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MEASURE C has been BLOCKED by a Judge until a January 2022 Hearing
By DAVID DOWNEY | [email protected] | The Press-Enterprise
A judge has temporarily blocked certification of the election results expected to show Riverside’s Measure C was approved by voters.
The measure from the Nov. 2 ballot, which appeared to have an insurmountable lead Tuesday, Nov. 9, would let the city continue charging more than the cost of providing electricity to more than 100,000 customers and using the extra money to fund basic services such as police and fire protection. What’s at stake is $40 million a year, representing about 14% of Riverside’s operating budget, city officials have said.
In the election that concluded Nov. 2, the latest count showed yes votes outnumbered no votes 16,078 to 13,420, out of 29,498 ballots cast. A simple majority of votes in favor is enough for the measure to pass.
However, in September a group of residents calling themselves Riversiders Against Increased Taxes filed a lawsuit, alleging the measure was illegally placed on the ballot because tax measures, under state law, must be brought to voters in general elections.
Last week’s was a special election. “Our contention is it never should have been on the ballot in the first place,” the group’s attorney Chad D. Morgan has said.
On Tuesday, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Harold W. Hopp granted Morgan’s motion for a preliminary injunction blocking certification of Measure C results until at least Jan. 7, when the issue is scheduled to be argued and potentially decided.
There were several other issues on the Nov. 2 ballot, including Measure G, a Moreno Valley sales tax increase, races to fill vacancies on the Moreno Valley and Hemet city councils, and a race to fill a Moreno Valley school board seat. Hopp said his order allows Riverside County to certify results in those other local elections.
County spokesperson Brooke Federico said the registrar of voters plans to certify results of most races Nov. 18, but hold off on certifying Measure C because of the judge’s decision.
City spokesperson Phil Pitchford declined comment.
Riverside activist Jason Hunter, who has been watching the progress of the case and has told city officials the overcharging practice is illegal, said he believes the judge’s decision suggests the residents who sued will prevail in January.
“This ruling is huge because it tells you exactly where the judge is leaning,” he said.
Hunter said the city made “a real tactical error” by bringing the question to voters this month rather than in June, when Riverside voters weighed in on Riverside City Council races.
“It is very clear that this is a special election,” he said of the Nov. 2 election. “And it is very clear that this is a general tax.
” Dr. Sharon Mateja, spokesperson for Riversiders Against Increased Taxes, called on the city to “concede its loss.
” “Having wasted taxpayer money away bringing forth an illegal election to remedy an illegal electricity tax, we continue to be frustrated by the City throwing even more good money after bad in vigorously defending its unscrupulous actions in the face of overwhelming odds that it could mount even a plausible defense, much less win this case,” Mateja wrote.
She wrote that, if the city wishes to pursue its electricity tax, it should do so at the next general election, when turnout is likely to be much higher than the little more than 18% who voted on the issue, according to preliminary election results.
In answer to a judge’s question, Riverside Assistant City Attorney Neil Okazaki said the shift of electricity revenue to Riverside’s general fund, which pays for a variety of public services, has continued and will continue for now.
Measure C was placed on the ballot after another lawsuit challenged the validity of the overcharging practice. In October 2020, Superior Court Judge Craig G. Riemer declared the portion of the charge on customers’ utility bills that raises money for things unrelated to delivering electricity an unconstitutional tax, absent voter approval.
In a settlement of that suit, the city agreed to seek voter authorization this fall for the practice “as a general tax.” About 500 vote-by-mail and 100 provisional ballots still must be processed by the Riverside County Registrar of Voters. Ballots that were postmarked on or before Election Day also must be counted. The next results update is set to be posted online at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10.
Riverside City Updates
LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN and WOMEN !!!
The City has openings on 15 Boards and Commissions . Members serve a four year term. To be eligible, you must live in Riverside and be a registered voter. APPLICATIONS DUE BY NOVEMBER 15th.
Any Questions? contact:
Diana Gazzolo [email protected]
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