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SANTA MONICA : City Votes to Delay Putting Safety Initiative on Ballot

August 11, 1994|NANCY HILL-HOLTZMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The City Council on Tuesday refused to place a public safety and homeless services initiative before voters this fall, even though the measure had qualified for the ballot. Instead, the council voted to exercise its legal option to study the measure over the next 30 days.

By effectively tabling the matter, the council majority avoided having a politically sensitive measure decided in the same election in which three council seats are up for grabs.

The vote was 4 to 2, with Councilmen Robert T. Holbrook, a supporter of the initiative, and Kelly Olsen voting to place the matter on the Nov. 8 ballot. Both Holbrook and Olsen's seats are up for election this fall. Tony Vazquez, the third incumbent facing reelection, voted against a November vote on the initiative.

"I have faith in the residents of this community," Olsen said during Tuesday's council meeting. "I'm not afraid of having voters make a decision on this in November."

To ensure placement on the November ballot, petitions had to be turned in by early July, which would have left enough time for 30 days of study.

Though the council decision denied Holbrook and others the opportunity to run on a ballot with a public safety initiative, it also gave them an issue--that the council majority thwarted the will of some 12,000 residents who signed petitions.

"They do not want us to have a right to vote on aggressive panhandling, park closure and meaningful policies on how to address homeless (issues)," Holbrook said.

But Councilman Paul Rosenstein said the timing of the initiative campaign was aimed at using the homeless issue for political advantage. "We are taking this great social tragedy . . . and turning it into an election campaign."

The initiative, called the Public Safety and Homeless Services Act of 1994, calls for, among other things, stricter laws on panhandling and tighter fiscal controls on spending for social services.

The measure qualified for the ballot with an estimated 6,900 valid signatures, according to random sampling conducted by the county Registrar-Recorder's office. That was about 1,500 more than the 5,394 the petition needed to win a place on a general election ballot.

But the proposal failed to reach a higher threshold of 8,091 signatures--15% of registered voters--needed to trigger a special election. Some signatures were invalidated because two of the petition circulators got their voter registration information to election officials one day late.

The leaders of the petition drive said they will consider going to court to ask to have their signatures deemed valid, despite the problem with the circulators.

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