Though support outweighed opposition on Measure C on Tuesday, proponents of the tax measure that would benefit the Crescent City Harbor are still waiting to see if their efforts were successful.
County Counsel Elizabeth Cable has yet to make an official determination on whether a 50-percent-plus-one voter majority is necessary for the measure to pass or if a two-thirds majority, or 67 percent of the vote, is required, said County Clerk-Recorder Alissia Northrup on Wednesday.
Plus, there are still roughly 1,000 ballots that have to be counted, including about 800 late vote-by-mail ballots, Northrup said. The final count could cause the percentage of people who voted in favor of Measure C to change, she noted. But at this point, Northrup said, a two-thirds majority vote in favor of Measure C doesn’t appear possible.
By the time all 18 precincts reported in as of 9:42 p.m. Tuesday, 54.69 percent of Del Norte County voters approved Measure C while 45.31 percent opposed it.
Cable was reported out of the country and her deputy, Joel Campbell-Blair, was not in the office Wednesday, according to Northrup.
Measure C is a citizens initiative that, if approved by Del Norte voters, would increase the transient occupancy tax (TOT) charged visitors to hotels and motels in the unincorporated part of the 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.
Revenue generated 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, according to the Del Norte County Sample Ballot & Voter Information Guide.
There is no expiration date for the proposed tax, according to Cable’s impartial analysis on Measure C.
Harbor Commissioner Brian Stone noted Wednesday that as of right now, he and other proponents of Measure C are in limbo. He noted Save the Harbor 2018 participants have met criteria established by the California Supreme Court in the 2017 California Cannabis Coalition vs. the City of Upland decision, which stated that unlike government-sponsored tax initiatives, voter-sponsored measures do not require a two-thirds majority to pass. Now, all that’s required is for the county counsel to make a ruling, Stone said.
“Until that happens we’re not going to know,” he said.
Though there are still about 1,000 ballots needing to be counted, Stone said he doesn’t see the vote changing much.
“It won’t make 67 percent, but it definitely passed above 50 plus 1,” he said, referring to the voter threshold established under the California Cannabis Coalition vs. the City of Upland decision regarding citizens initiatives.
Stone, who had presented 11 options for reducing the harbor’s deficit and paying down its debt in early 2017, has indicated that if Measure C is successful, the $262,000 the harbor pays to the USDA wouldn’t come out of its budget anymore.
This means the harbor district, which has a budget deficit of $348,000, would be about $80,000 away from balancing its budget, Stone told the Triplicate on Oct. 11.
Don McArthur, who helped spearhead the Save the Harbor 2018 campaign, said he wasn’t surprised Measure C fell short of the two-thirds majority vote needed for it to pass without question. He said he eagerly awaits the county counsel’s opinion.
“In American elections, I think there’s an automatic 40 percent of the people who are going to be against anything that has to do with taxes unless it’s really explained and they get it,” McArthur said. “This was, I thought, a well-thought-out measure, but it was kind of hard to explain in a soundbite.”
Northrup said she has until Dec. 6 to take the election results to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors for certification before sending the results to the California Secretary of State’s office. The secretary of state has until Dec. 14 to issue a statement of vote, Northrup said.
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