With all ballots now counted, local measures to provide more child care to children in some California communities saw mixed results, with one measure still in limbo.
Voters in Sacramento rejected a measure to set aside a portion of the city’s general funds for child care and other services for children and youth. In tiny Emeryville, tucked between Oakland and Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area, voters wholeheartedly approved their sales tax for child care, police, fire and emergency services.
In Alameda County, the result is less straightforward — 64 percent of voters approved a measure that would add a half-percent sales tax to raise money for more child care for low-income children and higher wages for child care workers.
Proponents of the measure say it won. But the county may not start collecting the tax just yet. Legal challenges involving other local tax initiatives need to be resolved first. There are five lawsuits in California regarding whether citizen initiatives require a simple majority or a two-thirds vote for approval.
“If we don’t hit the two-thirds threshold, we’re subject to what eventually the California Supreme Court is going to rule on this,” Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan said in early March. “I would doubt that we would try to collect it before that.”
It is possible the board of supervisors will vote to validate the measure and wait to see if anyone challenges it.
A senior staff attorney for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said the organization might take Alameda County to court over the measure.
A California law requires a two-thirds vote for local governments to raise taxes for a specific purpose, like child care.
However, San Francisco and Oakland officials have argued in court that only a simple majority is needed if a tax measure was put on the ballot by voters through an initiative, and not by the local government. In rulings in other lawsuits, a San Francisco Superior Court judge agreed that citizen initiatives only require a simple majority vote, while judges in Fresno and Alameda counties have both said they need a two-thirds majority. All the cases have been appealed.
Margaret Brodkin, founder and director of Funding the Next Generation, an organization that helps communities propose local initiatives for children’s services, said even though the election results were not what advocates had hoped for, she believes these local initiatives raised awareness among voters.
“You learn something every time you do this. We are building a movement. And we’re in it for the long haul,” Brodkin said.