November 27, 2008 - City accused of violating election law // FONTANA: Citizens for a Safe 4th of July, which seeks to repeal a fireworks ban, says a June vote date is too late
Paper: Press-Enterprise, The ( Riverside, CA)
Title: City accused of violating election law // FONTANA: Citizens for a Safe 4th of July, which seeks to repeal a fireworks ban, says a June vote date is too late.
Date: November 27, 2008
Author: IMRAN GHORI, THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE
A group behind a ballot initiative to repeal Fontana's ban on fireworks is accusing the city of violating state election law in delaying a vote until June.
The City Council announced its intent to hold the election on June2 after declining to adopt the ordinance at its Tuesday meeting. The council will formally set the election at its Dec. 9 meeting.
Earlier this month, the San Bernardino County registrar of voters verified that Citizens for a Safe 4th of July collected enough signatures to qualify its petition as a ballot initiative.
Under state election law, the city has within 88 and 103 days to call an election. However, it also allows discretion to extend that period to 180 days if the initiative can be consolidated with other elections. The time frame begins on the date the council orders the election, Dec.9 in this case, said Sandra Medina, deputy city clerk.
With a special election estimated to cost $424,000, Fontana officials chose to hold the election in June, saying the costs would be much lower, although they couldn't say how much.
"We were trying to do whatever we could to save the taxpayers money," Councilwoman Janice Rutherford said.
But representatives for the initiative group, whose members include church leaders and an Orange County fireworks company, have taken issue with the city's decision, noting that there is no state election scheduled for June.
An attorney for Citizens for a Safe 4th of July sent a letter to the city this week, challenging the city's interpretation of election law. John Kelly, vice president of TNT Fireworks in Fullerton, said the group hopes to get the city to change the date and is not discussing Fontana.
According to Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil, no local or state elections have been set for June at this point. There has been talk in Sacramento of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger calling a special June election to deal with budget matters, but so far nothing has been set.
Fontana Mayor Mark Nuaimi said the city believes a special election will be called.
"It's not a guess," Nuaimi said. "The trend and history is that there are regularly special statewide elections in June."
In an attempt to address some of the group's concerns, Rutherford has proposed that the city put in place procedures for fireworks sales to go ahead next year if voters approve the initiative.
This year was the last one service groups were allowed to sell fireworks classified as "safe and sane" after the council voted in Feb. 2007 to outlaw them, citing public safety concerns.
Record Number: 849343
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