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January 17, 2012
Santa Clara attorney: 49ers petition drive illegal (or at least that's what city should say)
For those who missed it, on Friday Santa Clara city attorney Ren Nosky issued an opinion that the petition drive to force a re-vote on the San Francisco 49ers stadium project is illegal, since referenda can only be used to repeal "legislative" acts, not "administrative" acts. Since the city council is just carrying out implementation of a previously approved stadium plan, argues Nosky, no second vote is possible.
Of course, given that that implementation included going from $444 million in public grants and loans to $850 million, one might reasonably argue that this isn't actually the same plan that voters approved back in June 2010. Where's Plutarch when you need him for a ruling?
In any event, Nosky noted that his position doesn't hold any more sway than that of any long-dead Greek philosopher, saying: "I'm just advising the stadium authority on what position to take. My opinion doesn't matter. The courts would ultimately decide this." He did, though, manage to throw a wrench into a petition drive that's on a tight timetable (deadline: tomorrow) — that couldn't possibly have been intentional, could it?
Neil - the money didn't go from $444 million to $850 million.
They kept the $444 million off of the stadium Measure J ballot because in CA there is no requirement for cost disclosure on city wide ballot measures.
Measure J only disclosed $40 million in RDA funds and $35 million in hotel taxes. That's it. Zero loans.
The RDA funds are now questionable because our Gov. did away with RDAs. The hotel tax remains.
The loans went from $ZERO to $850 million. That's the issue here.
To say that 'Whoops! Now your city agency is responsible for $850 million in loans for a stadium - loans that the people never approved - and it's an administrative act so you can't do anything about it.' would set a terrible precedent, wouldn't it?
The people of Santa Clara did not vote to give our city council a blank check for the stadium. If the loans are such a good idea, why don't the 49ers carry the loans?
Santa Clara--Where Democracy goes to Die
In early 2010 then Mayor (and current council member) Patricia Mahan stated a citizen's initiative was a better way to get to a vote than a city sponsored initiative. "It is less susceptible to legal challenges that way. When the voters speak, the voters speak..."
She was referring to the citizen's initiative for Measure J sponsored by SCEP, or Santa Clarans for Economic Progress--the Orwellian named front group funded by the 49ers which included ex (and now current) council members Pat Kolstad and Lisa Gillmor
Now fast forward to early 2012 and we have a possibility of a genuine citizen's initiative and the council, city staff, and 49ers don't like it one little bit.
Our new city attorney, Ren Nosky, whose hiring raised at least a few eyebrows (as his previous employer, the City of Modesto, in 2007 paid $408K to settle a sexual harassment suit against him by a fellow city attorney with a second pending suit by yet another attorney filed in 2009) is clearly in my view not acting independently.
I think it's safe to he's a marionette. In fact (and almost in a perverse way to his credit) his quotes accompanying the article don't appear to be conveying much passion. I'd hasten to say that the council decided in their December 27th meeting that this was going to be their latest sneer at direct citizen's action and Nosky is merely following their orders. After all in his short time here he knows it's better for his paycheck to serve the 49ers than people who actually have to live here.
And yes, I agree with you Neil, the timing was clearly intended to break morale of the signature gatherers, but really since no tactics of the stadium mob really can be considered surprising, I doubt it had much effect.
Without question the DDA announced last month is an epic "bait and switch" that even a blind man could see (and have anticipated). What the city is attempting to do is analogous to a football team trying for a quick snap after a questionable play (the DDA) to prevent any challenge flag and further review.
The voters should get a real say in this, with honestly written ballot language stating risks/costs/benefits with a limit on campaign spending that would prevent the 49ers from simply buying another election.
Whether that'll happen is a question for another day.
In a referendum the ballot language is the documents which the citizen's are protesting. So the actual DDA (stadium contract) and Joinder (financing agreement) will be on the ballot, with a neutral sounding ballot question about whether or not council resolutions 11-17 and 11-16 should be kept or rejected. The 49ers/pro-stadium council members/stadium boosters don't get to write the ballot language or ballot question this time.
And this time, the money has been disclosed. There's no hiding that $850 million number.
Correction, it was the City of Stockton that paid out nearly $500K to settle the sexual harassment claim against the City of Santa Clara attorney Ren Nosky.