Council moves to thwart Measure B

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Pasadena Star-News (Pasadena, CA)

PASADENA, CA — Having failed to block Measure B through the courts, the Pasadena City Council has decided to thwart the local anti-corruption initiative at the ballot box.

The council agreed late Monday night to form a task force to prepare a replacement ballot measure for the June 6 election; the stated goal is to preserve the “intent” of Measure B namely, the voters’ desire for tougher campaign finance rules while eliminating the provisions council members say are either impractical or unconstitutional.

“The measure has gaping holes in it, and I don’t have a problem with a task force looking at preserving the intent of the voters while ensuring our campaign finance laws are clear, fair and constitutional,’ said Councilman Victor Gordo.

Measure B’s backers immediately condemned the decision, calling it a “cynical move by desperate politicians to undo the strong reform approved by Pasadena voters.”

“They created the task force solely to dismantle Measure B,” said Carmen Balber, an activist with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “They have made it perfectly clear week after week that they dislike the measure and want to do anything possible to overturn it.”

The Santa Monica-based FTCR wrote Measure B and successfully defended it in court.

Balber said her group has no plans to challenge the task force on legal grounds, but will campaign to make sure the voters know what she believes is the real motive behind the council’s action.

The task force is set to begin meeting in October and complete its deliberations in mid-February, giving the City Council time to put a measure on the June ballot.

Though council members say they do not want to predetermine the outcome, they have made clear that they want to see a proposal that focuses on improving transparency and strengthening financial disclosure in the city. They are not interested in seeing the types of restrictions on activities found in Measure B.

“I think nobody would disagree with the intent of Measure B. It is trying to make for good, honest government,” said Councilman Steve Haderlein. “The nuts and bolts of the measure leave something to be desired.”

Under Measure B, council members and top city administrators are barred from taking campaign contributions, gifts or employment from any person or business that has benefited from a city decision. Benefits are defined as contracts, franchises or leases.

The prohibition applies only to council members or officials who decide in favor of giving the benefit, and only in cases in which the benefit is valued at $25,000 or more.

The city of Pasadena spent four years and almost $200,000 trying to have the measure overturned on constitutional grounds. In May the California Supreme Court ruled that Pasadena had no legal standing to challenge the measure, leaving the city with no choice but to implement it.

Measure B does allow citizens to enforce its rules through civil court action. The first challenge could come from a former Pasadena councilman, Bill Paparian.

On Sept. 6 Paparian sent a letter demanding that Mayor Bill Bogaard repay three campaign contributions he received between 2002 and 2003, a first step toward bringing legal action.

“The eyes of Pasadena are upon you,” Paparian wrote, charging the mayor with wasting “years and precious city financial resources in an attempt to subvert the will of the people in frivolous litigation” in opposing Measure B.

The City Atttorney’s Office maintains that Measure B is not enforceable on any decision made prior to May 2005. However, Bogaard did not seem concerned about a possible lawsuit, noting that it might finally give the city a chance to challenge the measure on its merits.
Gary Scott can be reached at [626] 578-6300, Ext. 4458, or by e-mail at [email protected]

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