Special election measure goes to June ballot

Come June, Glendale residents will be voting for a new council member to replace an appointed one and following a City Council decision this week, they will also be voting on whether to get rid of the city rules that required the early election in the first place.

The current rules for how to fill a seat on the dais after a council member leaves office before the end of their four-year term are costly, confusing, cause voter fatigue, and need to be changed, council members said at a City Hall meeting Tuesday.

“It’s costing us an arm and a leg and this is a way for us to eliminate that,” Mayor Dave Weaver said.

The June special election, which comes 14 months after the April municipal election which filled three council seats, was prompted by former Councilman Rafi Manoukian leaving his spot on the council to become City Treasurer. The council in April appointed a former colleague, Frank Quintero, to take his place, but city rules state once that appointment is made, a special election must take place to replace the appointee at the next election the city could participate in.

That timeline had unintended cost consequences, though, forcing the city to spend roughly $230,000 on a special election consolidated with Los Angeles County in June. And whoever wins that election can only serve until April 2015.

The green-lighted ballot measure would nix the city rule that requires a special election. Instead, an appointee would serve the remainder of their given term until the next municipal election. In addition, the council could still call a special election within 120 days of a seat being vacated instead of making an appointment at all.

Initially, those who created the appointment rules did so in order to bring the issue back to the public for a vote as soon as possible, but their intent has been overshadowed by the commotion caused by seemingly back-to-back elections.

“The disruptive nature of what we’re having right now…it’s not very conducive to city government,” said Councilman Zareh Sinanyan, adding that he believed it was causing stress for staff and the number of elections could cause less people to come out and vote.

The ballot measure may not be the only one in June.

A group of residents is currently circulating a petition to repeal a 7% tax the city imposes on utility users. The utility users’ tax generated about $26.9 million in revenues for the city last fiscal year, according to the city’s annual comprehensive financial report.

Proponents of the petition — which can be found at retailers throughout the city, such as Twigs & Things on Honolulu Avenue and Antique Car Wash on Glendale Avenue — believe city officials are misusing the revenues because they are a tax on electricity, water and other utility services, but the money flows into the General Fund, which pays for police, library, parks and other general services. In a related move, a group of residents filed a lawsuit against the city this week seeking to stop the city from transferring revenues from the utility to the General Fund.

“The [utility users tax] is a hidden tax, like a slush fund to be used at the council’s discretion,” one of the petition’s creators, Kenneth Landon, said in an email, adding that it would be more transparent if the council placed a measure on the ballot asking residents if they wanted to be taxed for general services.

Petition backers need to collect roughly 2,160 signatures by March 19 to get an initiative on the ballot, according to the state election code.

The council had considered placing a parcel tax measure on the ballot to help augment revenues for library, police or other services, but decided against doing so earlier this month due to lack of potential voter support shown in a telephone survey of 501 randomly selected residents.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story stated that the June special election comes 10 months after the April municipal election. This is incorrect. The special election comes 14 months after the April municipal election. 


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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