Court hearing continued on We CARE vs City Clerk, Council

June 24, 2005
Santa Paula News

It won’t be until July 5th that We CARE v Santa Paula City Clerk Josie Herrera and the City Council has a hearing, after Superior Court Judge Steven Hintz set the new date Thursday.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesIt won’t be until July 5th that We CARE v Santa Paula City Clerk Josie Herrera and the City Council has a hearing, after Superior Court Judge Steven Hintz set the new date Thursday. Attorney Richard Francis filed the action Wednesday on behalf of We CARE, whose ballot petition - which qualified due to the number of valid voters’ signatures - was rejected by Herrera as being incomplete.We CARE created the initiative due to traffic and housing balance concerns of the proposed 2,147 home development in Fagan Canyon. We CARE’s initiative limits residential and commercial growth to 81 acres in each five-year period unless voters approve larger developments; the measure would sunset in December 2025.We CARE is seeking a court order to put the land-use measure on the ballot to beat the strict deadline imposed by County Elections Assistant Register of Voters Gene Browning. Browning stated in a court declaration that the validity of the measure must be resolved no later than July 5.Francis, who drafted the We CARE initiative, told Judge Hintz that he is “not sure exactly what is behind the date...my understanding is there is some slip room,” that depends on outside contractors that prepare the ballots.The city forced his clients to bring a lawsuit, and in fact should have allowed its ballot placement and then filed suit to remove same, said Francis. “Ms. Herrera had a ministerial” responsibility to certify the measure for ballot placement, but instead “foisted the obligation on us to bring the lawsuit” that would delay other components of the measure placement, including arguments pro and con. If Judge Hintz allowed the measure to be cleared for the November ballot, then the issue could be “argued reasonably and leisurely” in the interim, said Francis.
“I don’t much like the idea of ready, shoot, aim,” noted Judge Hintz.Francis said that the city “effectively shifted the burden” unlawfully onto We CARE, and that on Monday the City Council refused to either adopt the measure as an ordinance or order it’s placement on the ballot. “Democracy is a serious issue, and I need the court’s assistance,” said Francis.Judge Hintz asked if the We CARE ballot issue regarded Adams Canyon. Fagan Canyon, noted Francis, the “elephant in the room that nobody wants to point to...,” as the proposed development is not mentioned in the measure.Assistant City Attorney John Cotti told Judge Hintz that Herrera declined to approve the petition due to a technical error, and that it was “her mandatory duty not to certify” the document. The We CARE petition lacked pertinent information that represents “robbing the electorate of ascertaining” the meaning of the measure. Continuing legal action would be expensive to all parties, and “inappropriate” under the circumstances, Cotti added.“I will not deny the petition but I will set a hearing,” said Judge Hintz.After the hearing, both Francis and City Attorney Karl Berger said they were not surprised at the delay, although “It would have been better for everybody” if a ruling had been rendered, said Francis. The hearing will be held July 5 at 1:30 p.m. in Ventura County Courtroom 42.



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