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Opponents Of Wage Hike Say Enough Signatures Gathered To Force Vote

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Photo by Claire Trageser

Jason Roe, a spokesman for the San Diego Small Business Coalition, talks to San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders at a news conference announcing the group has enough signatures to force a vote on the minimum wage increase, Sept. 16, 2014.

A group of businesses opposed to San Diego's minimum wage hike said Tuesday enough signatures have been collected to force the increase to a vote of the people.

A group of businesses opposed to San Diego's minimum wage increase said Tuesday it has enough signatures from registered voters in the city to force the hike to a vote of the people.

The San Diego Small Business Coalition, which is backed by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, says it turned in 56,000 signatures to the city clerk. That's about 22,000 more than needed to force a public vote on the minimum wage increase.

The City Clerk's Office now has 30 calendar days to verify enough signatures from registered voters were collected. If the group has enough, the City Council can either take back the incremental increase to $11.50 an hour by 2017, call a special election on the increase or put it on the June 2016 ballot.

If the measure goes to the ballot, wages will not increase to $9.75 an hour in 2015 or $10.50 an hour in 2016 as scheduled. Any raises will be delayed until after the vote, and then will only go into effect if voters approve the increase.

Former Mayor Jerry Sanders, now the Chamber of Commerce's CEO, made the announcement about the number of signatures collected. He said if the increase goes to a vote, opponents will be ready to fight.

"We're prepared to wage an aggressive education effort so that voters understand what this means to our economy and the loss of jobs," he said.

Sanders also thanked Mayor Kevin Faulconer for his support, and council members Mark Kersey, Scott Sherman and Lorie Zapf for fighting against the increase. They are all Republicans.

City Council President Todd Gloria, a Democrat who originally proposed the increase, said in a statement that he is waiting for the signatures to be validated.

“The documented deceit of the signature gatherers over the last 30 days raises concerns over our referendum process that may be worth examining to ensure this process is used as legitimate check and balance and not as a way for a small group of people with deep pockets to buy results that could not be attained through the public process," the statement said.

On Monday, supporters of the minimum wage increase said the business group's paid signature gatherers violated California Elections Code because they made false statements to voters when asking them to sign their petitions.

"Thousands of people have already taken their names off the petition," said Crystal Page, a spokeswoman for the group. "Petitioners lied to voters to get these signatures. That is against the law."

She said voters can take their names off the petition until 5 p.m. Wednesday. Her group even set up a website, TheyLiedToMe.net, for people who want to take back their signatures.

At the announcement, Sanders said the group gathered more signatures than in petition drives to overturn the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update and a building fee to support affordable housing.

"And neither of those faced anywhere the level of union bullying and voter intimidation that this one did," he said.

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Photo of Claire Trageser

Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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