PASADENA — Public mistrust and a last-minute letter from county officials were blamed this week for the defeat of two controversial Charter amendments in Tuesday's special municipal election.
Propositions F and G, both touted by city officials as major cost-cutting devices, were turned down by 56.8% and 54.2% of the voters, respectively. Proposition F, which would have transferred prosecution of misdemeanor violations of state law to the county district attorney, received 3,539 yes votes, or 43.2%, and 4,661 no votes. Proposition G, designed to increase flexibility for investing city funds, received 3,742 yes votes, or 45.2%, and 4,435 no votes. Results will not be official until late today when when the county tabulates them. The percentage of Pasadena's 66,000 registered voters who turned out for the election was not immediately available, but the votes tallied on the propositions represent about 12.4% of the electorate.
City officials said they must now go back to the drawing board to come up with alternative financing methods.
"Win a few, lose a few, but we don't give up easily," said Vice Mayor John Crowley. "The city still has financial problems, but we'll just have to find another way of dealing with them. It will be more costly, but we'll find a way."
On Wednesday, city officials said the major cause of Propositioni F's failure was a letter opposing the measure sent to Pasadena officials last week by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner and county Chief Administrative Officer James Hankla. The city officials also blamed as a significant factor in the defeat of both ballot measures the voters' lingering mistrust of city officials, left over from an intense controversy this summer over a special assessment district.
Proposition F would have transferred most of the city prosecutor's duties to the county, a switch that city officials claimed would have saved Pasadena about $400,000 a year. But in a move that Pasadena officials contend was timed to ensure the proposition's defeat, Reiner and Hankla sent a letter to Pasadena officials one week before the election stating that the county would charge the city nearly $500,000 a year in reallocated property tax revenues to assume prosecution of Pasadena's misdemeanor violations of state law.
The ballot measure was also opposed by several area lawyers and by the Pasadena Police Officers Assn., which claimed that the district attorney would not be as diligent as the city in prosecuting cases.
Proposition G, a technical and complicated measure that would have eliminated the competitive bidding requirement for issuing municipal bonds, was opposed by several community activists who maintained that it amounted to giving the city a "blank check" to incur debt.
Both measures were endorsed by the Board of City Directors, the Chamber of Commerce and Pasadena's League of Women Voters.
Major opposition to both issues came from Pasadena: On the Move, a recently formed grass-roots organization monitoring City Hall. The group grew out of the public furor expressed this summer when city officials unsuccessfully attempted to form an assessment district to finance street repairs. The public outcry that followed shook City Hall and left officials struggling to regain the political trust of residents, hundreds of whom demanded a recall election of the Board of City Directors and the firing of City Manager Donald McIntyre.
"I think (the propositions) were defeated because a lot of people just don't feel they can trust the board," said Rosalind Makuh of Pasadena: On the Move. "We want to have a real say in solving the city's problems. We don't want the board to make decisions for us."
Many city officials, however, said this week that those perceptions clouded the public's understanding of the ballot issues.
"I think the attitude of the voters was certainly influenced by the city's proposed special assessment district," said Mayor Bill Bogaard. "I'm concerned that the ballot propositions were not effectively communicated to the voters. There clearly was misunderstanding."
Bogaard added that "we should accept fully and openly the vote of the people and explore options available through other financial avenues."