Opposition to Measure M Could Land Torrance City Officials in Hot Water
A recent article appearing in the Daily Breeze revealed that Torrance had joined 6 other Los Angeles County cities in a lawsuit over proposed ballot language for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed Measure M. Whether the City Council approved joining the litigation remains in question.
The article quoted Rancho Palos Verdes City Manager Doug Willmore who noted that the City Council there voted to join the lawsuit because they felt “the county is ignoring the needs of southern cities.” No record of a similar vote occurring in Torrance seems to exist.
In response to an inquiry requesting at what meeting and agenda item the issue was discussed, the Torrance City Clerk’s office provided the minutes from the June 28, 2016 Council meeting and referenced an urgency item that was added to the agenda on the subject.
That urgency item came at the behest of Councilmember Weideman who sought direction from his colleagues as to whether he should vote to oppose the measure at the June 30, 2016 meeting of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG). The approval granted by the Council was limited to allowing Weideman to vote in opposition to the measure at the SBCCOG meeting. No discussion was held at the time with regard to any potential litigation and whether Torrance should join in a lawsuit challenging the proposed ballot language.
The lack of documented approval by the City Council raises concerns that someone within city government made the decision to join the lawsuit without seeking a vote from the Council. Should that be the case it would raise questions of who really represents the City and speaks on behalf of its residents.
To compound matters, the lawsuit itself appears lacking in substance. Indeed, the Daily Breeze reported that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel quickly rejected it just yesterday saying that there was no evidence the wording was confusing to voters.
Yusef Robb, of the campaign on behalf of Measure M, was quoted in the article calling the lawsuit “a political stunt that has nothing to do with the law or reality.”
Carson Mayor Albert Robles, however, stated that he and the other coalition members, including Torrance, were disappointed with the ruling and are considering an appeal.
The Daily Breeze did not report on how much the litigation has cost taxpayers in legal fees or will cost should the 7 city coalition file an appeal.
Municipalities already tread a thin line when it comes to taking a position on ballot measures as California Government Code section 54964(a) provides that, “An officer, employee, or consultant of a local agency may not expend or authorize the expenditure of any of the funds of the local agency to support or oppose the approval or rejection of a ballot measure or the election or defeat of a candidate, by the voters.”