The people voted for it, the city opposed it. It''s been in court since February. And until recently, legal matters surrounding Measure E, the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) initiative, have been a regular item on the Marina City Council agenda.

On June 5, a discussion of Measure E was on the council agenda for open session--scheduled for discussion in plain view of the public--until it was yanked during a closed door session just before the regular meeting. That didn''t stop some citizens from rising to tell the council to stop wasting money in court fighting the anti-sprawl initiative.

Passed by the citizens of Marina by the slimmest of margins last November, Measure E limits growth on the Armstrong Ranch north of town, and draws a line around the city within which future development is allowed. In February, a pro-growth City Council challenged the measure in court, claiming that it did not fit into the city''s general plan.

Meanwhile, the city had been named as a defendant in a separate lawsuit challenging Measure E brought by the developers of Armstrong Ranch. The city has yet to decide whether to defend the measure it just recently opposed.

Since then, the city''s legal challenge to Measure E, as well as the developers lawsuit, have been discussed behind closed doors--standard procedure for matters of litigation. For the June 5 meeting however, Councilman Bruce Delgado had put the item on the open session agenda to give the public some insight as to how the city plans to proceed. The rest of the council took it off the public agenda before the citizens arrived.

"We are spending tens of thousands of dollars in a legal direction that''s pitiful and the public is not involved," says Delgado.

On May 18, Superior Court Judge Robert O''Farrell threw the city''s challenge out, saying the action was a classic "SLAPP" suit, designed to discourage public involvement and therefore illegal.

The judge stopped short of ordering the city to defend Measure E in the cross-complaint filed by the Armstrong Ranch developers. O''Farrell said it was not the court''s place to insert itself in city business until the city has "acted with some finality."

It''s that finality which is elusive.

Delgado''s June 5 agenda item was an attempt to discuss whether or not the city should get new lawyers, since the city''s attorneys would be forced to defend something they had just argued against. The council is not showing any cards.

"Issues surrounding litigation will not be discussed in open session until the litigation is resolved," says Mayor James Perrine. He says he doesn''t know "the dollar amounts expended" by the city in court thus far but said one budget showed $50,000 spent since February. It has proponents of Measure E asking questions and getting no answers.

"They are not releasing any information to the public," says Jerry Wolfe, of Marina 2020 Vision, sponsors of Measure E. "We don''t know what the city is going to do about it. Will the city defend it? And [if not,] who will defend it?"

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$5,553,700 Amount of revenue that parking operations (meters, tickets, garages and permits) are expected to generate for the city of Monterey in 2001-2002. That''s a daily average of $15,215.61.


--Source: City of Monterey Proposed Budget, 2001-2002

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