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Judge Yanks Johnson's Strong Mayor Measure Off Ballot

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Johnson’s measure would shift control of the city’s day-to-day responsibilities from the unelected city manager to the mayor. With that would come major new powers, like the ability to propose the budget, veto legislation passed by council members, and hire and fire top city officials.
But Judge Loren McMaster ruled the initiative is too sweeping to be considered a simple charter amendment. Instead, he said in issuing his preliminary injunction, it’s a whole scale revision – and under the California constitution, revisions can’t be proposed through the initiative process.
Olson: “It affirms what we’ve been arguing all along: The voters may revise the charter, but must be done lawfully and through an open and inclusive process.”
Attorney Lance Olson represents labor leader Bill Camp, who sued to block the measure. He says the city council can place a charter revision on the ballot, or …
Olson: “The legal way to do it if they want to go through an initiative process is to call for the election of a charter revision commission.”
But Johnson’s supporters blasted the judge’s ruling and promised an immediate appeal. The mayor’s former campaign manager, Steve Maviglio, is a spokesman for the group behind the measure.
Maviglio: “He’s essentially saying citizens can’t reform their own government. They have to do it through a commission or an elected body. And throughout history, city councils and commissions have been very reluctant to reform themselves. It’s the people that have to do it, and the people that have the power of the initiative. We hope it’ll be overruled and this will be on the ballot in June.”
An appeals court could do that – but it would have to act soon: the Sacramento County elections department says its deadline to get a measure on the June ballot is March 1st. Otherwise, Johnson’s initiative could slip to November – or beyond.
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