I hope you’ll join me in donating to Lifewater in honor of Roy’s Run. Roy Wiegand has been a community activist in Burbank for many years. For the past few years he’s conducted a fund raising marathon for various charities. This time Roy is braving the scorching heat of Death Valley in a 135 mile one man marathon! More info here: https://give.lifewater.org/fundraiser/1510686
Here’s a presentation I made to the City Council on Thursday. Read the entire text below.
I attended the city council meeting on September 26th where the seeds of Measure V were sold to the public. In brief, Measure V asks voters to extend the terms of all current city council members by nearly two years. It changes our city charter and cancels three scheduled elections.
The bill that started all this, SB-415 directs cities with low voter turnout to align their elections with the county and state. This all sounds great. Who doesn’t want more voter participation? I do!
But what Measure V has been twisted to do — is take advantage of the public’s willingness to follow state law while at the same time — making the Council less accountable to the voters of Burbank.
Measure V is a power grab. The proposed extension of your terms is unnecessary. The deadline to comply with SB-415 is November of 2022. You are asking voters to eliminate three elections before this deadline. Elections that would hold you accountable to voters. That’s the opposite of voter participation. Cancelling elections, expanding your power. Measure V is perfectly Orwellian. And I’ll remind the public that Council-member Murphy was not elected. He was appointed. No matter what a good guy he is, I am not comfortable extending his term without any accountability to Burbank voters.
There were so many options you could have explored to comply with this new law. SB-415 allows us to have special elections anytime we want. You could have done the right thing — served out your current terms and faced voters in the elections scheduled before the deadline.
Burbank residents make sacrifices of their own every day. But you don’t want to sacrifice one ounce of power. You could have easily done the noble thing and proposed a one time contraction of the duration of council terms. If you had done that I would be in support of this measure.
But Measure V is a power grab – plain and simple. We have plenty of time to comply with the Voter Participation Act. There are more elections before the deadline. Cancelling elections and extending your terms is completely unnecessary.
I’m urging voters to VOTE NO ON MEASURE V.
Measure V is a blatant power grab by the current City Council. The law in question (SB415) says we have to change our elections to align with the County and State by November 8, 2022. The state isn’t insisting we do this right away. So what’s the rush? If we waited to comply with the actual “due” date, we could still have two more elections! The City Council is using this law as an excuse to unnecessarily extend their terms. All that was necessary to be in compliance with the new state law was to have a plan in place by January of 2018. So oddly enough, we’ve ALREADY complied with SB415!
The Council should have asked voters to amend the Charter first and then hold our general elections as planned until 2022. And SB415 allows us to have a special election any time to get our election cycle in sync with the state.
Instead, what the city is asking of voters is a disgusting power grab. The good news is, we have a choice. The Council can’t change the city charter without our permission.
VOTE NO on V.
The law can be read here. And the deadline is mentioned here:
(cities)…may hold an election other than on a statewide election date if, by January 1, 2018, the political subdivision has adopted a plan to consolidate a future election with a statewide election not later than the November 8, 2022, statewide general election.
Think about this: Tim Murphy, who was appointed, not elected, would have his term extended with zero accountability to the residents of Burbank.
I’m cut ‘n pasting from Jim Casey’s Facebook post. Jim runs Preserve Burbank. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude for asking important questions.
Here is the email reply I received today after my inquiry into the PR company hired by the City of Burbank for our upcoming ballot measures (and I’m pretty sure for the push to increase our city sales tax in November). I hope you’re sitting down…
Dear Mr. Casey,
I was forwarded your email from the City Council concerning your questions about the hiring of our educational, outreach consultant, Cerrell. I’ve included the answers to your question as listed below.
1. Who authorized the hiring of an outside PR firm to promote these measures? On March 6, 2018, during the mid-year budget adjustment, the City Council approved the hiring of Cerrell “to have a professional communications firm (Cerrell Associates) conduct a robust public education and outreach program to provide residents with information on the potential November 2018 ballot measure and demonstrate the importance of dedicated local funding and the seriousness of the city’s fiscal situation.” To prepare for the November election, Cerrell has also been helping city staff with the June measures to ensure that Burbank residents are informed and educated regarding the facts. Cerrell was selected after a competitive bidding process was conducted.
2. How much is this firm being paid? The cost of the contract is $175,000 which includes hard costs. The majority of this is used for materials. Cerrell’s fees total $76,000 for work being conducted between March and November.
3. What scripts are being used to answer questions? The information being shared with the Burbank public is presented on the website, burbankelections.com. Here you will find current information regarding the June measures, questions and answers and the PowerPoint presentation used for public outreach and educational meetings.
4. Who wrote these scripts? The educational materials were written by both Cerrell and City staff. All have been reviewed by the City Attorney to ensure compliance with the law to provide factual information that does not persuade or influence.
5. What phone list was provided to this firm for contacting members of the community? The phone list being used to conduct outreach includes a diverse range of stakeholders groups within the City of Burbank. It is attached.
6. Who provided this list? The list was developed by city staff with the help of Cerrell and encompasses a wide range of groups.
Asst. Community Development Director
Business & Economic Development
Communications Manager/Public Information Officer
City of Burbank
I replied with the following questions that I imagine will not be answered until next week:
Thank you for your prompt and informative reply to my email.
I have a few additional questions.
1. What specifically does “materials” mean as included in the “hard costs?” Does this include the Supplemental Voter Information booklets and postage? Can you include a breakdown of how this money is spent?
2. What outreach or public questions would need to be answered for measures that have no published “Arguments Against?” What is being told to callers who ask about this? Can you tell me what possible arguments there might be against these measures? I can’t seem to find any, anywhere.
3. How were “Arguments Against” solicited? How much public outreach time and money was spent to consider alternatives to the proposed measures?
I’ll let you all know what I hear back.
[UPDATE: I based my research below on some out of date numbers from a prior city council meeting presentation. I just learned about the error and wanted to make this correction to the post. The revised numbers would not cost the school district millions per election but still hundreds of thousands of dollars each cycle. More exact numbers aren’t possible to calculate because they are based on a number of factors. For example, how many candidates file for how many seats. The current estimates hover around $150,000 per election. Certainly not millions of dollars, unless you add them up over the years. I apologize for the error. However, this doesn’t change my position at all. The Council still wants to offload the election costs they’ve alway covered. Which will take away valuable resources from the district and will ultimately hurt students.]
I’ve followed and researched this issue and will be posting a bit more in the coming days on the other local measures on the June 5th ballot. But this one is a no brainer.
The State of California is forcing smaller cities with poor voter participation to move their elections times to align with statewide elections. That’s a noble effort that makes a lot of sense on its face. But there’s a catch: This is going to cost the Burbank Unified School District
millions hundreds of thousands of dollars each election, by forcing them to pay for the cost of county elections!
You see, the city has long wanted to offload the expense of school board elections onto the BUSD. Currently, the City administers and handles the school board elections. The cost for these elections is small compared to County-run elections. Moving school board elections to align with statewide elections will put an expensive burden on our school district. Guess who will get hurt by this?
You’ll notice no one from the school board stepped up to write an argument in favor of voting yes on Y. They are between a rock and a hard place. Urging voters to mark yes will cost them millions. Urging a no vote suggests “We hate Democracy!” It’s a sticky situation. As I have come to learn in my research, the repercussions of voting No on Y and thereby sticking with our current system, are not very serious. Literally, the worst thing that could happen if Y doesn’t pass, is that a judge could force us to comply one day.
Why should we burden our school district? It’s an expensive strategy that will ultimately hurt students.