SACRAMENTO, CA - The group hoping to force a public vote on whether or not to build an arena in Sacramento could soon hit a roadblock.
As it stands now, the Sacramento City Clerk's Office will be rejecting every single signature that the STOP, or Sacramento Taxpayers' Opposed to Pork, campaign has gathered. According to California election laws, those trying to get an initiative on a ballot through petition must publish a notice of intent in a local newspaper.
STOP did that.
However, what the group failed to do is file proof of that publication with the city, according to Sacramento City Clerk Shirley Concolino.
As of now, she cannot accept any signatures, including the 18,000 collected using funds from Seattle investor Chris Hansen.
She did say that she'll probably accept the proof of publication and mark it late, because that's what a judge would likely decide if it goes to court.
STOP is the group trying to force voter approval on the new arena. Their platform is that voters should have a choice on whether or not public subsidies are used for it.
The city argues no money from the general fund will be used.
As for those signatures, STOP still plans to use the 18,000 signatures collected using Hansen's money, despite him asking them not to.
Hansen was part of the ownership group bidding to buy and move the Kings to Seattle. Recently, he was fined by the Fair Political Practices Commission for not disclosing his contribution to the STOP campaign.
"If you wish to continue your efforts to qualify the measure, I request that you do so without the benefit of the signatures collected with my funds," Hansen said in a letter to STOP. "Please do the right thing and return the signatures to me or destroy them."
STOP responded to Hansen's request, saying they had a legal obligation to file the signatures. But that is technically is not true. The law the group referenced says hired gatherers must turn in the signatures; what STOP does with them is up to the group.
Regardless, the 18,000 signatures get them much closer to the 22,000 they need by Dec. 16.
A new question though, is how many signatures are valid? Some people could have signed more than once and many could live outside the Sacramento city limits.
"We find this very often during the mayor's election that they think they can vote," Sacramento County's Registrar Jill Levine said. "Their address can be Sacramento, but they don't live within the boundaries of the city."
Julian Camacho, president of STOP, responded saying that in pursuit of their 22,000 signature goal, "We're going to get somewhere between 33,000 and 35,000. We're going to be doubly sure."
If that proof of publication is provided and the city clerk accepts the signatures, they will be sent to Sacramento County for validation.
It costs $3 per signature, and if the petitions aren't neat and tidy, Concolino will probably have to request each and every signature be validated. If STOP reaches their expanded goal, that would cost the city more than $90,000.
By Nick Monacelli, firstname.lastname@example.org