Measure D Passage This Year, Like Measure K In 2020, To Be Decided In Court Rather Than By Vote

On November 8, San Bernardino County’s voters passed Measure D by close to a three-to-two margin.
Measure D was designed by the board of supervisors to undo Measure K, which was passed by more than two-thirds of the county’s voters in 2020. Measure K set the supervisors’ individual salaries and benefits at $60,000 per year and restricted them to a single four-year term in office. The political reform-minded Red Brennan Group had sponsored Measure K. The justification for reducing the supervisors pay and curtailing them to a single term in office, the Red Brennan Group maintained, was that the roughly $260,000 in total compensation the supervisors are provided puts them in an earnings bracket that leaves them out of touch with the county’s voters, who average $67,903 in total annual income per year.Moreover, the Red Brennan Group asserted, providing the supervisors with a quarter of a million dollars per year makes them desperate to hang onto their elected positions, such that they are easily influenced by large political donors who provide them with money to assist them in staying in office. This corrupts the county’s governmental decision-making process, according to the Red Brennan Group, which put forth Measure K to reduce the supervisors to part-time legislators and prevent them from seeking reelection, and thus reduce graft and result in the board of supervisors being dedicated to the citizens of the county rather than being beholden to those endowing their electioneering funds.
The supervisors railed against Measure K and its terms, asserting that reducing their pay to that of typical blue collar workers was beneath the dignity of county government, not in keeping with the grave level of responsibility that they took on in their posts and would make them more, not less, vulnerable to graft and corruption by reducing their incomes, tempting them to take under-the-table payments to make up the difference between what they were accustomed to receiving and the pittance the Red Brennan Group wanted them to accept.
Measure K passed by a two-thirds margin in November 2020.
In the immediate aftermath of Measure K’s approval, the board of supervisors sued their own employee, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors Lynna Monell, to prevent her from implementing the provisions of Measure K. San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Donald Alvarez ruled that Measure K was flawed but an appellate court reversed him in its tentative decision that has yet to be finalized. Meanwhile Measure K never went into effect and the board of supervisors put Measure D, which essentially rescinded Measure K, on the November 8 ballot.
Measure D called for increasing the supervisors’ individual salaries to $185,460.976 and their benefits to $68,556.82 along with add-on pay of roughly $17,800 for a total annual compensation of $271,817.79. It also called for allowing those supervisors already in office to serve three more four-year terms and all future supervisors to serve three terms in office as well.
As of the tallying of votes completed by November 12, 148,855 of the 252,035 votes cast regarding Measure D countywide, or 59.06 percent, were in favor of it and 103,180 or 40.94 percent were opposed.
“This is a great day for San Bernardino County,” Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Curt Hagman said of the passage of Measure D.
Measure D was saluted as providing an extra layer of protection for San Bernardino County’s taxpayers by requiring that the board of supervisors from here out pass any resolution asking the county’s residents to approve a new tax by a four-fifths margin. This will, those lauding Measure D’s passage said, make living in San Bernardino County “more affordable” and would “protect San Bernardino County residents and give them the strongest voice in our levels of taxation.” Measure D was a step forward for senior citizens, working people and taxpayers in the county, the Measure D support committee stated.
The Red Brennan Group, conversely, decried the voters’ reversal of the provisions of Measure K inherent in the passage of Measure D.
Tom Murphy, the spokesman for the Red Brennan Group, attributed Measure D’s success to the intense campaign for its passage that was bankrolled by the same political donors whose influence his association had hoped to stem with Measure K. Through November 3, five days before the election was held, $829,000 had been provided to the Yes on D Committee, primarily by development and business interests and public employee unions.
“Apparently, San Bernardino County voters were unable to see through the smokescreen created by the Yes on D campaign,” Murphy said. “This is no surprise given that a coalition of career politicians, developers, and public unions invested nearly $900,000 to support the measure.”
Murphy said the proponents of Measure D had used a panoply of Madison Avenue tactics to sell the voters the Measure D bill of goods.
“Deceptively titled ‘Taxpayer Protection and Government Reform,’ Measure D was, in fact, an arrogant effort by county supervisors to overturn the voters’ will and solidify their hold on power,” Murphy said. “Rather than taxpayer protection, county voters, by approving Measure D, have ensured current supervisors are able to serve a total of 16 years in office; total compensation for county supervisors is in excess of one-quarter of a million dollars and automatically increases after each election; if voters change elected supervisors’ compensation or term limits in the future, the fictitious tax protection included in Measure D is eliminated.”
Murphy noted that those running the campaign in favor of Measure D used organizations such as the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association to front end for them and made false claims that statewide tax reform advocates such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association supported Measure D. He pointed out that Jon Coupal, the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, in October had referred to the Yes on Measure D support team’s effort as “The most despicable, deceptive campaign we’ve seen in a long time.”
The Red Brennan Group filed prior to the election a yet-pending legal action challenging the manner in which Measure D was presented to the voters on the ballot and in the voting materials supplied to voters by the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters. Murphy said that the manner in which Measure D was worded on the ballot – “Shall the amendments to the San Bernardino County Charter for taxpayer protection and government reform be adopted?” – was both inadequate and deceptive. Furthermore, he said, the ballot statement provided in the county voter information guide was misleading.
“Elections Code Section 13119 requires that ‘the statement of the measure shall be a true and impartial synopsis of the purpose of the proposed measure.’ We believe the ballot material was deceptive concerning the true purpose of the measure,” Murphy said. “Additionally, the California Supreme Court has laid down the framework that will allow us to establish the duplicity demonstrated in Measure D constitutes a due process violation. The hearing on that case is set for December 15th.”
Murphy said the Red Brennan Group has not yet given up on Measure K.
“The fate of the voter reform effort started in 2020 is now entirely in the hands of the Court of Appeal. Measure K was approved by over 66 percent of the voters. Despite that, the members of the board of supervisors chose self-interest over bold leadership and sued to have this effort overturned. Two years later, the case is awaiting a final ruling. If elected leadership can sideline a voter approved measure simply by taking it to court, creating an alternative measure, lying to voters concerning that measure and partner with special interests to fund the whole scheme, it is understandable when voters become cynical about the political system, embittered towards local government, and check out entirely from their civic responsibilities.”
The delaying of the implementation of Measure K and the substitution of Measure D, Murphy said, “is certainly not the result we worked to obtain. However, it is an excellent example of how the local government system is stacked in favor of the special interests that feed off the taxpayers. The only way to defeat this cabal is for voters to get educated, get active, and challenge every single policy the ruling bureaucracy tries to enact. As human beings we are by nature self-interested. The political class is no different. Everything they concoct is going to be in their best interest and, most often, not in the interest of the voters.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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