How Far Can Government Go?
Opposing attorneys air their Measure O arguments before appearing in state Supreme Court.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Five years ago, anti-tax crusader Mark Dierolf picked a fight with the city of Salinas when he authored Measure O, an attempt to ax the city’s tax on electricity, water and cable TV.
Dierolf, at the time head of the Monterey County Libertarian Party, repeatedly said Measure O simply would “trim the fat” from city government. City officials maintained that killing the utility tax—and losing the $8 million it brought into city coffers annually—would cut city-funded services like police, fire, parks and libraries. Salinas leaders mailed a newsletter to every household, and posted budgets and reports on the city website detailing cuts to programs and services should Measure O pass. Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, who then was Salinas’ mayor, called Measure O “the most important issue this city has faced in the past 20 years.
“It really has to do with what kind of quality of life people want,” she said. “The Libertarian view is if you dial 911 and you need a police officer, you pay for it. If you need a firefighter, you pay for it. And we don’t live in a community where that happens.”
On Nov. 5, 2002, voters defeated Measure O.
In October 2003, Dierolf and fellow Measure O proponent Angie Morfin filed a lawsuit against Salinas claiming that the city unlawfully spent more than $250,000 in taxpayer money to campaign against Measure O. The city argued it wasn’t campaigning, but rather educating residents about the pending $8 million budget cut. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Robert O’Farrell ruled that the city did nothing unlawful. But the fight didn’t end there.
Vargas and Dierolf appealed the court’s decision; now the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.
The following articles preview what attorneys for each side likely will argue.