It’s getting more ridiculous, this Measure B election.
Since up to 5 people may be signatories to the argument, the Council may also designate that the argument against can include other signatories. Further, if Council designates themselves to write the in favor and against arguments, and multiple people submit arguments, the only ones to be published are the Council’s for and against arguments. If for some reason Council Members on either side fail to submit arguments on time, then other submittals would be published based on the statutory priority list. Arguments in favor and against a measure may be no more than 300 words.
Blame it on hubris or bad legal advice, but it turns out that our city council has no idea what it’s talking about legally if they think that they have any jurisdiction on how this upcoming Measure B vote will be run. The above is not their decision to make about who “designates” what ballot argument gets chosen.
Even during the most normal of local election seasons the council has no legal say in who can write the ballot arguments. This decision is clearly within the domain of what state law refers to as the “elections official,” and which in the case of a Burbank only election would be the city clerk.
But since Burbank chose to go consolidated in November and join up with the county, it’s the county elections official who gets to make these ultimate decisions. Not the Burbank City Council, not their city attorney, not their paid staff members, and not even our supposedly independent city clerk (10403).
Not this time, and by the city’s own choice.
State law also spells out exactly what choices have to be made when it comes to determining whose name gets selected to go onto the ballot arguments, no matter who’s making it or who the elections official is, county or city. It’s never just up to the politicians or the sponsors to decide, and even the elections official has little say in who gets primacy. By law the sponsor gets first crack, and then there’s a whole spelled-out list on down the line to pick from if they choose not to draft their own statement.
The council members can write an argument if they want to, but they can’t designate it as THE argument. That’s for the elections official to decide based upon the elections code priority list. As sponsor they get first crack, but it’s not because they made the decision to place themselves as the author. It wasn’t their decision to make.
The law also allows up to five signatories on these ballot arguments, and so it’s not the case that the Burbank City Council “may” allow up to five. It’s five.
Even worse for the council members on this one (and whoever wrote last night’s ridiculously mistaken staff report), they cannot sign together into one collective noun and then try to latch four other outside names onto the list in order to give their statement additional promotion and support. Their four names will count as four names and there will thus be room for only one more.
We’re only mentioning this now because you can be damned sure that Albano & Co are going to try to get eight names onto that advocacy statement by claiming that the council-majority should only count as one, especially if Gordon can get an impressive cadre of opponents onto his own opposition piece.
Just watch. But if they insist on shooting their wad this way by all joining together as one wasted voice then that’s the decision they’ve made. It wouldn’t be ours.
The bottom line here is that our city council has absolutely no control or discretion over how this Measure B vote will be run, nor over who’s allowed to weigh in on the official ballot arguments. That’s a job for the elections official as guided by state law, and only the elections official.