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VENTURA : Ban on Mall Tax Plan Qualifies for Ballot

An initiative that would prohibit a tax-sharing plan for the Buenaventura Mall expansion has qualified for the March 26 ballot, Ventura City Clerk Barbara Kam said Wednesday.

Supporters of the initiative turned in 14,105 signatures, slightly more than the number Kam estimated when they were filed with her office Monday.

The county elections office verified that 10,972 of the signatures were valid--2,006 more than the 8,966 supporters needed to qualify the measure.

“We are quite pleased that it turned out this way,” said Lary Reid, an initiative proponent. “The question has always been the deadline day. Hearing it officially today is music to our ears.”

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Tuesday is the last day for the county to place a measure on the spring ballot.

Kam had requested that initiative proponents file their signatures a month in advance to give officials time to verify the names.

Reid turned in petitions only four days ago, forcing county elections officials to use a sampling of signatures for verification. The county notified Kam on Wednesday with the results.

Now, the City Council will have to decide on Monday whether to adopt the measure as it is written or place it on the ballot for consideration by Ventura voters.

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Initiative backers, known as Citizens Against the Sales Tax Giveaway, are trying to halt a proposed tax-sharing plan between the city and owners of the Buenaventura Mall.

Under the proposal now being negotiated, mall owners would pay up front for $12.5 million worth of public improvements and be reimbursed by the city’s share of increased sales tax revenue generated by the larger mall over 20 years.

City officials say the plan is a risk-free investment that would fund badly needed street improvements the city cannot afford. Initiative backers say the deal gives taxpayers’ money to developers.


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