Measure B, the controversial seven-year half-cent sales tax increase devoted to fixing Turlock roads narrowly failed with 61.02 percent, just shy of the 66.7 percent, or two-thirds majority, needed to pass.
On the other hand, Measure A, the proposed initiative to change to the manner in which City Council elections are held, from at-large to district elections, will now divide the City into four districts with one councilmember representing each, after the Measure passed widely with 73.96 percent of voter approval.
The purpose of the failed Measure B would have been specifically for the construction, reconstruction, replacement, repair and/or maintenance of existing City streets, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, ramps, pedestrian/bicycle improvements, including Americans with Disabilities Act improvements, and necessary pavement markings.
The City Finance Department estimated Measure B would have raised an additional $39 million in tax revenue over the proposed seven-year period.
The tax would have begun April 1, 2015 and would have terminated seven years after, or upon the adoption of a new countywide transportation sales tax measure.
Despite its narrow failing, the numbers did show strong support for the tax. The Citizens for Yes on Measure B Committee had reported a total of $27,270 in year-to-date contributions and were left with $9,784.74 cash on hand.
With the passage of Measure A, though there was no current impending legal action being taken, the City rids itself of the potential vulnerability to a legal challenge under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.
The Act states that an “at-large method of election may not be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election, as a result of the dilution or the abridgment of the rights of voters who are members of a protected class.”
The City of Modesto spent $1.7 million to fight a California Voting Rights Act case, which it ultimately lost, and was then forced to pay another $3 million in plaintiff’s attorney fees. Even lawsuits which are settled in a single day have ended in six figure settlements.
Districts created by the City Council, in line with State and Federal laws requiring each district to be approximately equal in population, will allow district boundary adjustments based on new census data without voter approval. In May, the current Turlock City Council selected the map that would divide the city into four evenly-sized voting districts.
Regarding future elections, changes will take effect in 2016 for the two council seats up for election at the time and in 2018, the remaining two seats would be elected in the same manner; Mayoral candidates will continue to be elected at-large and all registered voters in the City will have the opportunity to vote for any Mayoral candidate.