Jessica Martini

Jessica Martini is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

Presidential hopefuls Harris, Buttigieg endorse Los Angeles schools Measure EE

On June 4, voters in the Los Angeles Unified School District will vote on Measure EE, a proposal to enact a special property tax to fund local schools. Approval of the measure would authorize a $0.16-per-square foot parcel tax for twelve years to fund educational improvements, instruction, and programs. School district officials have estimated that the tax would raise $500 million per year. The measure has received endorsements from 2020 presidential candidates Kamala Harris (D) and Pete Buttigieg (D).
California Senator Kamala Harris endorsed a “yes” vote on Measure EE on May 20. She tweeted, “Closing the teacher pay gap is a key part of our campaign because investing in our future starts with investing in our schools. Join me and @VoteYesOnEE on June 4 (or right now by mail) to lower class sizes and stand with teachers and students.”
On May 9, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg attended a rally in Los Angeles with Mayor Eric Garcetti where he endorsed Measure EE. Relating the issue to his presidential campaign, he said, “In our campaign we talk about three issues: freedom, security and democracy. Every one of those issues is at stake when it comes to Measure EE and supporting the men and women who make public education work.”
The group Yes on EE is leading the campaign in support of the measure. On its campaign website, the group states that Measure EE will “help our neighborhood schools retain and attract quality teachers, counselors, school nurses, librarians, support staff and principals.” The campaign reported $1.28 million in contributions between January 1 and April 20. Top donors to the “yes” campaign include the JMM Charitable Foundation, Steve Ballmer, and United Teachers Los Angeles.
The group No On Measure EE is leading the campaign in opposition to the measure. On its website, the group states that “the 16-cent per square foot tax on all properties will flow into the School District’s general fund with no requirement that revenue be spent in the classroom or on our kids.” The opposition campaign reported $358,000 in contributions between January 1 and April 20. Top donors to the No On Measure EE campaign included the National Association of REALTORS, California Business Roundtable, and the California Association of Realtors.
Measure EE requires a two-thirds supermajority vote for approval. Polls close for LAUSD voters at 8 p.m. on June 4.

Voter-approved pay parity initiative in Houston ruled unconstitutional

On May 15, Judge Tanya Garrison of Texas District Court 157 ruled Proposition B (2018) unconstitutional. Proposition B was an initiative granting pay parity with city police to Houston firefighters.
Proposition B was placed on the 2018 general election ballot in Houston through a citizen initiative campaign led by the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. The measure was designed to match city firefighters’ pay to that of the Houston Police Department. It was approved 59 percent to 41 percent in November.
The proposition provided for a 29 percent raise for firefighters in the first year, followed by additional raises equal to police pay. Prior to the measure’s approval, city officials had estimated that Proposition B would cost $100 million per year. The proposition could not be funded through increased taxes due to an annual revenue cap. Mayor Sylvester Turner had argued that the city did not have a funding mechanism for Proposition B.
Following approval of Proposition B, the Houston Police Officers’ Union filed a lawsuit against the city and the firefighters’ union, arguing that the measure was unconstitutional for the following reasons:
  • It violated Texas Local Government Code by setting firefighter pay relative to other municipal workers instead of private sector jobs;
  • It is preempted by the state’s Fire and Police Employment Relations Act; and
  • It is preempted by state policy on collective bargaining rights by forcing police bargaining to also encompass firefighter pay.
Judge Garrison granted the motion by the police officers’ union, stating that Proposition B is preempted by state code regarding fire and police employee relations and that it violates Article XI, Section 5 of the state constitution.
Following Judge Garrison’s ruling on May 15, the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association tweeted, “We will continue to strive to force Sylvester Turner to respect the will of 298,000 [sic] Prop B voters who sent a strong message that Houston should equally value its police and fire personnel.”

DFW voters approve bond money in Garland, Plano, and Dallas County Community College District

Voters in three Dallas-Fort Worth jurisdictions approved bond packages ranging from $44.7 million to $1.1 billion in the general election May 4.
Approval of Proposition A in the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) authorizes $1.1 billion in bonds to construct, improve, and equip school buildings. The DCCCD chancellor, Joe May, recommended the bond measure, and the board of trustees voted in February to place it on the ballot. District officials stated that the bonds would not raise property taxes. Proposition A was approved by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent, according to unofficial results on election night.
In Garland, voters approved all eight bond measures on the ballot. The bond package totaled $423.7 and was designed to fund projects such as improving streets, parks and recreation facilities, and public safety facilities. Garland voters also approved Proposition A-1, a measure authorizing the city to sell Bunker Hill Park with proceeds dedicated to public parks.
Plano voters approved three bond measures totaling $44.7 million. The bond measures were designed to fund improvements to streets, parks and recreational facilities, and municipal facilities. Voter approval rates ranged from 56 percent to 71 percent on election night.
City officials in Garland and Plano will decide whether additional property taxes are needed to pay for the bonds, which must be repaid within a maximum of 40 years.

Lost Dog open space citizen initiative approved in El Paso, Texas

Voters in El Paso, Texas, approved Proposition A on Saturday, permanently prohibiting development on the 1,107 acres known as Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Number Twelve (TIRZ 12). TIRZ 12 includes the Franklin Mountains, Transmountain Road, and Lost Dog Trail. According to unofficial election night results, 89 percent of voters favored preserving TIRZ 12 as open space, with 11 percent voting against the initiative.
Proposition A was backed by citizen group Progress 915 through a campaign called Save Lost Dog. In 2018, the group submitted 1,977 valid petition signatures for the initiative to the El Paso city clerk. A total of 1,666 signatures (5 percent of turnout at the last general election) was required to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
The initiative effort started after the El Paso City Council voted 5-4 in favor of creating TIRZ 12 in May 2018. City officials stated at the time that they intended to sell 750 acres of the land in TIRZ 12 to a private entity for housing and commercial development. The council then voted in September 2018 to place a two-year moratorium on the sale and development of the land after receiving feedback from the public.
Approval of Proposition A effectively blocks any future private development of the entire 1,107-acre property, which is adjacent to Franklin Mountains State Park. The initiative also prohibits any major roadways on the land. Progress 915 argued prior to the election that “the Franklin Mountains and Transmountain Road are without a doubt some of the most scenic and iconic parts of our cultural identity” and that “development will damage the western slopes of our mountain, degrade the view and completely alter the area forever.” The group also argued that development would require over $100 million of incentives to developers and that El Paso property owners would pick up the tab.
The city council had stated prior to the election that approval of the initiative would “require the City to expend $11.3 million or more to preserve the land” and that a funding mechanism had not been identified.
City officials reported that voter turnout for the May 4 election was 5.13 percent of registered El Paso voters.

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.
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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.
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