Strong Mayor Opponents Sue to Block Johnson's Initiative

Share |
(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Johnson wants to transfer control of the city’s day-to-day operations from the unelected city manager to the mayor. Voters are scheduled to weigh in next June.

But a lawsuit filed Monday by the measure’s opponents could stop that. They say Johnson’s initiative was written behind closed doors without community input – and gives the mayor far too much power. Here’s plaintiff Bill Camp with the Sacramento Central Labor Council:
Camp: “There’s a way to do it and there’s a way not to do it. This is not the way to do this. We’re opposed to it, and we’re asking the court to take it off the ballot.”
Specifically, the lawsuit argues that under the California constitution, such a fundamental rewrite of the city’s charter can only be placed on the ballot by the city council or a special commission – not by gathering voter signatures.
The mayor says he’s disappointed with the suit. He says nearly 50,000 Sacramento residents signed petitions to place the measure on the ballot.
Johnson: “I think this is another example of the opponents of change doing everything they can to resist the will of the voters.”
Johnson says the measure was written legally and followed all the rules – and he’s confident it’ll prevail in court. And at least in the short term, Tim Hodson thinks that’s probably true. He’s with Sacramento State’s Center for California Studies.  And he says it’s very rare for a California court to kick a measure off the ballot before an election.
Hodson: “They do so only when, in the court’s opinion, it is clear a measure is so obviously unconstitutional that there can be no debate about it, and therefore putting it on the ballot would be a waste of money.”
Instead, Hodson says, courts prefer to weigh in after the voters do.
The lawsuit was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court. Backers expect it to go before a judge early next year.