In a gutsy, high-risk throw of the dice the proponents of Measure B have gone to court — a move with potential for considerable blowback if they don’t prevail.
You’d think that if you were the opponents of Measure B, the county- wide initiative that would authorize the 1,746 unit Lilac Hills Ranch along the I-15 Corridor — in effect shouldering the Board of Supervisors and the normal land use process out of the way — that you could word your arguments as you pleased.
You’d be wrong.
On Friday Measure B proponent Paul Schumann filed a petition for a Preemptory Writ of Mandate in Superior Court, alleging that opponents of Measure B “authored ballot arguments which include false and/or misleading statements,” and asking the Court to delete or amend false and/or misleading portions of opponents’ ballot argument.
Schumann (or if you prefer Accretive, since it is the Accretive Group that is funding the ballot measure campaign) pretty much considers just about everything in the ballot argument false and misleading.
Superior Court Judge Eddie C. Sturgeon Tuesday set a hearing date of September 14 to hear arguments from both sides and make his decision the next day. That is the same day the Registar of Voters must finalize the language in the sample ballot for the November 8 election.
Jeff Powers, publicist for “Yes on B” sent out this statement Monday: “On behalf of Measure B supporters, proponent Paul Schumann Friday filed a petition for a Preemptory Writ of Mandate in Superior Court, alleging that opponents of Measure B “authored ballot arguments which include false and/or misleading statements,” and asking the Court to delete or amend false and/or misleading portions of opponents’ ballot argument.
“ ‘Voters deserve accurate information before they vote,’ ” said Schumann. ‘The arguments submitted by opponents violate the state Election Code prohibition on making false and/ or misleading statements in the official arguments printed and distributed by the County Registrar of Voters. Voters are now on notice that opponents will do or say anything in their efforts to defeat Measure B,’ he said.”
The legal move has the potential for blowing up in Accretive’s face if the judge were to rule that all or none of the arguments being challenged are false or misleading.
The action also has the potential for forcing the opponents of Measure B to quickly go into a huddle and rewrite their arguments in time to meet the deadline to make it onto the November ballot.
Technically the lawsuit was filed against the Registrar of Voters, with the “real parties of interest” being Slater-Price, Obermeyer and others listed below as the signatories of the anti-Measure B argument.
The names of the five people who signed the anti Measure B argument include former Valley Center Pauma Unified School District Supt. Lou Obermeyer, who ran VC schools for a decade, retired Escondido Fire Chief (and current VC resident Vic Reed, former county Supervisor Pam Slater- Price, Jeanne Brown, president of the San Diego Chapter of the League of Women Voters, Martha Cox, president of the North County San Diego Chapter of the League of Women Voters; Diane Coombs, president of San Diegans for Managed Growth, and Pat Zaharopoulous, president & CEO of Middle Class Taxpayers.
During her tenure at VC Center Pauma Unified School District Dr. Obermeyer had something of a “history” with the Accretive Group. On one occasion she had a meeting with Accretive CEO Randy Goodson and his associates to talk about the development and the impact it might have on VC schools. Goodson later claimed that Obermeyer promised to build a school to serve the development. Dr. Obermeyer had a different version: that she told Goodson his students would need to attend the existing Lilac School.
The Accretive Group, which is pushing Measure B, is known for occasionally — and some might say more than occasionally — playing hardball with people who oppose their development.
For example, two years ago Accretive filed a California Public Records Act request that forced every member of the Valley Center Planning Group to disgorge every email they ever sent among themselves and to the County concerning Lilac Hills Ranch. Hillary, call your office!
Another frequent critic of the developer, Charlene Ayers of “The Ranter’s Roost,” a news blog, was dragged into a lawsuit Accretive was involved where a local Realtor sued the developer over an unpaid bill.
Ayers commented at the time that she was brought in as a third party due to some comments she had made on her blog. In 2013 she commented in a story that this reporter wrote for another publication, “Now the rub for me, and the perfect vindictive tool for them, was to drag me into their lawsuit causing me significant financial harm without ever having to prove the ‘relevance’ of bringing me into the lawsuit.”
In August 18, 2015 the Voice of San Diego reported: “For example, Accretive is suing a family that owns property in the Lilac Hills area, alleging the family’s septic tank polluted a nearby creek bed. The family says the lawsuit is an attempt to bully them into signing their property over.”
This week’s Accretive lawsuit drew this somewhat bemused comment from James Gordon, one of the leaders of the “No on B” “The No on Measure B campaign finds Accretive’s lawsuit to be an interesting strategy, but not necessarily a smart strategy. First, Accretive sued some of the most prominent residents of San Diego County, including the leaders of the League of Woman Voters and the Middle Class Taxpayers Association. Second, the facts are not on Accretive’s side. The County’s independent report determined that Accretive did a ‘bait-and- switch’ with the voters and confirmed that San Diego County taxpayers will be subsidizing a private developer to build market rate homes. Finally, the upcoming ruling by the Judge means that the Judge has determined that the No on Measure B opponents are accurate and truthful about how bad Measure B is.”
Gordon added, “As the public needed the County’s independent impact study to expose the misleading positions of the developer, the Judge’s ruling will also provide the same independent confirmation for the voters.”
Pam Slater Price commented, “I don’t see how they could possibly claim that ours was not accurate, because I have relied upon the county’s report, which was an analysis of the impacts.”
One might suppose that challenging the wording of an opposition ballot statement is a bit “into the woods” for most voters. However, it is very likely that most voters will not read the 600- page initiative that describes the initiative in detail. They are likely to rely on the arguments written by Accretive and the opponents of Measure B.
In our original version of this article we wrote that the lawsuit was filed by James Sutton, who had also represented Bill Horn in his dealings with the Fair Political Practices Commission over whether he should recuse himself from voting on this issue.
According to Horn’s office:
“1. Supervisor Horn was not represented nor advised by James Sutton while researching a potential conflict of interest regarding Lilac Hills. He worked solely with County Counsel and ultimately chose to take County Counsel’s recommendation. Your statement is false as misleading.
2. Supervisor Horn went to the FPPC and asked for their opinion. They advised him. Recusing himself was his choice based on their assessment and more importantly, County Counsel’s recommendation.”
We regret the error.