THE SORDID HISTORY BEHIND MEASURE D
And how three Desert Trumpet writers are planning to vote
On your ballots this November 8th is Measure D, otherwise known as the “taxpayer protection and government reform” measure. However, a quick history of how this measure came to be reveals that this piece of legislation is anything but.
2022’s Measure D is yet another stain on the County Supervisors’ sordid history of overriding their electors, particularly when addressing salary limitations. In 2012, San Bernardino County voters passed Measure R by a majority vote, which sought to lower County Supervisor pay to $60,000. County supervisors placed Measure Q, a competing measure, on the ballot to undermine Measure R. Measure R passed with an overwhelming majority, gaining the votes of over 64% of county voters. The competing measure, however, which set the salaries of County Supervisors to match the median salaries of supervisors in Riverside County, San Diego County, and Orange County, also passed. Measure Q received 17,287 more votes than Measure R and superseded it. Measure Q and the $60,000 salary limit was never implemented by the County as a result.
San Bernardino County voters were given yet another opportunity to voice their concerns regarding County Supervisor pay eight years later. You may recall that in November 2020 County voters overwhelmingly approved Measure K, which set County Supervisor pay to $60,000 (to match the median household income of county residents) and limited them to one four-year term of office. The Red Brennan Group, which sponsored the measure, pointed out that Supervisors had recently hired a CEO who took over the majority of their work, making the Supervisors’ $285,000 individual salary and benefits package unnecessary.
County Supervisors were understandably unhappy with a potential 80% cut in salary and benefits promised by K. Repeating the tactics from 2012, they placed a competing measure on the ballot known as Measure J. Disguising itself as a county charter amendment, Measure J limited County Supervisor’s salaries to 80% of Superior Court judges pay, made increases subject to a public hearing and established a three-term limit. The measure included a plethora of other changes to the County charter. Measure J barely passed, receiving less than a 2% majority vote versus Measure K’s 67% majority.
Rather than certifying the election results and implementing Measure K, County Supervisors instead had the Clerk of their Board sue the Registrar of Voters over the measure, thus putting the salary and term limits initiative in legislative limbo, which lands us at Measure D.
2022’s Measure D is the County Supervisors’ attempt at overriding Measure K and insuring implementation of the salary and term limit components of J. Measure D reestablishes the three term limit that would be eliminated should Measure K succeed in the courts. And is in J, Supervisor salaries are tied to an external measure - 80% of the $225,074 paid to San Bernardino County Superior Court judges, but it eliminates the public hearing. The argument that it prevents County Supervisors from raising their own salary is moot, since their salary is indexed to that of the County judges. Measure D also increases the majority necessary for County Supervisors to put a tax increase before voters — currently that requires a 3/5 majority, Measure D makes it a 4/5 majority. Still, either way, all tax increases proposed by the Board of Supervisors must be approved by the voters.
It’s unclear where the claims of job creation, improved roads, fixed potholes and bridges and other fantasy infrastructure improvements touted by Measure D proponents come from - there is no basis for them in Measure D.
So what to do….here are our takes:
Cindy Bernard: I can’t get off the fence on this one. I voted no on Measure K. I believe that elected officials should be fairly compensated and $60,000 is not fair for managing super sized districts in the largest County in the United States. I also believe that one term is not enough time to learn the job. However the campaign for Measure D turns my stomach - the Supervisors have sanctioned a deceitful campaign for D that is as manipulative as the campaign for EE (which IS a definite NO for me). I would like to see San Bernardino County broken into smaller districts, maybe the $60,000 salary would force that. However, I am not ready to vote YES or NO and remain undecided on D.
Jonathan Hume: I'm disappointed it's necessary but given the circumstances I'll be voting YES on D. D does three things: 1) it makes tax increases marginally more difficult, 2) exempts the current supervisors from being term limited out of office anytime soon, and 3) keeps supervisor salaries at a reasonable level. It's a counter-reaction to previous ballot measures which pushed perennially appealing and populist -- but to my mind, wrong-headed and demagogic -- term limits and draconian salary cuts. Here's my reasoning: D's promise to make tax increases more difficult is purely for show. But regarding supervisor pay, anyone who believes the commonweal is well served by paying public officials peanuts, salaries far too low to survive on and far below what they could earn in similar positions either in private industry or public service, I have news for you: there's no better way of inviting graft and corruption. Then term limits -- term limits just make the door revolve faster, and they tend to make public officials' dependence on lobbyists even greater. They're chronically appealing to frustrated voters but at the end of the day they're no substitute for political power and winning voters to your cause. They're a feel-good measure which accomplishes little. Then EE, secession? Risible. No, no and no.
Natalie Zuk: The only purpose behind this ballot measure is to overturn Measure K, which was approved by over 66% of county voters in 2020. This becomes obvious when given a breakdown of Measure D. Not only that, but the measure is redundant since it attempts to address changes to the County charter that voters have already established or voted on previously, even as recently as 2020.
Measure D contains three baseless components. Qualifying them as such is primarily because these three components are already established in the County Charter: salary for County Supervisors, term limits for County Supervisors, and how to submit taxes for voter approval. Setting the salary to match 80% of a judge’s median salary has already been established under Measure J, and forcing citizens to vote on this issue again is not only redundant but a waste of taxpayer money. Measure D’s attempt to sway voters by requiring a 4/5th’s approval of taxes would also make little difference when all tax levies must be submitted to the electorate at present as a protection set forth in the California Constitution. Given the history behind Measure D, it remains clear that this is a piece of bad legislation intended to deceive voters into overturning the term limits and salary limitations already established under Measure K.
Now that Measure K has recently been upheld in higher courts, County Supervisors scrambled to put Measure D on the ballot in attempts to overhaul the wishes of over 66% of their own electorate. For this reason, I will be voting ‘NO’ on Measure D.
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