Taglocal elections

California parcel tax measures have an approval rate of 62% during odd-numbered years; in 2023, 89% have been approved so far

From 2011 to 2021, voters decided 216 parcel tax-related ballot measures in California during odd-numbered year elections. Voters approved 133 (61.57%) and rejected 83 (38.43%). Through April, voters have decided on nine parcel tax ballot measures in California in 2023. Eight (88.89%) were approved, and one (11.11%) was defeated. This approval rate is higher than the average for odd-numbered years from 2011 to 2021.

On average, 36 parcel tax-related measures appeared on ballots in California during an odd-numbered year.

Parcel taxes are a form of special property tax, which must be paid by the owners of parcels, or units, of real estate. However, unlike standard property taxes, which are based on the value of the property, a parcel tax is an assessment based on the characteristics of the parcel. These assessments can include taxing a parcel based on square footage or by dwelling unit, or the tax may be a flat rate per parcel.

Parcel taxes can be imposed by public school districts and on other local units of government, including cities, counties, and special districts. California is the only state that allows parcel taxes as a method for funding schools.

Of the parcel taxes approved by voters in 2023, South Pasadena Unified School District had the highest parcel tax measure, which asked voters to renew a current parcel tax at a rate of $4,764 per parcel for seven years to provide education funding.

The one parcel tax measure that was defeated by voters would have established a tax based on the square foot of buildings ($0.32 per square foot of homes, $1.42 per square foot for lodging, and other rates) to provide funds to acquire, operate, and maintain the Napa County Fairgrounds.

The measure that had the highest vote of approval was in the Salmon Creek Fire Protection District in Humboldt County, which was approved with 111 (96%) voters in favor and five (4%) opposed. The measure enacted a $75 per year special tax for each parcel to fund the Salmon Creek Volunteer Fire Company.

In 2023, Ballotpedia is covering local ballot measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the 100 largest cities in the U.S., within state capitals, and throughout California. You can review the coverage scope of the local ballot measures project here. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of election-related and policing-related ballot measures outside of the largest cities.

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Parcel tax elections in California

Abortion, marijuana decriminalization, the climate, and law enforcement featured on local ballots in Texas on May 6

Ballotpedia is covering 47 ballot measures in seven counties in Texas on May 6. Five of the 47 are citizen initiatives, and the remaining 42 were referred to the ballot by a vote of a local governing board, such as a county board or city council.

Compared to the May elections in 2019 and 2021 in Texas, this year’s ballot features nearly three times as many local ballot measures. In 2023, 2021, and 2019, Ballotpedia covered local ballot measures in the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. In 2019, there were 15 measures on the May ballot in Texas. In 2021, there were 16 measures.

A greater number of bond measures and charter amendments has led to the 2023 increase. Of the 42 referred measures, 23 are bond measures totaling over $3 billion in potential bond issues across the state. This compares to three bond measures in 2021 and 13 bond measures in 2019. The May 2023 ballot also features 22 charter amendments — 11 in El Paso, 10 in Irving, and one in San Antonio. There were 10 charter amendments in 2021, and none in 2019.

San Antonio, Texas

In San Antonio, voters will decide on one citizen-initiated measure — Proposition A. The charter amendment would change law enforcement on abortion, marijuana, and police actions. The changes include:

  1. establishing a city justice director appointed by the mayor and city council; 
  2. prohibiting police from issuing citations or making arrests for certain misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses;
  3. prohibiting police from enforcing criminal abortion laws;
  4. banning no-knock warrants and chokeholds by law enforcement; and
  5. using citations instead of arrests for certain misdemeanors.

SA Justice Charter PAC is leading the campaign in support of Proposition A. The initiative has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Greg Casar (D), City Councilmembers Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, San Antonio AFL-CIO, Ground Game Texas, ACT 4 SA, and the Bexar County Democratic Party. Ananda Tomas, executive director of ACT 4 SA, said, “The simple truth is that these policies will SAVE lives by limiting unnecessary interactions with police that can lead to serious injury or even death … By passing this we will create a safer, more just San Antonio for all that can be a beacon of light for other cities across Texas and even across the nation.”

Proposition A is opposed by U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R), State Rep. John Lujan (R), Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Councilmember Manny Pelaez, Bexar County Republican Party, and the San Antonio Police Officers Association. Mayor Nirenberg said, “What troubles me is the lack of consequences for theft up to $750 and property damage up to $2,500. That’s not pocket change. Prop A unfortunately ignores the victims, from small business, to nonprofits, to really any working family who wakes up to a smashed window.”

El Paso, Texas

El Paso voters will decide on 11 charter amendments, including Proposition K, a citizen initiative related to the climate. Proposition K would create a new article titled Climate Policy in the charter “to reduce the City’s contribution to climate change; second, to invest in an environmentally sustainable future; and third, to advance the cause of climate justice.” The article would create a Climate Department and Climate Director to advance the goals of the new article. The article would also require the city to use 100% renewable energy sources by 2045.

Ground Game Texas PAC is leading the campaign to support Proposition K. It is endorsed by Earthworks, El Paso Young Democrats, and Sunrise El Paso. The campaign said, “The El Paso Climate Charter supports small businesses because the policy directs the City to protect historically underserved entities rather than big corporations. It also ensures that no fees, fines, or financial burdens are imposed on businesses that want cheaper electricity and it creates new economic opportunities for entrepreneurs by increasing access to climate-friendly funding.”

Consumer Energy Alliance is leading the campaign in opposition to Proposition K. The initiative is opposed by U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R), El Paso Electric, El Paso Chamber, and El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Mia Romero, director of advocacy of the El Paso Chamber, said, “Renewable energy is not yet the most readily available, reliable or affordable option for those seeking to meet output demands, and would lead to the stunting of a range of industries in El Paso.”

Austin, Texas

Austin voters will be deciding on competing police-related ballot initiatives — Propositions A and B. Proposition A is sponsored by Equity Action, and Proposition B is sponsored by Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability, which is supported by the Austin Police Association. Both propositions make changes to the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) but differ in the exact powers granted to investigate police conduct. Proposition A would authorize preliminary investigations into all complaints including anonymous complaints, while Proposition B would not. Proposition B does not include a requirement for random assessment reviews of department use of force, which is included in Proposition A. Under Proposition A, OPO would also be authorized to determine the training requirements for members of the Community Police Review Commission. The measures also differ on access to police files.

Since 2020, Austin voters have decided on four local ballot measures related to law enforcement.

Early voting started on April 24 for the May 6 election in Texas.

Jacksonville, Florida, voters to decide runoff races

The general runoff for Jacksonville, Florida, is on May 16, 2023. The general election was held on March 21, and the filing deadline to run passed on Jan. 13. 

Candidates are competing for property appraiser, city council, and mayor. The general elections for sheriff, supervisor of elections, and tax collector were canceled after no more than one candidate filed to run for each race.

Runoffs were required for races where no candidate received a majority of the general election vote.

Donna Deegan (D) and Daniel Davis (R) advanced to the runoff for mayor of Jacksonville from a field of eight candidates. Deegan received 39.4% of the general election vote, while Davis received 24.7%.

Joyce Morgan (D) and Jason Fischer (R) advanced to the runoff for Duval County property appraiser after Morgan and Fischer received 47.6% and 30.7% of the general election vote, respectively.

Candidates for city council advanced to the runoff in the following districts: At-large Position 5, District 2, District 7, District 8, District 9, District 11, and District 14.

Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida and the 12th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Voters to decide mayoral and city council elections in Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana, is holding primary elections on May 2, 2023. Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for Nov. 7, 2023. The filing deadline to run was on Feb. 3.

Candidates filed for city council and mayor. For city council, 21 of 25 incumbents are running for re-election. Incumbent Joe Hogsett, Bob Kern, Clif Marsiglio, Robin Shackleford, and Larry Vaughn are running in the Democratic primary for mayor. John L. Couch, James W. Jackson, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, and Jefferson Shreve are running in the Republican primary for mayor.

As of April 2023, 62 mayors in the largest 100 cities by population are affiliated with the Democratic Party, 26 are affiliated with the Republican Party, three are independents, seven identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated, and two mayors’ affiliations are unknown. While most mayoral elections in the 100 largest cities are nonpartisan, most officeholders are affiliated with a political party.

Indianapolis is the largest city in Indiana and the 15th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Nine candidates running in Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia

Nine candidates are running in the Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia on May 16, 2023. The winner will face David Oh—the only candidate who ran for the Republican nomination—in the general election on Nov. 7. Incumbent Jim Kenney (D), who was first elected mayor in 2015 and re-elected in 2019, is term-limited.

Asha Prihar, Jordan Levy, Meir Rinde, and Clifton Jackson wrote at BillyPenn.com, “The race to succeed term-limited Jim Kenney and become Philly’s 100th mayor is crowded. The field is full of candidates with solid experience, varied backgrounds, and a diverse array of ideas for the city’s future. With Philly’s 7-to-1 voter registration imbalance between the two major parties, the winner of the May Democratic primary is highly likely to win in the general election this fall. Given past turnout numbers for an odd-year primary, a lead of 10,000 to 15,000 votes could boost someone to a de facto overall victory.”

Jeff Brown, Allan Domb, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, and Rebecca Rhynhart lead in fundraising and media mentions.

Philadelphia has had a resign-to-run rule in its city charter since 1951. According to Henry Savage of The Philadelphia Inquirer, “If you work for the City of Philadelphia or hold an elected position in city government, you have to quit your job first in order to run for another public office. The only exception is if you are an elected official running for re-election.”

Brown owns 12 grocery stores in the city and has never run for elected office. In Jan. 2023, he was endorsed by the city’s largest labor union, District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 9,500 workers. He told Axios he was running for mayor because “Philadelphia is an amazing city with great potential, but we have been failed by bad leadership. I want to be mayor to serve the people of our city, address structural poverty and make this the city we all deserve.”

Domb was elected as an at-large member of the Philadelphia City Council in 2015 and served on the council until 2022, when he resigned to run for mayor. He is a realtor and founded a real estate agency. Domb said he was “running for mayor because Philadelphia is in crisis and needs a leader who has the experience and vision needed to take on our biggest challenges.”

Gym was elected as an at-large member of the Philadelphia City Council in 2015 and served until 2022, when she resigned to run for mayor. She is the former executive director of Asian Americans United and the co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, which described itself on its website as “a parent-led citywide organization focused on providing an independent voice for parents fighting for public education.” Gym told Axios she was running for mayor “to finish a job I started 30 years ago, when I was a teacher and a tough Philly mom who refused to accept broken systems, took on tough challenges and organized alongside communities for change.”

Parker was elected to the city council in 2016 and served until 2022, when she resigned to run for mayor. She began her political career as a city council staff member and served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 2005 to 2016. Parker was elected the council’s majority leader in 2020. Her website says, “It was in this role where she focused on public safety, stabilizing “middle neighborhoods,” economic opportunity – especially for small businesses, and working to get city government to function like it should.”

Rhynhart was elected Philadelphia City Controller in 2018 and resigned in 2022 to run for mayor. She is a former director at Fitch Ratings and managing director at Bear Stearns. Rhynhart was appointed Philadelphia City Treasurer in 2008 by former Mayor Michael Nutter, and also served as the city’s Budget Director and Chief Administrative Officer under Mayor Jim Kenney. Rhynhart’s website says that her time spent in the city’s various financial roles was important: “She used her financial expertise to expose wasteful spending and make government work more effectively with an emphasis on equity, fairness and social justice. She has shown courage in refusing to back down from tough fights in order to serve Philadelphia.”

The city’s last 10 mayors were all elected as Democrats, and the last Republican to serve as mayor was Bernard Samuel, whose term ended in 1952.

The filing deadline for the primary was March 8, and the filing deadline for the general election for independent candidates is Aug. 1.


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Three incumbents lose in first general election for downsized St. Louis’ Board of Aldermen

St. Louis, Missouri, held general elections for the Board of Aldermen on April 4, 2023. All 14 seats on the board and the seat of the president of the board were up for election. Eleven incumbents, including Board President Megan Ellyia Green, won re-election. Three incumbents were defeated.

The 2023 elections were the first to take place under a new ward system that reduced the number of seats on the board from 28 to 14. Voters approved Proposition R, a charter amendment requiring the size reduction, in 2012, and the board enacted a new 14-ward map in 2021.

Ahead of the election, KDSK’s Sam Clancy and Mark Maxwell wrote, “For more than a century, 28 members of the Board of Aldermen governed the City of St. Louis. Those days are almost over.”

“Ward reduction changes have been in the making for more than a decade after voters approved the plan back in 2012. ‘Aldergeddon’ has already claimed casualties. A handful of incumbents opted not to seek re-election, shying away from a sharp-elbowed brawl against their colleagues to prolong their political career and others were defeated in the primary,” Clancy and Maxwell said. 

As a result of the reduction in board size, ten incumbents did not seek re-election in 2023. Additionally, two wards—Ward 13 and Ward 4—featured incumbent vs. incumbent races.

The three incumbents who lost were:

  • Joe Vaccaro (the incumbent in Ward 23): Vaccaro lost to fellow incumbent Bret Narayan (Ward 24) 55% to 45% in the election for the new Ward 4.
  • Norma Walker (Ward 22): Walker lost to incumbent Pamela Boyd (Ward 27) 54% to 46% in the election for the new Ward 13.
  • Tina Pihl (Ward 9): Pihl lost to Washington University staffer Michael Browning 63% to 36% in the election for the new Ward 9.

Per Proposition R, candidates elected in odd-numbered wards in 2023 will serve an initial two-year term and be eligible to run for four-year terms after that. Candidates elected in even-numbered wards will serve four-year terms. The president of the Board of Aldermen, a separate position elected at large, will also serve a four-year term.

Another initiative affecting the 2023 election, Proposition D, was approved by voters in 2020. The measure made elections open and nonpartisan for the offices of mayor, comptroller, president of the Board of Aldermen, and the Board of Aldermen. The measure also changed the primary election system from plurality voting to approval voting, a voting system in which voters may vote for any number of candidates they choose. Nonpartisan primaries took place on March 7, 2023, and the top two candidates in each primary advanced to a general election.

The Board of Aldermen is St. Louis’ equivalent of a city council. It is the city’s primary legislative body, responsible for adopting the city budget, levying taxes, and making or amending city laws, policies, and ordinances. The President of the Board is responsible for presiding over board meetings.

St. Louis also held a nonpartisan general election for a seat on the community college board on April 4, 2023. Nicole Robinson defeated Incumbent Pam Ross in that election. The filing deadline for that election was Dec. 27, 2022.

Brandon Johnson wins runoff for mayor of Chicago

Brandon Johnson defeated Paul Vallas in the runoff election for mayor of Chicago, Illinois, on April 4, 2023. Johnson received 51.4% of the vote and Vallas received 48.6%. They advanced from a field of nine candidates in the Feb. 28 general election.

Johnson was elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners as a Democrat in 2018. He was a teacher with Chicago Public Schools and an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The CTU endorsed Johnson. He received 20.3% of the vote in the general election.

Vallas was the 2014 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. He worked as chief administrative officer at Chicago State University and was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Vallas. He received 33.7% of the vote in the general election.

Incumbent Lori Lightfoot finished third in the general election with 17.1% of the vote and did not advance to the runoff. Lightfoot, who was elected in 2019, was the first incumbent Chicago mayor to lose a re-election bid since 1983 when Jane Byrne lost her primary.

Although elections are officially nonpartisan, candidates are typically affiliated with one of the major political parties. Johnson and Vallas are both Democrats. The last Republican mayor of Chicago, William Thompson, left office in 1931.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin becomes Paul Vallas’ first congressional endorsement in Chicago mayoral runoff

On March 26, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) endorsed Paul Vallas in the April 4, 2023, runoff for mayor of Chicago. The state’s other senator, Tammy Duckworth (D), endorsed Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the first round and has not endorsed in the runoff. Vallas and Brandon Johnson are running in the runoff election.

Eleven members of Congress have endorsed Johnson so far, including U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Four members of the Illinois House delegation endorsed Johnson: Jonathan Jackson (District 1), Delia Ramirez (District 3), Danny Davis (District 7), and Jan Schakowsky (District 9).

Although elections are officially nonpartisan, candidates are typically affiliated with one of the major political parties. Johnson and Vallas are both Democrats. The last Republican mayor of Chicago, William Thompson, left office in 1931.

Jacksonville’s local elections advance to a runoff

The general election for Jacksonville, Florida, was on March 21, 2023. The filing deadline to run passed on Jan. 13. 

Candidates ran for property appraiser, city council, and mayor. The general elections for sheriff, supervisor of elections, and tax collector were canceled after no more than one candidate filed to run for each race. Incumbent T.K. Waters (R), Jerry Holland (R), and incumbent Jim Overton (R) won the sheriff, supervisor of elections, and tax collector elections, respectively, without appearing on the ballot.

Donna Deegan (D), Audrey Gibson (D), LeAnna Cumber (R), Daniel Davis (R), Al Ferraro (R), Frank Keasler (R), Omega Allen (Independent), and Brian Griffin (Independent) (Write-in) ran for mayor of Jacksonville. Deegan and Davis advanced to the general runoff election after neither received a majority of the general election vote. Deegan received 39.5% of the vote, while Davis received 24.8%.

The runoff election is scheduled for May 16, 2023. In addition to mayor, runoffs will be held for property appraiser and the following city council seats: At-large Position 5, District 2, District 7, District 8, District 9, District 11, and District 14.

Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida and the 12th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Voters to decide municipal races in Denver, Colorado

The nonpartisan general for Denver, Colorado, is on April 4, 2023. The regular filing deadline was Jan. 19 and the write-in candidate filing deadline was March 20.

Candidates are competing for mayor, city council, city auditor, and city clerk and recorder. The following candidates are running for mayor of Denver as of March 19:

  • Renate Behrens
  • Kelly Brough
  • Lisa Calderón
  • Al Gardner
  • Chris Hansen
  • Leslie Herod
  • Michael Johnston
  • Aurelio Martinez
  • Deborah Ortega
  • Terrance Roberts
  • Trinidad Rodriguez
  • Andy Rougeot
  • Ean Tafoya
  • Robert Treta
  • James Walsh
  • Thomas Wolf
  • Matt Brady (Write-in)
  • Paul Fiorino (Write-in)
  • Marcus Giavanni (Write-in)
  • Danny F. Lopez (Write-in)
  • Jesse Parris (Write-in)
  • Abass Yaya Bamba (Write-in)

While most mayoral elections in the 100 largest cities are nonpartisan, most officeholders are affiliated with a political party. Incumbent Michael Hancock is affiliated with the Democratic Party. He was first elected in 2011 and is term-limited. This is Denver’s fifth open mayoral election since 1959, the last time the city elected a Republican mayor.

If no candidate receives a majority of votes, the top-two vote-getters will advance to a runoff on June 6, 2023.

Denver is the largest city in Colorado and the 19th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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