The dust has barely settled from Election Day, in which Salinas voters overwhelmingly approved a 1-cent sales tax increase expected to generate $20 million a year.
On Nov. 18, City Council approved another election, Feb. 24, for voters to decide on a separate 1-cent sales tax dedicated to public safety.
And in the same breath, they authorized City Attorney Chris Callihan to sue to block that election from proceeding.
Callihan says the 1-cent measure can’t be put to voters, because if approved, the city’s sales tax would exceed the 2-cent limit set by the state – thanks to Measure G, which 62 percent of voters passed Nov. 4. (The special tax would require at least two-thirds voter approval, a higher threshold, to pass.)
But Amit Pandya, chairman of the Salinas committee for public safety that gathered signatures for the special tax, says his measure would replace Measure G. It would generate the same amount of revenue and deliver it primarily to fire safety, code enforcement and police, hiring 100 new officers.
Callihan intends to file a lawsuit by the end of December to block the Elections Department from holding the election. “Otherwise, the city will have to spend $765,000 on [a special election for] a tax measure which is illegal and which could never be adopted in the city,” he writes by email.
Pandya says he’s prepared to fight back in court, and is consulting with several out-of-state attorneys, whom he declined to name. “We see this lawsuit as an empty threat,” he says. “We will continue forward with an election campaign.”