Jessica Martini

Jessica Martini is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

A preview of Texas May 4 local ballot measures

Ballotpedia covers local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S., including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Garland, and Plano, Texas. On May 4, we are covering a total of 15 local ballot measures in Texas.
Dallas County Community College District voters will decide on Proposition A, a $1.102 billion bond issue designed to fund school building construction and upgrades.
Garland voters in Dallas County will weigh in on eight bond measures totaling $423.7 million in proposed new debt. The measures are designed to fund a variety of projects, including street improvements, public safety facility construction and upgrades, and recreational facility construction and upgrades. Also on the ballot is Proposition A-1, which asks Garland voters whether or not to authorize the city to sell Bunker Hill Park, with funds dedicated to public parks.
Plano voters in Collin County will weigh in on three bond measures totaling $44,665,000 in proposed new debt. The measures are designed to fund improvements to streets, parks and recreational facilities, and municipal facilities.
Eanes Independent School District in Travis County has one $80 million bond measure on the ballot, and El Paso County voters will decide on a citizen initiative designed to prohibit private development and public roadways on land that includes the Lost Dog trail system.
Early voting for the May 4 elections begins on Monday, April 22.

California: April 22 deadline to register to vote in May 7 local elections

April 22 is the deadline to register to vote in local California elections taking place May 7. Voters in nine counties across the state are set to decide on local ballot measures at the special election.
Issues on the ballot include a residential care facility initiative for Solana Beach voters in San Diego County and a school district parcel transfer for district voters in San Mateo County. Inverness Public Utility District voters in Marin County will decide on an increase to the appropriations limit, and the remaining measures are parcel tax questions for district voters in Calaveras, Lake, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara counties. Voters may visit their county elections websites for more information on voting and voter registration.

Denver “Right to Survive” Initiative faces $1.5 million in opposition

Initiated Ordinance 300 (I-300), named the “Right to Survive” Initiative by proponents, is on the ballot for voters in Denver, Colorado, on May 7. The citizen initiative has seen $1.6 million spent on campaigns, with $1.52 million in donations reported by “Together Denver – No on 300″ and $80,000 reported by “Yes On 300 Right To Survive.” Mail-in ballots will be sent to registered Denver voters beginning on April 15 containing this measure and other municipal races.
I-300 was designed to allow activities such as sleeping and sheltering oneself in public outdoor places—acts that are currently prohibited by Denver’s unauthorized camping ban, which was passed by the city council in 2012.
The city of Denver stated in an impact report that, if approved, I-300 would be the first initiative of its kind implemented in the nation. I-300 provides a list of rights that specifically concern homeless individuals, including the “right to rest and shelter oneself from the elements in a non-obstructive manner in outdoor public spaces.” While similar provisions under laws known as the “Homeless Bill of Rights” are codified in Illinois and Rhode Island, among other places, I-300 goes further by proposing to hold the city, county, law enforcement, or any other entity liable if that entity violates the rights listed in the initiative.
Initiative supporters have stated that the existing unauthorized camping law “targets Denver’s homeless, but fails to take into account that there are not enough shelter beds for everyone in need.” The “Yes on 300” campaign website states that I-300 would be a first step toward helping individuals experiencing homelessness sleep, find and hold down jobs, and find housing. Opponents have responded by saying that I-300 would threaten the quality of life for Denver citizens and prohibit officials from enforcing public safety laws. The “No on 300” website also states that the “Right to Survive” Initiative would fail to provide new services or address the causes of homelessness.
I-300 supporters have reported $81,514 in contributions to the “Yes on 300” campaign, with a top donation of $26,196 from Kayvan for Denver (former mayoral candidate Kayvan Khalatbari’s organization). The “No on 300” effort, led by Together Denver, has seen over $1.5 million in contributions, with top donors Downtown Denver Partnership and the National Association of Realtors each contributing $200,000.
Nick Brown, head of digital media for the “No on 300” campaign, said that “the initiative would allow camping in any public space in Denver indefinitely. That includes parks, sidewalks and other public areas.” He also stated that the campaign wants to “highlight that the initiative’s vague writing would make it harder for outreach workers to help people experiencing homelessness.” 
Proponents of the “Right to Survive” Initiative submitted over 9,000 petition signatures to the Denver Elections Division in October 2018 to place I-300 on the ballot. Previously, proponents backed a 2014 bill at the state level known as the “Right to Rest Act,” sponsored by state Reps. Joe Salazar (D) and Jovan Melton (D). The act contained similar provisions to I-300, including “the right to use and move freely in public spaces.” Though it was reintroduced in 2015, 2016, and 2017, the “Right to Rest Act” never went to a vote in the legislature.
Denver voters will have a chance to weigh in on the “Right to Survive” Initiative starting the week of April 15, when vote-by-mail ballots are set to go out. All ballots must be received by 7:00 pm on election day, May 7. Denver voters are also deciding Initiative 301—a first-of-its-kind initiative to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms—and races for mayor, city auditor, city clerk, and all 13 city council seats.

Voters in Alameda, California, choose McKay Avenue wellness center over open space in battle between a citizen initiative & the city council

Voters in Alameda, California, decided on competing local ballot measures at a special election on April 9. Measure A, referred to the ballot by the Alameda City Council, was designed to allow the development of a senior wellness center on land located on McKay Avenue. The group Friends of Crab Cove put competing Measure B on the ballot through a citizen initiative petition to prevent development on the land and to designate it as open space.
According to election night results, Measure A was approved by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent. Measure B was defeated, with 56 percent of voters opposed and 44 percent in favor of the initiative.
Approval of Measure A authorizes the city to redevelop federal buildings on the 3.65 acre McKay Avenue site into a wellness center for senior assisted living and homelessness services. Measure A was backed by Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Vice Mayor John Knox White.
Additional reading:

Election night results in Anchorage show no on alcohol tax, six bond issues ahead

Voters in Anchorage, Alaska, weighed in on 11 local measures at the citywide election Tuesday. The first summary report released election night showed voters opposing the proposed alcohol sales tax, Proposition 9, by a margin of 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.
Proposition 9 was designed to enact a 5 percent sales tax on alcoholic beverages to fund homelessness services, behavioral health programs, and illegal campsite removal. Support for the measure came from Yes for a Safer Anchorage, with endorsements from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, among others. Alaskans Against Unfair Alcohol Taxes led the campaign in opposition to Proposition 9, and the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant & Retailers Association (CHARR) came out against the tax.
Initial results also showed six of seven bond measures ahead, with Proposition 3 behind at 47 percent approval. Proposition 3 was designed to authorize $5.5 million in bonds to fund improvements to city buildings and facilities. Propositions that were ahead included a $59 million bond issue for the Anchorage School District and a $33 million bond issue for road and storm drain improvements in the Anchorage Roads and Drainage Service Area.
Additionally, as of election night, voters were in favor of transferring substations in Frontierland Park and Goose Lake Park to Chugach Electric, allowing peace officers to enforce vehicle violations, and allowing sitting Assemblies to have discretion over lease-purchase payments.

Kansas City voters turn down early childhood education sales tax

Voters in Kansas City, Missouri, rejected an initiative to establish a sales tax that would fund early childhood education by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent on Tuesday.
The ballot initiative, Question 1, would have authorized an additional citywide tax on all retail sales at a rate of 0.375 percent (three-eighths of a cent) for ten years. Proponents designed the initiative to set aside tax revenue for pre-k instruction, early childhood center improvements, and early childhood education staffing.
The group Progress KC led the support campaign—Pre-K for KC, and Kansas City Mayor Sly James supported Question 1. Vote No KC Question 1 led the opposition campaign, arguing that an insufficient portion of the funds would benefit students directly.
Additional reading:

Colorado Springs voters reject collective bargaining for firefighters

On Tuesday, voters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, rejected Issue 1, a citizen initiative designed to allow collective bargaining for uniformed city fire employees. According to unofficial election night results with 95 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was opposed by 69 percent of voters.
Approval of Issue 1 would have added an article to the city charter permitting firefighters to select an employee organization as their sole representative to act in negotiations with the city.
Under SB 25, known as the Firefighter Safety Act (2013), local governments in Colorado may allow collective bargaining with voter approval. However, following the rejection of Issue 1, the Colorado Springs City Charter will continue to prohibit employee organizations from negotiating with the city regarding firefighters’ compensation. Public employers in the city are still required under SB 25 to meet and confer with firefighters or their employee organizations upon request to discuss other policies, such as safety and equipment.
Issue 1 was put on the ballot after initiative proponents submitted 17,322 valid signatures to the city clerk in December 2018. The group Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs led the campaign in favor of a “yes” vote, raising over $670,000 by March 29, 2019. The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 5, was the top donor to the “yes” campaign, funding 44 percent of the total contributions to date.
Two opposition campaigns, Citizens Against Public Employee Unions and Americans for Prosperity, raised a combined $392,000 to defeat Issue 1 as of the March 29 filing. The group Colorado Springs Forward was the top donor in opposition to the initiative, providing 45 percent of the monetary contributions leading up to the election.
With the defeat of Issue 1, Colorado Springs continues to diverge from other major cities in Colorado that have adopted collective bargaining for firefighters, including Denver, Fort Collins, Aurora, and Pueblo.
Voter turnout for the April 2 general election was 32 percent, according to city officials. In addition to deciding Issue 1, Colorado Springs residents cast votes for the offices of mayor and three of nine seats on the city council.

Campaign contributions for and against Colorado Springs Issue 1 near $1 million ahead of April 2 election

Here’s a quick breakdown of the almost $1 million in campaign finance spending for Colorado Springs Issue 1
At the municipal election on April 2, 2019, Colorado Springs voters will decide whether or not to allow collective bargaining for city firefighters. The initiative in question, Issue 1, was placed on the ballot through a citizen petition campaign led by Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs. A total of $924,000 has been contributed to campaigns for and against the initiative as of the March 15 filing date.
Below is a quick overview of current campaign finance reporting for Issue 1:
Support total: $570,847.13
  • Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs reported $570,847.13 in total contributions and $414,442.28 in expenditures for the #YESon1 campaign.
  • The top donor to the #YESon1 campaign thus far has been Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters – IAFF Local 5 with $269,509.05 in total contributions.
Opposition total: $353,142.57
  • Citizens Against Public Employee Unions reported $344,058.31 in total contributions and $268,976.61 in expenditures for the No on #1 campaign.
  • Americans for Prosperity Colorado Springs IC also registered in opposition to Issue 1 and reported $9,084.26 in non-monetary contributions.
  • The top donor to the No on # 1 campaign thus far has been Colorado Springs Forward with $166,000.00 in total contributions.

Commissioner’s lawsuit against transportation sales tax dismissed in Hillsborough County, Florida

Florida Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Rex Barbas dismissed a lawsuit filed by Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White regarding a transportation sales tax approved by Hillsborough County voters in November 2018.

Referendum 2 was placed on the general election ballot in November after the group All for Transportation led a successful citizen initiative petition campaign. The measure received 57 percent approval from voters and authorized a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects in the county. In December, County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the sales tax arguing that provisions of the initiative illegally allowed tax revenue to be allocated without the approval of the county commission. All for Transportation filed a motion calling for the lawsuit to be dismissed on January 24, 2019. The group argued that White did not have standing to file the lawsuit in his official capacity as county commissioner.

Denver airport minimum wage initiative withdrawn from May ballot; Denver City Council approves minimum wage increase for city employees

On March 11, 2019, the Denver City Council voted unanimously in favor of Council Bill 19-0163, a minimum wage increase backed by Mayor Michael Hancock. The measure was designed to raise the minimum wage for city employees, city contractors, and employees working on city properties from $11.10 an hour to $13 in July 2019, $14 in July 2020, and $15 in July 2021.

Prior to the bill’s passage, the city was set to vote on an initiative to increase the minimum wage for employees at the Denver International Airport during the May 7 municipal election. Unite Here Local 23 began collecting signatures for the minimum wage citizen initiative in August 2018. The Denver Elections Division verified in November 2018 that the group had submitted a sufficient number of signatures to place the initiative on the May ballot. Approval of the citizen initiative would have enacted minimum wage increases following the same schedule as the mayor’s bill but with increases only for employees working at the airport.

Council Bill 19-0163 provides for the minimum wage increases for airport employees supported by Unite Here Local 23 while it also provides for the same increases for other city employees, city contractors, and employees working on city properties. Following the council’s vote to pass the bill, proponents withdrew the citizen initiative from the May ballot.