On Friday, Dec. 14, Oakland City Council convened a special meeting to certify and declare the passage of Measure AA, the Oakland Children’s Initiative, despite the fact that the measure failed to receive the required two-thirds vote needed for passage at the ballot box.
After the votes were counted and the measure fell short of a two-thirds vote, the mayor’s office asserted that the measure only required a simple majority to pass. This is contrary to the official voter guide sent to all voters which said in multiple places that a two-thirds vote was required.
Moreover, the City Attorney, Barbara Parker, concluded that Measure AA was a parcel tax that required a two-thirds vote to pass. Neither Mayor Libby Schaaf nor the council nor anyone else said anything to the contrary until after the election when they found out they had lost.
We believe there is a strong case to overturn the city council’s action. As such, the Jobs and Housing Coalition is joining forces with the community to initiate a legal challenge to the city council’s action.
Regardless of the merits of the measure, and who doesn’t like children, the council’s vote, ignoring the will of the voters, is a stunning rebuke to the democratic process, and represents a huge breach of trust that businesses, residents and taxpayers will not let go uncorrected.
More than a dozen people showed up at the council meeting to oppose the council’s action. They asserted that the issue is not whether Measure AA is a good measure, the issue is: How dare the council refuse to accept the will of the voters.
Lynette Gibson McElhaney, city councilmember for district three, was the only one to oppose the council’s action. She said it all when she told the council “it’s a sad day when we are saying that our voters have to sue us in order to perfect their will.”
The East Bay Times editorial board said this of the Council’s action: “To change the rules of the game now, after the ballots are counted, is a deplorable undermining of the election process.”
Oakland resident Georgia Richardson pointed out that no one is against children’s education, but this is about process. “What would you tell your children? If you don’t win under the current rules, change the rules? What message does this send to our children? We are doing something that we would not advise them to do.”
We understand that City Attorney Barbara Parker is going to ask the court to validate the council’s action. Members of the Jobs and Housing Coalition have created a legal defense fund and will aggressively litigate to uphold the will of the voters.
One of the ironies is that several Jobs and Housing Coalition members supported the mayor’s children’s fund with million-dollar contributions. But, just like many who spoke at the city council meeting, they feel frustrated by this election process. It’s plain wrong.
Greg McConnell and Mimi Rohr are the President and Di¬rector of Public Affairs of the Jobs and Housing Coalition. They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]