San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria. Photo by Chris Stone

A proposal that would revise the city of San Diego’s referendum process, primarily by letting the public know earlier who is funding campaigns, will be considered by the City Council at a special meeting Thursday.

The proposed changes come in the wake of two referendum campaigns in the past year, one to overturn the City Council’s increase in the minimum wage and the other to reject the One Paseo project in Carmel Valley. Signature-gathering campaigns for both received substantial funding, one from the business community and the other from a rival developer.

Councilman Todd Gloria wants his colleagues to request the city’s Ethics Commission to draft changes to the election law that would require:

  • The “paid for” disclosure on advertising literature to also be included on petitions circulated for voter signatures
  • Identification of the top two donors of $10,000 or more by referendum proponents
  • The filing of independent expenditure and 24-hour contribution reports while signatures are being collected
  • The filing of a form called the “Campaign Comprehensive Statement” within 10 days after the petitions begin circulating

Gloria was the chief proponent of a proposal last year to increase the minimum wage in San Diego above the statewide level. A pay hike was approved by the City Council, but a referendum forced the issue to a public vote, which will take place next year.

“Corporate interests opposing the measure went to extreme lengths through a well funded referendum effort to keep hard working San Diegans in poverty,” Gloria wrote in a Jan. 8 memo to council President Sherri Lightner. He said paid signature-gatherers told “outrageous lies” about the referendum.

Opponents of the increase said it would drive up costs for business, and possibly lead to cuts in hours for the same types of workers the ordinance was intended to help.

Gloria’s referendum proposals would also ask the City Attorney to draft language that would “ensure consistency, clarity and correctness” to the applicable section of the municipal code.

The council plans to take the unusual step of meeting in a “Committee as a Whole” to consider Gloria’s proposals. Lightner issued a memo to her colleagues last week that said the issues should go before all of the council members, not just a single committee.

A regular meeting of Lightner’s Charter Review Committee is set to follow the referendum discussion.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.