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Pasadena Star-News
Mar 09, 2001

by Elizabeth Lee

City Hall gears up to battle Measure B

An initiative aimed at keeping City Hall from going the way of Tammany Hall got a thumbs-up from voters Tuesday, winning with 60 percent.

But the anti-corruption measure could wind up in court before it's enforced.

"It really has major constitutional flaws," said Jon Fuhrman, a political activist who teamed up with current and former city officials to oppose Measure B.

More than 8,400 voters approved the ballot measure, which was sponsored by Ralph Nader's political group, The Oaks Project.

Measure B is intended to prevent City Council members, staff and various city commissioners from taking kickbacks. They will now be forbidden to accept gifts, campaign contributions or jobs from anyone to whom they've awarded a publicly financed benefit.

On Tuesday's ballot, Measure B was sandwiched in between two high-profile ballot measures related to the Long Beach (710) Freeway.

"I'm not as up-to-date on B, but it seemed like it would help the city without so much corruption," voter Chris Martinez, a 23-year-old systems analyst, said at the polls.

The problem is such regulations are unnecessary in Pasadena, said Fuhrman. He can't recall any Pasadena officials who were arrested or indicted for taking kickbacks in the 30 years he's been active in local politics.

"It means a substantial record-keeping burden, and it means a substantial discouragement for good people who want to get involved and run for office," Fuhrman said.

He said voters would have rejected B if they were better informed about it.

Mayor Bill Bogaard, who signed the ballot argument against B, said he has asked the city attorney to brief the council on the city of Vista's lawsuit against a similar initiative.

Vista sued after The Oaks Project qualified the initiative for the ballot last November. The initiative was defeated at the polls by a competing, city-sponsored measure, but Vista nevertheless is continuing to challenge the initiative's constitutionality.

Pasadena filed a friend of the court brief in that case asking for a ruling. It's uncertain whether Pasadena will file its own suit.

"It's certainly possible we could challenge (it) once we learn where things stand," with the Vista case, Bogaard said. "It will depend on what the council believes is the right action after we get fully briefed."

Pasadena should give the new law time to work, said Oaks Project Director Paul Herzog.

"I would be concerned, as a Pasadena voter and taxpayer, if my elected officials, who I pay a small stipend to, are already worried about fighting something that hasn't even gone into effect," said Herzog, who does not live in Pasadena. The Oaks Project is based in Santa Monica.

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