Former Palo Alto Mayor Dena Mossar has filed a lawsuit challenging "blatantly false" language used by the local firefighters' union in the official ballot argument to support its ballot petition, Measure R.
Mossar, who leads a growing coalition of former elected officials who oppose Measure R, specifically targets in her lawsuit a statement by union supporters claiming that all it takes is one or two individuals to change service levels in the city's public-safety departments.
If voters pass Measure R in November, Palo Alto would need to hold an election any time the City Council wants to reduce staff in the Fire Department or close a fire station. Mossar's group, which also includes former mayors Vic Ojakian, Bern Beecham and Liz Kniss, argues that the measure would make it "nearly impossible for the Fire Department's budget to ever be reduced."
The union wrote in its rebuttal to Mossar's argument that the measure would give citizens a greater say in public-safety decisions. The union is currently negotiating with the city over a new contract and union officials have persistently maintained that the department's staffing level has already reached a bare-minimum level.
In their arguments in favor of Measure R, union officials tout the proposal as a way to get residents involved in critical decisions involving public safety.
"Such a decision should not be made solely by one or two individuals on the City Council or in the city administration," the rebuttal stated.
In her lawsuit, which is directed against rebuttal authors James McLaughlin, Alan Davis, John Garcia and Robert Paugh, Mossar calls this latter statement "blatantly false." City Clerk Donna Grider, the city's official elections official, is also listed as a responder in the suit.
"The final sentence of the pertinent paragraph states that one or two individuals in the city administration are capable of enacting changes in the level of available emergency and medical services," Mossar wrote. "This statement is blatantly false as city administrators are not capable of making such changes: such power rests solely with the Palo Alto City Council."
Mossar also said in the suit that the nine-member City Council would require a majority-vote approval before it could change the level of available emergency or medical services. She challenged the statement that all it takes is one or two council members to change staffing levels as "false and misleading."
Mossar recommended modifying the sentence in the rebuttal to read, "Such a decision should not be made by the city council."
If Measure R passes, the City Council would have to hold two public hearings on any proposed staffing reductions, vote to approve these reductions and hold an election in which voters also approve the reductions.
The current council has already passed a resolution opposing the measure and calling it "bad government" and a waste of money.