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Manhattan Beach Told Not to Distribute Bond Measure Material

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chalk one up for those self-styled local government watchdogs.

Manhattan Beach activist Bill Eisen has won a court order barring, at least temporarily, the affluent South Bay beach city from distributing brochures about an upcoming bond measure for new city facilities.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs granted Eisen’s request for a temporary restraining order and set a hearing for Oct. 29 on whether to make permanent her ban on the city’s brochure about Measure Y on the Nov. 6 ballot. The measure seeks voter approval for a $15-million bond issue to help replace aged police and fire headquarters.

Eisen argued that the city unlawfully spent taxpayers’ money to promote the ballot measure.

The ruling surprised Manhattan Beach officials, who plan to ask the court today for an earlier hearing date, confident that they ultimately will be allowed to mail voters the brochures as planned. Stacks of them have been available for weeks at the Fire Department, police station and City Hall lobby.

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“Hopefully, when we prevail on this, we will have time to get the information out to voters,” Manhattan Beach City Atty. Robert Wadden said Wednesday.

Wadden said his office received notice of Eisen’s filing too late to reach court to argue against it initially.

Manhattan Beach officials said the City Council authorized $40,000 to inform voters about the measure, including video “tours” of the police and fire stations and other activities.

A 1976 California Supreme Court ruling forbids local governments from spending tax dollars to advocate positions on ballot measures. Eisen said Manhattan Beach’s brochures about Measure Y are “promotional” in their spelling out of problems with the current police and fire stations, including cramped quarters, leaky roofs, inadequate electrical systems, termite infestations and other shortcomings.

In her ruling Tuesday, the judge gave the city the option of adding material from Eisen to the brochure, which Eisen said would satisfy his objections.

Wadden, however, said the brochures merely lay out well-documented facts, including how much the measure would cost property owners each year, without taking a position on the measure.

Long active in local politics, Eisen has run unsuccessfully for a seat on the City Council. He also helped lead campaigns for two ballot initiatives, one to convert a large piece of vacant property downtown to public space and the other to restrict commercial activities near the beach. Both measures lost.

Eisen said Wednesday that he drew his inspiration for his effort against the city mailings from a court ruling--also by Judge Janavs--prohibiting the city of Long Beach from sending publicly funded mailings against a ballot initiative last year. Voters approved the measure to slash that city’s utility tax.


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