Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Political Engines
You would think after the drubbing San Diego’s labor unions took in November over their support for various attempts on the ballot to raise taxes, they’d think twice before mixing it up with the fiscal reform crowd again.
But it appears many of the same foes may tangle again sooner than expected over a referendum to overturn a so-called “big box ordinance” passed by the San Diego City Council in December. Foes of the ban turned in 53,948 signatures to the San Diego City Clerk on December 29. Just over 32,000 must be valid for the Clerk to call a special election on the matter.
The Lincoln Club of San Diego, San Diego Tax Fighters, and the San Diego County Republican Party all issued news releases indicating support for the referendum, vowing to work for its passage. And unlike their fight against Proposition D, the half-cent sales tax initiative, reformers should have some actual money coming to spend on the effort thanks to the interests of businesses like WalMart, which was the not-so-subtle target of the ordinance.
Council President Tony Young says if the signatures are confirmed, he will bring the issue back before the San Diego City Council. However, it’s a very different council than the one which voted for the ordinance. Supporters Ben Hueso and Donna Frye are gone, replaced by David Alvarez and Lorie Zapf.
County Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler estimated that a special election would cost between $2.8 million and $3.4 million, since there is no election currently scheduled in 2011 (although I suspect there will be one if the state of California and Governor Brown get their way). This doesn’t take into account the costs of diverted time and attention plus campaign spending on both sides if this sucker is forced to a vote.
Labor union officials claim on Twitter than polling shows voters evenly divided on this issue. Hello, didn’t the unions say the same thing about Prop D, which went down in flames?
I’m not a big WalMart fan. I rarely shop at WalMart, mainly due to my fear of ending on up PeopleOfWalMart.com But many people do enjoy shopping there. If the San Diego City Council has an ounce of good sense, it will take this referendum to heart, repeal its ill-advised big box ordinance, save us a boat load of dough taxpayers can ill afford to see wasted, and take decisions to approve so-called big box stores on a case-by-case basis.
Councilmembers and constituents will still have plenty of say over whether a neighborhood needs a 120,000 square foot WalMart without obstructionist regulation. In some neighborhoods the savings and the job generation would be an asset. In others, not so much. Businesses deserve a fair hearing on a level playing field and if constituents direct their representatives to deny them the right to expand fair and square, so be it.