Tax activist sues to block sales tax proposition

By James R. RIffel

City News Service

Anti-tax activist Richard Rider and another man on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Proposition D, the city of San Diego’s proposed half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot.

The proposition, placed on the ballot by the City Council, calls for the tax hike once certain reform measures are implemented.

Meanwhile, Councilman Carl DeMaio, who opposes the measure, said in a statement he will is asking that the council’s agenda on Tuesday include an item that to consider removing Prop D. from the ballot.

Rider, who filed the suit along with Stephen Cicero, called the reform measures “very empty on substance.”

“It’s bad on so many levels,” Rider said at a news conference.

He said the measure confuses voters by making them think the 10 reforms will not be implemented if the proposition does not pass, when in fact they can be voted on by the City Council at any time.

“This is a con job, it’s outright extortion,” Rider said.

The plaintiffs claim the proposition violates the single issue rule, causes the City Council to abdicate legislative and administrative authority, contains provisions that are vague and has a misleading ballot title.

The ballot title includes the phrase “essential services,” which would make voters believe the tax hike will pay for police and fire protection, when in fact the new money is destined for the general fund, Rider said.

He said Prop. D needs only a simple majority to pass on Nov. 2 because it is a general tax, but if it went for special uses, it would require a two-thirds margin for approval.

The lawsuit describes the ballot measure as “a Frankenstein Proposition” that was “thrown together and passed by the San Diego City Council in their ‘eleventh hour.’ ”

The 10 benchmarks that would have to be completed before the sales-tax increase could be enacted are:

— eliminating retirement offsets for elected officials and unrepresented city employees;

— reaching agreement with labor unions over how to implement the voter-approved managed competition program;

— completing a cost neutrality study of the Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP;

— soliciting bids for the outsourcing of the Miramar Landfill;

— eliminating terminal leave for all city employees;

— reducing retirement offset costs for city employees represented by a

— lowering retiree health care costs;

— soliciting bids to out-source the remaining information technology services;

— creating a second-tier pension plan for firefighters; and

— starting a lower-cost voluntary 401(k)-style pension plan for employees.

Defendants include Mayor Jerry Sanders, members of the City Council, and because of their elections duties, City Clerk Liz Maland and county Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler.

The plaintiffs are hoping to get an expedited court schedule, but no hearings have been set.