FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2018
NO ON C CAMPAIGN THROWS IN THE TOWEL, AGREES TO ACCEPT COURT ORDER DIRECTING IT TO CORRECT FALSE AND MISLEADING STATEMENTS IN BALLOT ARGUMENTS
Per state law, the court can only approve changes to ballot arguments that have been shown to be objectively false and misleading
Napa, Calif. – The Napa County Superior Court today ordered that five objectively false and misleading statements in Measure C opponents’ official ballot arguments be removed from the ballot pamphlet and replaced with modified language.
“Voters deserve to know the truth about Measure C, and I felt I had to take a stand against the misinformation being pushed out by the No on C campaign,” said Napa County resident and grape grower Yeoryios C. Apallas, who filed the lawsuits that led to the court order. “These misleading ballot arguments were signed by public officials like Supervisors Belia Ramos and Alfredo Pedroza and Planning Commissioner Jeri Gill. Because of the court’s order, taxpayers will not be forced to pay for the distribution of false statements that the Measure C’s opponents were attempting to pass off as factual.”
Ballot arguments appear in Voter Information Pamphlets that are printed and mailed out by the County Registrar of Voters at approximately the same time ballots are mailed to voters. Because these documents are printed and distributed using taxpayer funds, individuals have the right to challenge ballot arguments that they believe are objectively false. Free speech protects persuasive language, but it does not allow campaigns to present false information to voters. Per state law, courts may intervene on the content of ballot arguments, “only upon clear and convincing proof that the material in question is false, misleading, or inconsistent with [the Elections Code]….”
Through the settlement that led to today’s court order, Measure C opponents agreed to delete and rewrite several statements made in the official statements submitted to the county for inclusion in the Voter Information Pamphlet. Changes include:
· The argument will no longer be able to claim that Measure C would outlaw future farming in the Ag Watershed. While the measure does impose some future restrictions on clearing oaks for agriculture in the Ag Watershed, it leaves thousands of acres available for planting, does not interfere with existing farming at all, and allows future oak removal for agricultural purposes where permits have been secured. And despite the opponents’ suggestions to the contrary, Measure C does not apply in the Ag Preserve or anywhere else in the County outside the Ag Watershed as defined in the Napa County zoning code.
· The argument will no longer be able to claim that private property owners would be prevented from making any changes to their land. Instead, the final argument acknowledges that permits would be required for oak removal only in the Ag Watershed, and only after the limit stated in Measure C is reached. Even then, Measure C will still allow oak removal for many reasons, like creating firebreaks, constructing access roads, and building homes and driveways.
· Measure C opponents agreed to change their false claims about support from local elected officials. The original argument, signed by Measure C opponents, including Supervisor Ramos, falsely suggested that “all” Napa County Supervisors oppose Measure C. In fact, two Supervisors – Brad Wagenknecht and Diane Dillon – do not oppose Measure C and have signed sworn statements under penalty of perjury stating this. “That the opponents of Measure C would falsely claim otherwise shows their desperation and should trouble anyone who cares about democracy or the state of politics in Napa County,” noted Apallas.
· The ballot argument rebuttal will no longer be able to falsely claim that Measure C will “reverse” existing environmental protections. Measure C provides important protections for oaks now and ensures the long-term preservation of oak woodlands by setting up a permit program after an additional 795 acres have been removed. Measure C will protect Napa’s watersheds and water quality – and the court order stops opponents from arguing otherwise.
“Yes on C is grateful that Mr. Apallas was willing to pursue this lawsuit so that voters will not be presented with untrue information in their voter pamphlets,” added Mike Hackett, co-chair of the Yes on C campaign. “We’re satisfied that the changes ordered by the court will make it clear to voters that Measure C creates limited and reasonable restrictions on oak removal in order to protect our community’s water supplies and water quality, now and into the future.”
The lawsuits against the misleading ballot arguments were filed by the San Francisco law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP. This is the same law firm that drafted Napa County Measure J and Measure P, and successfully defended Measure J up through the California Supreme Court. As part of the settlement, the campaign against Measure C agreed to pay $54,000 for the Yes on C campaign’s legal fees. This payment comes after Measure C’s opponents hired one of the country’s largest law firms in a failed effort to intimidate the grassroots Yes on C campaign.