Fresno’s sales tax measure for parks has attracted the notice of one of California’s most influential political lawyers.
Exactly what this means for Measure P remains to be seen.
Charles Bell, senior partner in the Sacramento-based law firm of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, sent a letter earlier this month to Fresno City Clerk Yvonne Spence. The letter’s focus was the Nov. 6 ballot measure that would boost the local sales tax by three-eighths of a cent to fund parks and arts projects.
I got a copy of the letter from the City Clerk’s Office.
Bell cuts right to the chase. In his opening paragraph, he writes:
“Recently, the press announced that the City of Fresno Parks and Recreation Initiative Measure obtained a sufficient number of valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The question is: which ballot it will qualify to appear before the voters for their approval?”
Bell in the next five paragraphs outlines his understanding of the hurdles that Measure P must clear if it’s to get on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Citing state elections code, Bell says the city must adopt a resolution calling for an election on the measure, then send the resolution to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
The supervisors can say yea or nay to the city’s resolution. But, Bell adds, they must do so no later than Aug. 10, 88 days before the general election.
“Any failure to comply with these notice and hearing requirements by both the City and the County Board of Supervisors will result in the failure of the measure to appear on the November 6, 2018 statewide general election ballot.”
The City Council on Aug. 9 voted to send Measure P to voters in the upcoming general election.
Bell’s letter is dated Aug. 8. He concludes:
“If the measure qualifies for the November 6, 2018 ballot, can you please advise the undersigned for the benefit of my clients who may wish to provide arguments to appear in the ballot information guide prepared by the City for this election?”
The letter is signed “Charles H. Bell Jr.”. The letter notes that copies were sent to Mayor Lee Brand, City Attorney Doug Sloan, the Board of Supervisors, the Fresno County counsel and Fresno County Registrar of Voters Brandi Orth.
I do not know if the supervisors acted on the City Council’s Measure P resolution by Aug. 10. I did speak with Spence and Orth. Both told me that they think Measure P would be on the Nov. 6 ballot. Both said state elections code backs this conclusion.
I called Bell’s office on Thursday and left a message. He did not return the call.
So, we don’t know the identities of Bell’s clients. We do know that Bell is a heavy hitter in California politics. He was general counsel to the state Republican Party 1982 to 1993 (according to Ballotpedia). He returned to that duty in 1999. Ballotpedia in 2015 identified Bell as one of California’s top “influencers.”
An “influencer,” I gather from Ballotpedia’s website, is a successful power player in California politics at all levels.
Mayor Brand opposes Measure P. He supports more public funding for parks, but thinks any sales tax measure going to the voters should include (at the least) substantial funding for public safety, as well.
Measure P has the strong support of former Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
Fall political campaigns get rolling after Labor Day. Labor Day is this Monday. Hold on to your hats, Fresno voters.