Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Kyle Passes On Issue of Council Funding of Public Funds for Referenda Campaign

Chancellor says issue not "ripe" for judgment. Decision leaves Council free to launch public-information campaign on behalf of anti-IRV referendum and two others.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 8:34 AM

click to enlarge Kyle listening to arguments in case - JB
  • JB
  • Kyle listening to arguments in case
After a four-day hesitation, during which time a palpable optimism flared among opponents of the three city council-supported referenda, Chancellor Jim Kyle reverted to form on Monday, ruling, as he had on an earlier request to excise the referenda from the ballot, that, as he said both times, the issue of the council’s use of public funds (estimated in the range of $30,000 to $40,000) to “educate” voters was not “ripe” for judgment.

Although Kyle acknowledged that the plaintiffs — three individuals and the Save IRV organization — had standing (a point that attorneys for city had contested), he suggested again, as he had on October 11th, that the rights or wrongs of the matter could best be adjudicated in the wake of an actual election, or at least at a time when specific consequences, as against potential ones (“mays” and “maybes,” he called them), could be alleged.

Plaintiffs Erika Sugarmon, John Marek, and Sam Goff had all presented themselves as past candidates for political office who intended to run in the city election of 2019 and would face improper obstacles favoring incumbent opponents should Ranked Choice Voting (aka Instant Runoff Voting) not be instituted, as provisionally planned by the Election Commission but as opposed in a council-sponsored referendum.

Kyle was not impressed by the plaintiffs' argument, suggesting that he had no intention of granting either side what he referred to ironically as “a fair advantage.”

City council attorney Allan Wade, referring to Ranked Choice Voting as “a failed experiment,” expressed satisfaction with the ruling and claimed to reporters, as he had in the hearing, that the council had the right to use taxpayer funds to “influence” or “educate” voters (he used both verbs at different times) and that Mayor Jim Strickland was legally bound as city administrator to assist in executing the strategy, which opponents had likened to the council’s putting “a thumb on the scale.”

Bryce Ashby, attorney for the plaintiffs, said his side still maintained hope that the mayor could exercise independent authority by declining to sign papers that would put into action a public-information campaign as envisioned by the council. Deidre Malone, of Malone Advertising and Media Group, has confirmed that she has been approached by the council about assisting in an organized media campaign in favor of the anti-IRV referenda and two others on the ballot.

Strickland has made no public statement on the controversy.

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