Honorable William L. Gordon
Presiding Judge, Santa Barbara County Superior Court
1100 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93121
Board of Supervisor's Response to certain Findings and Recommendations in the 1995-96 Grand Jury Report entitled The City of Solvang and State Water
Dear Judge Gordon:
At its regular meeting of September 10, 1996, the Board of Supervisors adopted the County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor's and County Counsel's responses (copies attached) as the Board's response to the 1995-96 Grand Jury Interim Final Report entitled The City of Solvang and State Water. The Board also adopted the following additional responses to the subject Grand Jury Report.
GRAND JURY RECOMMENDATION #8: The Board of Supervisors should consider appointing a special commission to oversee County and Special District ballot measures for accuracy and impartiality.
Board of Supervisor's Response: The Board of Supervisors acknowledges that there may be some positive aspects to appointing a special commission to oversee County and Special District ballot measures for accuracy and impartiality. However, as both the County Counsel and Clerk-Recorder-Assessor noted in their responses, creation of another commission would result in a new layer of government causing increased processing time for election matters and additional expenses. It would also raise new issues such as the authority of such a commission to oversee statutory functions of public officials and how the commission would check the "accuracy," "impartiality" and "readability" of a ballot measure. Finally, there is an existing, expedient process for judicial review of ballot material alleged to be misleading. (This mechanism was utilized as recently as the March, 1996 election.) An elections oversight commission would not substitute for, and could not interfere with such judicial review. Therefore, the Board has elected not to pursue the creation of an elections oversight commission at this time.
GRAND JURY FINDING #10: K91 referred to both Ordinance No. 91-1 and the 1963 Water Supply Retention Agreement. The Ordinance in its entirety was not part of the K91 ballot measure. The Water Supply Retention Agreement was not reasonably obtainable by the average voter. Even if the Agreement had been obtained, it is unlikely that it would have been understood by anyone other than a lawyer.
Board of Supervisor's Response: We agree that Ordinance No. 91-1 in its entirety and the Water Supply Retention Agreement were not part of the K91 ballot measure. However, a written impartial analysis of the ordinance was provided within the sample ballot mailed to registered voters and, in accordance with the California Elections Code, the entire ordinance and the agreement were made available to any voter upon request and without cost. The Board supports the full disclosure and availability of relevant written information to the voter but acknowledges that legal agreements often use technical terms and some help in interpreting them may be required.
Finally, as indicated in County Counsel's response, it may be useful to note that the Board of Supervisors is responsible for ballot measures proposed by the County and by special districts for which the Board serves as governing body. Cities and independent districts (such as the water districts) are responsible for the ballot measures they submit; therefore, we do not think it appropriate for the Board to revise language adopted by city councils or district governing boards.
The Board appreciates the work of the Grand Jury on this complex and important topic.
Chair, Board of Supervisors
c: Grand Jury Foreperson