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home / citizen / in the media

San Diego Union Tribune
Nov 29, 2000

by By Brad Drake, Oaks Project volunteer

Politicians poison Vista politics, thwart will of people

While all Americans focus on the Electoral College and the presidential recount, Vistans should be looking at the troubling disregard of the Vista City Council for the will of the voters in the city election.

With 59 percent of the vote, Vistans passed Proposition W, the citizen-backed campaign finance reform measure on the Nov. 7 ballot. Vista voters also approved a city-sponsored reform measure, Proposition V, which netted 63 percent of the vote. But the legislation that Vista voters thought they approved may not go into effect.

Hidden within Proposition V was a "poison pill:" a provision to completely invalidate Proposition W if Proposition V received just one more vote than Proposition W.

Councilman Ed Estes was quoted during the election as saying that, "Prop. V was set up to kill Prop. W."

The battle between Propositions A and B on the county ballot mirror this "poisoned" politicking. The citizen-backed Proposition B (requiring disclosure of all campaign contributions and lobbying efforts to the Board of Supervisors by parties applying for a government contract) was countered by the less stringent Proposition A, which contained a "poison pill" identical to that in Vista City Council's Proposition V. Though both Propositions A and B passed, Proposition A won more votes, relegating Proposition B to the same uncertain fate that Vista's Proposition W may face.

At the polls, voters make the logical assumption that when measures win a majority vote, the measures will be put into effect. The proliferation of "poison pill" provisions has put an end to this basic rule. We need to reform the initiative process and end this anti-democratic practice.

First, we need to eliminate the use of "poison pill" provisions. We also need to know if an initiative is put on the ballot by the politicians or by volunteers who want real reform. Those initiatives that are qualified by volunteers would have a symbol placed in the voter pamphlet next to the measure to signify this (VQI, or Volunteer Qualified Initiative).

Proposition W is a perfect example: volunteers collected the 5,400 signatures to qualify it for the ballot; Proposition V was put on the ballot at the last minute by the politicians.

Those who gathered the signatures for Proposition W are members of an all-volunteer grass-roots organization called the Oaks Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group intent on taking back the power that special interests wield in unfairly influencing the votes of city officials. Volunteers for Proposition W knocked on the doors of thousands of Vista voters to educate them about the need for conflict-of-interest controls.

Last election, DDR OliverMcMillan, the recipient of the multimillion-dollar "Vista Village" redevelopment project, gave thousands of dollars to City Council members. Proposition W would stop this from happening again; Proposition V would not.

Proposition W is simple and straightforward: W prohibited city officials from accepting campaign contributions, gifts over $50, or future employment from companies rewarded Vista citizen tax dollars (such as a city contract, tax break or zoning variance).

Proposition W keeps the promise of money after a vote from influencing the decisions of city officials.

Voters deserve to have Proposition W put into effect. The volunteers who worked for months to put it on the ballot and get out the vote will work to make sure this happens.

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