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The Pacific Grove City Council is about to tackle a very unusual agenda item.

Good afternoon. 

Mary Duan here, with fingers and brain numb from spending the day hitting refresh on the vaccination website in a futile attempt to get my sister, who qualifies as of today, an appointment. It took my BFF all of five minutes on the website to find one and secure it for her, Sunday morning at Natividad. I’m trying to figure out if I can repay her by giving her my firstborn. 

But that’s not the point of today’s intro. The point will happen in just about an hour, when the Pacific Grove City Council is going to tackle one of the most unusual agenda items I’ve seen on a local council agenda pretty much ever. It’s wonky—so very wonky—but here’s a fast explanation. 

In the November 2020 general election, voters in Pacific Grove passed Measure L, an amendment to the city’s municipal code, to increase the local sales tax by half a percent. It passed with 5,363 voters saying yes, and 3,603 voters saying no, or 59.8 percent to 40.1 percent.

When implemented, Measure L was to increase the city’s total sales tax rate from 8.75 percent to 9.25 percent, generating about $1 million a year for city services.

That’s the simple part. Here comes the wonk.

It got complicated, and quickly, for P.G. when Karen Hughes, the supervising tax auditor for the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, and the CDTFA’s chief counsel, Robert Tucker, said the agency would not administer the tax as approved by voters due to what was described as “ambiguous language.” That ambiguity arose, according to P.G. City Attorney David Laredo, because a council resolution erroneously referred to the effect of Measure L as amending P.G.’s Municipal Code Chapter 6.08, rather than Chapter 6.07.

In the words of Ferris Bueller: “Missed it by that much.”

The state agency’s suggestion: Hold a special election, give it back to the voters without the ambiguity and ask again for their approval.

Special elections are pricey—they can run hundreds of thousands of dollars. In his explanation of the situation, Laredo says P.G. already took corrective action and cured what he describes as a “harmless clerical error.” And if the state doesn’t agree and insists on the special election, P.G. will “file an action” (which in plain English means they’ll sue) to challenge the state’s refusal to collect the tax the city maintains voters already approved. 

Tonight’s meeting starts at 6pm. I suggest a bowl of popcorn and a glass of something good to go along with it. You can watch live here.

Mary Duan, managing editor,

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