Recently, there has been renewed interest regarding the lawsuit between the City of Cupertino and Measure C proponents. We are clarifying that:
- The plaintiffs have tried to be reasonable and settle the case with no cost to the city. The plaintiffs made NO claims for monetary damages.
- The city employs two full-time attorneys who are fully capable of handling the case and reach a settlement with residents, but instead, the city hired an expensive San Francisco law firm to prolong this case. Every dollar the city spends on external legal counsel is wasted, no matter the outcome.
- Three members of the former city council opened the city up to the lawsuit by placing a false description of Measure C on the ballot. The lawsuit is about re-establishing the democratic rights of all current and future Cupertino voters.
If you are interested in more background information, pleases refer to the following post by two volunteers of Better Cupertino:
Note: On Friday, September 8, 2017, the Cupertino Courier published an edited version of the opinion piece “Lawsuit Effort Intends to Clarify Aspects of and Ambiguous Elections Code” by Cupertino residents Peggy Griffin and Eric Schaefer. The edited version added and removed content to produce an opinion piece that is different materially from the version the Cupertino residents submitted for publication.
Below, find the unedited version of the opinion piece “Lawsuit Effort Intends to Clarify Aspects of and Ambiguous Elections Code” exactly as it was submitted to the Cupertino Courier for publication.
Lawsuit Effort Intends to Clarify Aspects of an Ambiguous Elections Code
Cupertino voters remember the contentious election last year between the Cupertino Citizens’ Sensible Growth (CCSG) Initiative, “Measure C,” and “Measure D” funded by the Vallco developer, Sand Hill Property Company, to the tune of $6,385,139.77—about $200 for every Cupertino voter.
Both Measure C and Measure D failed in the November 8, 2016 election. A lawsuit arising from the City’s mishandling of the Measure C election has given rise to wild rumors and character assassination. Here is the real story:
1. Why Are Initiative Elections Special?
Over a hundred years ago, California voters had the wisdom to keep the power to write and pass laws as “initiatives” as a check against politicians who behave as if beholden to special interests and appear unwilling to stand up for the best interests of the Citizens.
2. How Did the City Council Interfere with the Measure C Election?
In about 5 weeks, supporters collected sufficient valid voter signatures to qualify the CCSG Initiative for consideration by the City Council.
The City Council should have put on the ballot a fair and neutral description of the initiative drafted by the City Attorney. Instead, they unlawfully adopted a false description offered by 2 law firms working for the competing Measure D campaign.
Measure C was drafted as a Sensible Growth initiative to ensure that the City would grow and change in accordance with the needs and interests of a majority of Cupertino voters. The City Attorney’s official summary circulated with the Measure C petitions described it as an initiative to “limit building heights and lot coverages throughout the City.” However, in April 2016, when presented with objections from two law firms working for the competing Measure D campaign, the City Council voted to print on the ballot a false description claiming that Measure C would “increase to 45 feet maximum building height in the Neighborhoods.” In fact, Measure C on page 6 clearly stated the General Plan parameters for Neighborhoods: “Maximum Height: 30 feet.” With the insertion of the poison pill on the ballot, Measure C failed.
3. Why Did the Superior Court Not Order the Ballot Description Corrected?
After an exhausting campaign of letter writing and in-person meetings failed to compel the City Council to reinstate the City Attorney’s original ballot description, our Citizens’ group filed a lawsuit on June 13, 2016 to correct the description of Measure C to be printed on the ballot. Sadly, despite our clear explanations, the trial court confused our challenge to the ballot description with challenges to ballot pamphlet materials, which the City claimed must be filed before April 16, 2016. In fact, Elections Code section 13314 allows challenges to descriptions of initiatives printed on the ballot at any time before printing.
4. If the Measure C Group Wins the Lawsuit, Will There Be a Do-over Election?
NO. The election is over and cannot be undone. However, as Voters and Citizens, Measure C supporters are now asking the Court of Appeal to clarify, once and for all, the legal rules for correcting ballot descriptions of initiatives in California cities and counties.