Thomas Randall Jr. has lodged another official challenge to Measure E, the Davis school parcel tax on Tuesday’s ballot. He’s been joined by fellow East Davis resident Janet Zwahlen in filing a federal lawsuit claiming that the tax is unconstitutional and that the wording is muddy.
The announcement comes just a week after the California Fair Political Practices Commission rejected Randall’s complaint concerning a school district fact sheet about Measure E, saying there was no evidence of a campaign violation.
In a news release, Randall indicated that he and Zwahlen argue in their lawsuit, filed with the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California in Sacramento, that “the Davis school board is levying taxes under Measure E in different amounts (and) not taxing certain groups at all, (which) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.”
Measure E includes a parcel tax exemption for qualifying senior citizens who live in a home they own. The measure also levies different amounts for single-family homes and for multi-unit dwellings like apartments, condominiums and duplexes.
Davis Board of Education president Susan Lovenburg reacted to the news by saying, “The district has not been served notice of a lawsuit, so we cannot comment on its merits. However, earlier this week, the FPPC found a similar complaint filed by the same party to have no merit.”
Randall said the case is being brought under the Federal Plain Writing Act of 2010, which was signed into law by President Obama that November. He claims that “the wording of Measure E mixes several issues into one long-winded sentence and ties the vote on the measure to the outcome of Proposition 30,” a statewide measure also on Tuesday’s ballot.
Randall objected to “the convoluted language” of Measure E and asserts that the “wording (of Measure E) is incomprehensible and that a voter voting yes on Measure E does not know what he is voting on.”
He wrote, “We want to see the language of the Measure E and the constitutionality of the measure itself examined in a court of law whether it passes or not.”
The ballot language for Measure E was set by the Davis Board of Education in a public meeting on June 28, “having been fully vetted by legal counsel, Lovenburg said.
“Mr. Randall could have challenged the wording during that meeting, or at any time since,” she said. “His release of a statement announcing the filing of a lawsuit, just five days before Election Day, calls into question his motives.
“We believe the ballot language clearly states the choices for the electorate and there is no reasonable basis for confusion,” Lovenburg concluded. “In addition, the Yolo County counsel’s impartial analysis, distributed to every voter in the Voter Information Pamphlet, accurately interprets the measure’s intent.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.