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Read Ryan v. City of LB Settlement Agreement re Prop J (grassroots utility tax cut) Lawsuit

(May 25, 2001) -- LB fiscal reformer and Prop J/utility tax cut author Norm Ryan, who sued City Hall and won an injunction against its use of taxpayer funded materials tilted against his measure, has agreed to a Settlement Agreement in which City Hall admits its taxpayer-funded mailing of "The Wave" (stuffed in residents utility tax bills before the election) "failed to set forth a fair and balanced presentation of the principal consequences, good and bad, of Measure J" and the utility users tax.

City Hall's attempts to defeat Mr. Ryan's Prop J, which included trying to sway public opinion with "The Wave" and offering a City Council counter-measure providing less tax relief (proposed by Baker, Colonna & Carroll), all failed to defeat Prop J. Mr. Ryan's measure passed by a nearly 70% margin citywide and carried in every Council district.

Mr. Ryan told he considers City Hall's agreement to comply with sweeping language of two CA Supreme Court decisions (quoted verbatim in the settlement agreement) significant because it "effectively means City Hall now understands what the law is and will never do [what they did] again."

He said this is a timely victory because it should stop City Hall from trying to interfere with a new utility tax cut measure now being considered by Mr. Ryan and LB Citizens for Utility Reform (LBCUR) to end City Hall's utility tax on City Hall run utilities.

Mr. Ryan said he saw no point in pressing forward with the part of the suit that sought to have City Manager Henry Tabaoda repay the General Fund personally for amounts spent for printing and mailing an edition of "The Wave" and a follow-up version that a Superior Court judge considered improper advocacy. Mr. Ryan said he wanted to avoid a situation where Councilmembers might spend tax money to indemnify Mr. Taboada.

Mr. Ryan also said he felt it was more important now to focus on the forthcoming ballot measure. He said he considers City Hall's policy of making a profit on City Hall run utilities to be a de facto tax on ratepayers, and imposing a utility tax on it is unfair "double-dipping" that deserves to be ended.

Mr. Ryan successfully guided Prop J to victory after first being told by City Hall that he needed more than five times the number of petition signatures actually required (which increased his costs and kept his measure from being on the ballot sooner).

He then overcame a City Council vote, led by Councilmembers Carroll, Colonna and Vice Mayor Baker, that put a counter-measure on the ballot (ahead of Prop J) and would have provided half the tax relief of Ryan's measure had it received more votes. (It didn't.)

Mr. Ryan's lawsuit did not seek any personal damages; his lawyers (not Mr. Ryan) will be reimbursed for their costs of $34,644.51.

The Settlement Agreement was provided to at our request by Mr. Ryan. It can be viewed at Ryan v. City of LB Settlement Agreement..

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