Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Yaffe Orders Change in ‘Partisan’ Lawndale Ballot Measure Wording
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe yesterday ordered a change in the language that Lawndale residents will see on Nov. 5 when they vote on a redevelopment ballot measure.
Yaffe agreed with the city’s self-described “leading gadfly,” Frederick Siegel, that the language chosen by the city council presents a biased viewpoint in support of the measure, which would expand the local redevelopment agency’s power of eminent domain.
The council had wanted to ask voters whether they favored Ordinance No. 920-02 “[t]o provide the ability to create local jobs; attract business; generate revenue to repair streets, potholes; expand anti-drug and gang programs; improve parks, libraries, senior services without increasing taxes….”
Critics of the plan, led by Siegel—an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in the city’s last election—said it will lead to the taking of homes in the 31,000-population city’s residential areas, which supporters deny. Siegel is represented by Bradley W. Hertz, who argued that the city was trying to “manipulate” the voters into supporting the measure.
Yaffe said the prefatory language should be stricken under +Citizens for Responsible Government v. City of Albany+, a 1997 case in which the First District Court of Appeal rejected ballot language on a measure that would have permitted gambling “to provide revenue for the City…create jobs, provide for an Albany Bay Trail, and allow Albany waterfront access.”
Lawndale’s attorney, William Wynder, said the cases were different because the language of his city’s measure could be established as a factual matter. But Yaffe said he saw no distinction.
The language submitted by the city, he said in his order, “is improper because it favors a particular, partisan position” and is misleading.
As it now stands, voters will be asked whether they wish to “repeal, in its entirety, Chapter 2.74 of the Lawndale Municipal Code, which prohibits the redevelopment agency from using its power of eminent domain to acquire property which is zoned for residential purposes or developed with residential structures of four units or less” and to direct the city council to amend the city’s general plan so that the power of eminent domain may be exercised “to eliminate blight only in commercial and residential zones within the redevelopment project area.”
Wynder said the possibility of appeal was “remote,” given tomorrow’s deadline for sending ballots to the printer, but that he would discuss the issue with the city manager.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company