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Grabinski Campaign Tells Voters He "Supported Measure J": We Provide Salient Facts, You Decide

Campaign mailer includes fictitious "newspaper" headline

(March 23, 2002) -- Councilman Ray Grabinski's Mayoral campaign has sent a mailing to LB voters claiming he "supported Measure J, which cut the utility user tax in half." The claim appears on the same page of the mailing as a fictitious "newspaper" headline (adjacent to a legitimate PT news clipping on another subject) reciting, "Grabinski supports Measure J to cut the utility user tax in half."

Grabinski's campaign for Mayor -- the highest elective office in the city -- made these representations about a matter on which nearly 70% of voters citywide have spoken. What the public did, and what he did, should be matters of record.

Since Councilman Grabinski's actions are at issue, we focus on them and have not attempted to include every detail about Prop J.

Summary background

In spring, 1999 Mr. Norm Ryan, now a candidate for Mayor, and a group of LB businesspeople announced they intended to collect petition signatures to put a measure on the ballot cutting LB's then-10% utility tax rate by 1% per year for 5 years, delivering a 5% utility tax rate cut in five years.

Various coalitions of Councilmembers then proposed alternatives that offered taxpayers less or slower taxpayer relief than the ballot measure Mr. Ryan proposed.

Councilman Grabinski was a party to two attempts to offer LB taxpayers slower utility tax relief than Mr. Ryan proposed. Grabinski's two attempts appear superficially similar, but actually offered very different options because of when they occurred.

Sept. 1999

In September: 1999, Councilman Grabinski joined in supporting a Council offer of slower taxpayer relief than Ryan's proposed measure. It offered half per cent utility tax rate cuts for the first four years, postponing 1% rate cuts until years 5-7.

At this point, Mr. Ryan had not yet collected sufficient signatures to get his desired measure on the ballot, and Ryan and those backing the 1% annual utility tax rate cuts could have accepted the slower compromise to avoid a burdensome signature gathering process. Ryan indicated he would accept the compromise if the Council put it on the ballot so future Councils couldn't tamper with it.

The compromise failed without a fifth Council vote. Accordingly, Mr. Ryan finished collecting petition signatures and put the measure he originally proposed on the ballot (1% rate cuts each year for 5 years), not the measure offering slower taxpayer relief backed by Grabinski.

By April, 2000, the petition gathering drive had succeeded, making it legally inescapable that LB voters would have the right to decide on the Ryan-backed measure (1% cuts each year for 5 years) in November 2000, regardless of what the City Council did.

Councilman Grabinski then moved a second time.

June, 2000

In June, 2000 -- after Ryan's measure was already guaranteed a place on the November 2000 ballot -- Councilman Grabinski resurrected and agendized the slower taxpayer relief that failed to get five votes in Sept. 1999. Grabinski self-labelled his action a "community compromise": half-percent cuts for four years and with 1% cuts postponed until years 5-7.

Grabinski's agendizing memo for the June 20, 2000 Council meeting states, "I respectfully request that the City Council review a community compromise for a 5% Utility user tax to be phase in over a seven-year period."

Although Grabinski dubbed his action a "community compromise," no members of the community spoke in its favor at the June, 2000 Council meeting. Mr. Grabinski said during the meeting he hadn't invited anyone to do so, an irrelevant point, since if anyone had wanted to do so, they could have. has prepared and posted below a transcript of the Council action on the item.

Near the outset, he said, "I would like to at least entertain the idea that unless there's something coming, the only thing that we have facing us right now is one initiative."

Later in the proceedings, Grabinski said Councilman Jerry Shultz "came to the conclusion "that there is a possibility that this thing can be won by winning it at the ballot box."

Grabinski then said on his own behalf:

"I'm here to say that I don't like rollin' the dice. One of the things I've learned in elections is there's winners and there's losers. I've done both. Winning's better. You win when you know that you got the odds in your favor. And I'm sitting here telling you that the odds are not in our favor in this particular instance."

To view our transcript, click on Grabinski, June 20, 2000 Council meeting re utility tax.

We can only envision two reasonable scenarios resulting from Grabinski's June, 2000 action:

  • (1) The Council could have enacted the slower utility tax rate cut Grabinski proposed outright [Grabinski told us this is what he had in mind]. That would be consistent with the transcript. However, it would have provided slower taxpayer relief than Ryan's measure (which became known as Measure J) which Grabinski's campaign claims he supported.

  • (2) The Council could have put Grabinski's proposal on the ballot. That would have put a competing measure on the ballot against Ryan's measure [Grabinski told us this is not what he had in mind]. Roughly six weeks later, he voted against putting a different Council alternative (backed by Baker, Colonna and Carroll) on the ballot.

At no point during the June, 2000 Council proceedings did Councilman Grabinski say he supported the petition initiated measure that was later labelled Measure J.

Mr. Ryan's ballot measure wasn't called Prop J in Sept. 1999 when Councilman Grabinski joined in the failed Council compromise. The petition initiated measure which LB voters enacted in November 2000 wasn't formally designated Prop J until August, 2000.

Mr. Ryan, who led the campaign for Prop J, has said Councilman Grabinski "did not endorse Prop J, did not contribute to it, he was asked several times, never joined in."

Mr. Ryan added that he didn't want to be the "gatekeeper of who supported [Prop J] and who didn't," but noted, "There were tons of people out there, doing even their small part and I have praised them for it. But Mr. Grabinski was not one of them."

In November, 2000, LB voters enacted Prop J by a near 70% voter margin.

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