Why is the sponsor of a tax increase important?
Who writes and sponsors a tax measure is important because they influence how the money is spent and who controls the process.
City Council Sponsorship: When a city council sponsors a tax increase of any kind they are expected to do so after a careful, and yes, public, review of the city’s finances occurs. The process should explain to residents why the additional taxes are needed, how the new money will be spent, and how it will benefit the city and its residents overall. City Councils traditionally follow this process because they have a fiduciary responsibility and are accountable for the city’s finances—it’s sound fiscal management policy and procedures. This process was ABSENT with Measure WC.
Ballot Measure Process: The city council, a resident, or an organization can sponsor placing a measure—including a sales tax increase—on the ballot. When a city council sponsors a tax increase, the city council votes to place the measure on the ballot and there is no petition or its related signature gathering process.
The city pays for ballot costs regardless of who sponsors the measure. Election costs for Measure WC are estimated to be $320,000 (City of West Covina Staff Report. December 3, 2019).
What happened in West Covina?
Since the sales tax increase was sponsored by resident Glenn Kennedy, a paid consultant of the police officer’s association instead of the city council, a petition and signature gathering process was required. Kennedy and the police union needed 5,573 valid West Covina registered voter signatures. Professional signature gathers were hired. Many lies and numerous misstatements were told to residents about how the sales tax money would be spent. Some signature gatherers intimated and harassed residents to get them to sign the petition.
Residents expressed concerns to the city council about the additional taxes and the lies the signature gathers were telling. Former Mayor James Toma was one such resident. Please listen to his clear explanation of the situation and recommended remedy.