existing $59 parcel tax for four years be approved, raising approximately $2.2 million annually, with independent citizens’ oversight committee, all funds spent on neighborhood schools, and no money used for administrative salaries or taken by the State?
Yes_____ No_____ % of votes required for passage: two-thirds (2/3)

MEASURE “I”
City of Ventura
To fund city services (public safety, roads, parks, etc.), shall the City tax cannabis (marijuana) and hemp businesses at annual rates not to exceed $10.00 per canopy square foot for cultivation (adjustable for inflation), 8% of gross receipts for retail cannabis businesses, and 4% for all other cannabis businesses, should the city council legalize them at a future date; which will generate an unknown amount of revenue and will be levied until repealed?
Yes_____ No_____ % of votes required for passage: 50% + 1

MEASURE “J”
City of Ventura
In order to deliver street, park, sewer, and water improvements and other public works projects more efficiently and less expensively, shall Sections 400 and 1006 of the City Charter be amended to create more flexibility in the methods used to deliver those projects when the City Council designates, by ordinance, the methods allowed and determines that a particular project would benefit from those methods?
Yes_____ No_____ % of votes required for passage: 50% + 1

MEASURE “K”
Ojai Unified School District
To improve the quality of local schools; modernize and renovate classrooms, restrooms and facilities; upgrade outdated electrical, plumbing, and sewer systems; and make health, safety and security improvements; shall Ojai Unified School District’s measure be adopted authorizing $45,000,000 of bonds at legal interest rates, generating on average $2,336,000 annually while bonds are outstanding with levies of approximately 2.7 cents per $100 assessed value, annual audits, no money for salaries, citizen oversight, and no money taken by the State?
Bonds Yes_____ Bonds No_____ % of votes required for passage: 55%

MEASURE “L”
City of Oxnard
Shall the initiative ordinance to increase the powers of the City Treasurer, prohibit the City Council from reducing the powers of the City Treasurer, reduce oversight authority of the City Manager and Director of Finance, mandate the City Treasurer’s assumption of professional responsibilities with authority over the City’s $523,000,000 Budget, $256,000,000 Investment Portfolio, Finance Department, preparation and submittal of the annual municipal budget, and professional financial operations of the City, be adopted?
Yes_____ No_____ % of votes required for passage: 50% + 1

MEASURE “M”
City of Oxnard
Shall the initiative ordinance mandating all meetings of City legislative bodies to exclusively utilize prerecorded videotaped staff presentations, use Robert’s Rules of Order, purchase guidebooks and training from a professional Parliamentarian on meeting procedures, restrict meeting start times, and alter existing rules for public comment, be adopted?
Yes_____ No_____ % of votes required for passage: 50% + 1

MEASURE “N”
City of Oxnard
Shall initiative ordinance to mandate revisions to Measure O (adopted by Oxnard voters in 2008) to either end Measure O funding early for City services such as fire, emergency response, street paving/pothole repair, youth recreation, after school and anti-gang prevention programs, parks/open space preservation, and senior services if specific pavement standards for city streets and alleys are not met, or extend currently-approved expiration date if pavement standards are met, be adopted?
Yes_____ No_____ % of votes required for passage: 50% + 1

All direct arguments for measures consisting of no more than 300 words, must be submitted to the Ventura County Elections Division, Hall of Administration, 800 South Victoria Avenue, Ventura, CA, or the office of your city clerk, during business hours, between the dates of July
21, 2020 and July 30, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. Rebuttal arguments shall consist of no more than 250 words and may be submitted between the dates of July 31, 2020 and August 10, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. Additional information regarding the submittal of arguments may be obtained by calling the Ventura County Elections Division at (805) 654-2664 or your City Clerk.


Relevant article:

Oxnard Council: Debates Starr Voter Initiatives Language, Places on Ballot. In Dispute.

 

George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.


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Brian Gifford
Brian Gifford
2 months ago

The link on the county recorders site includes the document that has the titles. The link in the above article is old it will continue to bring up that old document without the titles.

Sylvia
Sylvia
2 months ago

Im glad someone caught this. This has been going on since time began. Good catch, ty.

Joe C
Joe C
2 months ago

Stop making speeches.

William Hicks
William Hicks
2 months ago

I remember Lunn as an assistant to Gallegly. He seemed a upright kind of guy then. Either he is in concert with the worse in State politic’s or just fooled by them. Either one is not acceptable.

Tom
Tom
2 months ago

Oxnard Measure E

“Shall an ordinance establishing 1½¢ sales tax” should be replaced by

Shall an ordinance increasing the 7.75¢ sales tax by 19.4% to 9.25¢….