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Ballot Arguments for Downey Amendment 14 Finalized

 By Tammye McDuff

 Final ballot arguments were released last month by city officials outlining the pros and cons of a controversial measure that would dramatically change the manner in which Downey is protected.

Voters in Downey would receive sample ballots regarding Downey City Council Amendment 14, Section 702 and seeks to have the City Charter amended, removing that states the City would provide for the staffing of the police and fire departments through its own staff and remove the requirement that a two-thirds advisory vote was necessary before the City Council could consider alternative methods or agreements for providing police and fire services.

In 1998 Downey city voters were supposedly “duped” into passing a poorly drafted Charter Amendment known as Section 702.  

That specific amendment allowed the Council to make decisions regarding Police Safety, Fire Department and Paramedic Protection, stating that Section 702 did not allow voter input.  The City council has outsourced emergency medical transport services and city jail operations to private companies. Charter 14 was written to restore the voting public the right to choose, by majority vote, which public or private entity would best provide cost effective and efficient fire and police services to Downey. 

In a rebuttal on February 7, 2014, the City Council stated citizens “must keep” Downey Fire Department and Police Department in the hands of the voters and not in the hands of politicians, unions or special interest groups. 

Fifteen former city Mayors unanimously agreed and signed a Declaration of Argument / Rebuttals in the issue to vote NO, stating that by voting No, the citizens’ of Downey would remain in control of their own Police and Fire Departments. 

These documents were considered officially filed. Public Examination period was held through February 28, 2014.   During this time any member of the public was able to obtain a copy from the City Clerk’s office. 

In a press release dated March 11, 2014, the City moved to dismiss a meritless Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation [ SLAPP]; which charged the Downey Fire Association of trying to mislead the public. This was to ensure that Downey citizens fully understoond the consequences of their vote for Charter Amendment 14 on the June 3, 2014 ballot.

In legal papers filed March 11, 2014 the following was clearly pointed out in the document: “The Downey Fire Association is a co-sponsor of the Charter amendment as 

part of the Association’s long-standing efforts, dating back to 1997, to require the City to contract for fire services with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.”

The Association has spent over $124,000 through the end of December 2013 on the measure, including repeatedly threatening lawsuits against the City. 

The ballot title proposed by the Association lawyers would be a “blatant falsehood” and comes on the heels of widespread citizen complaints of fraud in the initiative’s signature gathering process.

A motion by City officials has also filed to recover the City’s attorney’s fees and costs, estimated at $150,000 so far. The next hearing in the case is on March 18, 2014 and the City’s anti-SLAPP motion will be heard on May 27, 2014.