Del Norte’s county counsel decreed Friday that a tax measure to benefit the Crescent City Harbor has passed.
Measure C received 54.64 percent voter approval, according to updated election numbers released Friday. In an email dated Tuesday to County Clerk-Recorder Alissia Northrup, Deputy County Counsel Joel Campbell-Blair said since Measure C was submitted to the electorate by voter initiative rather than a local government, a simple majority was sufficient for approval.
“Based on the reasoning of the California Supreme Court in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, it is County Counsel’s position that, because Measure C was submitted to the electorate by voter initiative, rather than a local government, a simple majority is sufficient for approval, even though it is a special tax,” Campbell-Blair wrote. “Measure C has therefore passed.”
Measure C increases the transient occupancy tax (TOT) charged visitors to hotels and motels in unincorporated Del Norte County from 8 percent to 10 percent. The initiative would also impose a 2 percent transient occupancy tax on space rented at RV parks in the county.
Cash from the increased tax would go to the Crescent City Harbor District to pay down a $5.425 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan used to rebuild the inner boat basin following tsunamis in 2006 and 2011. The new tax dollars would also be used to pay for repairs to harbor facilities such as Citizens Dock, the Whaler Island Groin and the outer boat basin seawall.
There is no expiration date for the additional tax.
Speaking with the Triplicate on Friday, Cable said she wanted to clarify the perception that her office hadn’t made a decision with regard to Measure C.
“It’s not that we hadn’t made a decision,” Cable said. “We had a legal opinion ready for months. We didn’t want to influence the vote by putting that out prior to the vote actually being taken.”
Cable said she had her opinion “ready to go” in the event the vote was between 50 and 67 percent.
Sitting in on the final count of the vote-by-mail ballots, Don McArthur, treasurer of the Save the Harbor 2018 campaign, said Cable’s opinion is very good news.
“I’m relieved,” he said. “It’s good for the harbor. It’s been a fun thing to do.”
Harbor Commissioner Jim Ramsey, who also sat in on the final count of the vote-by-mail ballots Friday, said Measure C’s passing is also good for the county.
Since Cable didn’t publicize her legal opinion until Friday, proponents of Measure C stated they were hoping for a two-thirds majority, or about 67 percent of the vote, so that it would pass without question. On Friday, McArthur noted that based on the California Cannabis Coalition v City of Upland decision, a citizens initiative “seemed like a bonafide” way to approach a measure that would generate revenue for the harbor.
Ramsey noted though they are elected officials, McArthur, who sits on the Del Norte County Unified School District Board of Trustees, and Del Norte Library District trustee John Roberts, who also spearheaded Measure C, worked as individuals on the Save the Harbor campaign.
“It’s not really an organization of anything, we just went along for the ride,” Ramsey said.
Though he was disappointed with the California Supreme Court decision in the California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland case, Del Norte County Supervisor Roger Gitlin, who opposed Measure C, said he doesn’t know on what basis Cable’s legal opinion would be challenged.
“For reasons not understandable, we have a new precedent,” Gitlin said. “The City of Upland now set a new precedent where anything taxable coming from the people needs a simple majority plus one and if it’s a government-generated tax it still requires a two-thirds majority threshold, so it’s disappointing.”
Ramsey’s colleague, Harbor Commissioner Brian Stone, who had presented options for reducing the harbor’s deficit and paying down its debt in early 2017, has indicated that Measure C could generate about $262,000 a year for the harbor.
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