Thursday, July 24, 2014

Two city ballot measures in the making

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 2:38 PM

click to enlarge Calef: "It is up to the people." - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Calef: "It is up to the people."
One thing about Kanda Calef: She's persistent. Having first proposed a ballot measure to make the city attorney elected rather than appointed by the mayor in spring 2013, she later withdrew it from City Council consideration in the face of opposition.

Now, she's moving on it again, this time through the initiative process. And, she has another measure up her sleeve as well: One that would require all urban renewal projects to be approved by voters. This measure is clearly aimed at the City for Champions tourism venture, which calls for the Urban Renewal Authority to issue debt. The authority can do so without a vote of the people.

Both measures are intended for the April 2015 city election at which voters also will elect three at-large Council members and a mayor.

Calef, a conservative operative — she supports keeping the downtown Drake Power Plant on line as long as possible to keep electric rates low — knows how the system works and how to push things along.

She recently appeared before the Initiative Review Committee with her two ballot measures and reports that the city attorney question needs no changes to pass the Title Board, which is comprised of city officials, including a legal and city clerk's representative, sets ballot language. The urban renewal measure needs some tinkering to the wording and is being revised to meet requirements in order to pass muster with the Title Board, she reports via e-mail.

The committee behind the measures, about which little is known, will have 90 days to collect an adequate number of signatures to get something on the ballot.

As she reports, "The petitioner's committee will not be seeking the City Council to assist us in getting this language on the ballot, as we have seen little movement to take anything to the voters by our current Council and time is limited."

Calef also issued this statement on behalf of the initiative committee:
The goal of each of these initiatives is to provide citizens a seat at the table in their local government.

Right now, the city attorney works only for the Mayor, not for the citizens of this city. So, any agenda that the Mayor may have is promoted through the City Attorney's office and their legal opinions always show a clear bias. Additonally [sic], right now, even with a City Attorney, citizens have paid $2.7 Million to Hogan Lovells law firm and the City Attorney is the one who approves that expense, even though she is the one who has a staff of almost 50 and a budget of more than $5 Million.

With regard to the Urban Renewal Authority, it is an entity of the city that incurs debt, yet we don't get a say in it. With City for Champions alone, the URA would incur debt upwords of hundreds of millions of dollars. You would think that citizens would be given a chance to vote.

It is obvious that accountability and transparency is not a high priority for the administration that is currently running our city. It is up to the people to force them to take notice.
Hogan Lovells attorney John Cook did legal work for Mayor Steve Bach during his campaign in 2011 and since then has been involved in city legal matters across the spectrum of issues, which we've written about several times. Most recently, we reported the firm has collected $2.7 million in fees, and recently was hired to assess the city's IT system for a fee of $89,000.

Here are the measures as initially presented:

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