Democracy in the Courts
Lawyer says General Plan Initiative needs to be on the ballot.
Thursday, November 2, 2006
Proponents of the General Plan Initiative have filed a motion in federal court that they hope will speed up a process that allows voters to weigh in on the slow-growth ballot measure.
Attorney Fredric Woocher, who represents the proponents and filed the motion late last week, said “the determination of the Padilla case leaves little doubt that Judge Ware’s decision on the initiative needs to be reversed.”
Woocher refers to Padilla v. Lever, in which the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to recall petitions.
The court noted that its decision “is directly supported by the decisions of two of our sister circuits,” which held that the minority-language requirement of the Voting Rights Act does not apply to initiative petitions.
About 16,000 county residents had signed such a petition to put the General Plan Initiative on the ballot in January. County Supervisors refused to place the initiative on the ballot, citing a lawsuit which argued that the initiative violated the Voting Rights Act.
The Supervisors later refused to place another slow-growth initiative on the ballot—opposing the Butterfly Villages development, which is part of the bigger Rancho San Juan plan.
Despite the court’s decision in Padilla, county attorneys have maintained that it does not apply to the General Plan Initiative. Assistant County Counsel Leroy Blankenship did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The motion filed last week says the initiative should have appeared on the June primary ballot, and charges County Supes with stalling a vote until after the County has adopted its General Plan Update, slated for approval by the end of the year.
Woocher says the court likely won’t act on the motion until mid-November at the earliest. His motion describes that fact as part of an injustice. “Each day that the Initiative dos not appear on the ballot, Appellants and the thousands of other Monterey County voters who signed the petitions demanding a vote on the General Plan Initiative are being denied their fundamental First Amendment right,” it says.