Judge throws out lawsuit challenging proposed sales-tax increase

By Kelly Wheeler

City News Service

A judge Friday threw out a lawsuit aimed at keeping San Diego’s proposed half-cent sales tax measure off the November ballot.

Judge David Oberholtzer issued a four-page ruling denying a challenge to Proposition D from anti-tax activists Richard Rider and Stephen Cicero.

Oberholtzer disagreed with the petitioners’ claim that the ballot question for Prop. D is misleading. “Not to an informed voter,’' the judge wrote in his opinion.

The notion that the ballot measure was “constitutionally vague” was a red herring, the judge said.

Rider, president of the San Diego Tax Fighters, said late Friday that any appeal of the judge’s decision would have to come before next Thursday.

Rider said he was “stunned” by the judge’s decision on the ballot question.

“We actually think we can win if it actually goes to the ballot,” Rider said outside court.

Prop. D needs only a simple majority to pass because it is a general tax.

The ballot title for the proposition includes the phrase “essential services,” which would make voters believe the tax hike will pay for police and fire protection, when the revenue would go to the city’s general fund, Rider said.

“An honest presentation would have said it (the tax money) can be used for police, fire, potholes and hot-air balloon races, because all of those are equally possible under the nature of this tax because it can be used for anything - any lawful function - that the city politicians vote for,” Rider said. “That’s not fair.”

Proposition D would raise an estimated $103 million a year for the city, which has a projected $72 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.

The proposition calls the half-cent sales tax hike once 10 so-called “reform” measures are implemented, some concerning the city’s retirement system.

Rider argued that voters will think if they don’t vote for the sales tax, the city won’t do the reforms, which isn’t true. The city of San Diego can accomplish the reforms without sales-tax money, Rider said.

A second lawsuit challenging Prop. D was filed Wednesday by April Bolling, a former chairwoman of the City Pension Reform Committee. It addresses many of the same issues in Rider’s lawsuit, including a claim that the ballot language is misleading.