City officials mobilize to protect funding for city services

Jun 5, 2024

By Jeff Kiernan, Seth Miller, and Rajveer Rakkar

Elected city officials from Fresno, San Jose, Los Altos, Mountain View, Los Angeles, and other cities sounded the alarm at three recent events about a November ballot measure that could profoundly change how essential government services are funded in California. 

“If this measure were to pass it would cripple our ability to provide the services that our cities need and that our schools need,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass told a crowd gathered outside LA City Hall on May 16. She was joined by LA Council President Paul Krekorian and members of a broad coalition opposed to the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act — or what they have dubbed the “Taxpayer Deception Act.”

The ballot measure is spearheaded by the California Business Roundtable and funded by large corporations. Leading the opposition is Cal Cities, other local government organizations, labor, firefighters, teachers, and a wide range of community groups. To date, 246 cities have passed resolutions opposing the measure.

One key concern for opponents is a provision that could cancel measures passed by voters after Jan. 1, 2022 — undermining their decisions and threatening dozens of local measures around the state.

Los Angeles city officials worry it could void Measure ULA, a citizen’s initiative passed in November 2022 that provides between $600 million and $1.1 billion annually for the city’s affordable housing and tenant assistance programs. ULA passed by 58% — short of the two-thirds required by the proposed ballot measure.

City leaders who attended a rally a week later in San Jose also expressed concern about the fate of local initiatives. They noted that many cities are budgeting for next year and worry that the measure could create havoc.

“All these cities that are planning their budgets won’t be able to do so because they don’t know whether this retroactive measure would erode all the plans they have made — and ballot measure their residents already supported,” said Los Altos Council Member Neysa Fligor.

Mountain View Council Member Ellen Kamei said the measure could halt a property transfer tax that leaders are trying to put on the November ballot to help fund a $160 million building for police, fire, and emergency dispatch operations.

Fresno city leaders, including Council Member Luis Chavez, joined labor activist Dolores Huerta and other community leaders on May 23 at the Fresno City Hall to raise awareness about the ballot measure’s potential impact on Fresno and surrounding cities.

“This initiative minimizes our resident’s voice in determining how the city funds essential and critical investments in public safety and infrastructure today and into the future. It would continue to diminish local control,” said Clovis Mayor Lynne Ashbeck in a news release.

Opponents to the ballot measure are waiting for the California Supreme Court to weigh in later this month on a legal challenge put forward by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature. Cal Cities and other local government organizations support the challenge.

The argument centers on whether the measure is just an amendment to the state Constitution, which voters are allowed to change; or a more fundamental revision to the Constitution, which requires a different approval method.

Watch this space for updates in the coming weeks about the Supreme Court’s decision and how Cal Cities and its partners are working to defeat this ballot measure.

Paid for by Protecting Local Democracy and Vital Services, a Committee Opposed to Initiative 1935 Sponsored by the League of California Cities. Committee's Top Funder: League of California Cities