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Gloria Wants ‘Paid For By’ Disclosures Added To Referendum Petitions

Photo caption: Carolyn Ostic gets a voter to sign a petition to force a vote on San Diego's ...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Carolyn Ostic gets a voter to sign a petition to force a vote on San Diego's minimum wage increase outside a Clairemont Vons on Aug. 25, 2014.

San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria says when you sign a referendum petition, it should be easier to tell exactly what you’re signing and who’s paying for it.

Gloria has released a list of changes he'd like to be made to the city's laws.

Among his suggestions are to require "paid for by" disclosures on referendum petitions, like the ones required for campaign advertisements. He wants those disclosures to list the top two major donors who've given more than $10,000 to support the referendum.

He also wants to require contribution reports on who's funding referendum drives to be filed during the signature-gathering process, instead of after the signatures are submitted.

Five actions by San Diego’s City Council have been blocked by referendum petition drives in the past year and a half. The City Council is deciding how to respond to the most recent referendum to block its approval of the mixed-use development One Paseo on Monday.

A referendum drive last year stalled the council's approval of a minimum wage increase. Now wages won't rise unless voters approve the increase in June 2016.

"Certainly in the case of the minimum wage referendum, the public was lied to when they were told small businesses were asking for this," Gloria said. "The truth was that it was major national lobbying groups, money that was from far outside of our town that were trying to dictate how San Diego chooses to govern itself."

Gloria is presenting his proposed changes to the council's Charter Review Committee on Thursday. However, he's not asking to change the charter. The committee is considering other charter changes, which would require a public vote, likely in June or November 2016.

"This is about trying to address low-hanging fruit," he said of his proposal. "Not that it's insignificant. I don't even think it's modest. I think stuff that we're asking for is hard to say no to, frankly."

He's going to the Charter Review Committee because it has taken on the responsibilities of the former City Council rules committee, which reviews changes to the city's municipal code and other legislation.

"I see this as a first step in the process to see what kind of buy-in we can get from the committee," he said. He added that right now, he's the only council member asking for these changes and is trying to build consensus.

Later on, Gloria said he would also consider asking for charter changes, including raising the percentage of signatures needed to get a referendum on the ballot.

When he first made his proposal in January, Jason Roe, who runs the consulting group Revolvis, which managed the minimum wage referendum, said it would lead to disenfranchisement of voters.

"He's attacking the process of putting any public policy on the ballot, but the reality is that voters are going to have their say," Roe said. "The referendum process allows voters to vote on issues that are very important to the city, and I don't understand why someone who's in a position that (Gloria) is in would think it's OK to take away the right of our voters to have a say on these issues."

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