On January 24, 2014, city clerk Shirley Concolino rejected a measure that would force a public vote on Sacramento’s downtown arena project. The stated purpose of the measure, titled “Voter Approval for Public Funding of a Professional Sports Arena Act,” was to prohibit Sacramento from borrowing against the city’s general fund for purposes of building a professional sports arena absent the support of a majority of voters.
Concolino stated in a press release that the petitions gathering signatures for the measure violated numerous provisions of the state and city election codes. Flaws included the omission of pertinent information and different wording among nine versions of the petition. Concolino also determined that the petitions violated the Sacramento City Charter. She called these defects “major” legal flaws.
The two organizations circulating the petitions, Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal, collected 22,938 signatures in favor of placing the measure on the June 3 ballot. But because thousands of those signatures came from defective petitions, the count fell short of that needed to pass the measure. The measure would give Sacramento voters a chance to vote in November on the city’s public subsidy. Most of the $258 million the city plans to contribute would come from bonds backed by parking space fees.
The groups are expected to challenge Concolino’s decision in court. They view the petitions’ flaws as “minor and insignificant printing errors” – technicalities they believe should not prevent general fund spending from going to a vote. Under current election law, judges tend to interpret petition requirements strictly. Ballot initiative laws set out explicit requirements, and city clerks have little discretion to overlook defects.
Additional information, which the author of this blog post consulted in preparing this post, is available at the following sites: