Lawsuit challenges vote on flood control measure
in San Anselmo
Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Crews clean up Anselmo Avenue after the San
The long-delayed effort to prevent another catastrophic flood like the
one that inundated San Anselmo on New Year's Eve 2005 is being taken to
A lawsuit was filed in Marin County Superior Court this week
challenging the mail-in election that supposedly approved raising $40
million over 20 years by charging property owners a flood fee.
The suit, filed by San Anselmo lawyer Ford Greene, says the ballot used
by the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District
failed to adequately warn voters of the unusual requirement that they
had to sign the ballot, resulting in the disqualification of 1,678
ballots, or 21 percent of the total.
"They employed a trick ballot to eliminate an entire category of voters
who by nature would have been disinclined to burden themselves with any
kind of tax," Greene said Friday. "They knew they could disqualify old
people on fixed incomes."
The vote, completed in June, passed by only 65 signatures. Greene said
a manual count determined that the measure would have failed by 147
votes had the unsigned ballots been counted. The warning that ballots
would be disqualified if they weren't signed was in small print and in
an out-of-the-way spot on the ballot, he said.
Supervisor Hal Brown and county lawyers have said they intend to stick
by the vote, which was in compliance with the law.
Flood control has been a major issue since Dec. 31, 2005, when San
Anselmo Creek poured over its banks, flooding 500 homes and businesses
and causing millions of dollars in damage.
Flood victims filed lawsuits and complained loudly that San Anselmo and
the other 11 entities in the flood corridor - including Fairfax, Ross,
Larkspur, the Marin Municipal Water District and the Ross Valley
Sanitary District - were not doing anything to prevent a repeat
The election was supposed to resolve the issue, but it, too, is now
mired in controversy.
"Flood control doesn't justify the subversion of people's votes,"
Greene said. "I'd like them to throw it out and then do it properly."
A hearing is expected to be set within 25 days.
E-mail Peter Fimrite at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page B - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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