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A split Anaheim City Council rejected proposed changes to the ballot question for an initiative that, if approved in November, will raise the minimum wage for city subsidized businesses to $18 an hour by 2022.

The 75-word ballot question is what appears before voters when they go to vote “yes” or “no” on the initiative, and according to state elections code, must be an impartial, unbiased summary of the proposed law.  The city attorney’s office drafted the original language, which was approved by the City Council at two meetings in June and July.

The ballot measure would raise the minimum hourly wage to $15 dollars for all employees of a company that has received tax rebates from the city of Anaheim by the year 2019, with the wage rising by $1 a year until it reaches $18 an hour in 2022. After that, annual increases would be based on the cost of living.

Councilwoman Kris Murray, a vocal opponent of the ballot initiative, proposed changing the language to include specific dollar figures describing how much wages would increase and how those wages compare to minimum wages statewide. Specifically, it says the $18 an hour wage is “$3/hour more than the State’s minimum wage.”

The current minimum wage in California is $11 an hour, although that is set to rise to $15 an hour in 2022 for employers with 26 or more employees.

Proponents of the measure – a coalition of unions representing Disneyland Resort and hotel workers – characterized the move as politicking by Murray, who is part of a campaign by Anaheim Resort businesses against the measure, dubbed the No on the Anaheim Job Killer Initiative coalition.

Murray argued her revised language was more informative to voters and accused proponents of hiding valuable information about the initiative from voters.

“If they believe it will help struggling workers, why wouldn’t they want it [in]?” Murray asked, referring to the dollar figures.

She cited four past city-level minimum wage increase initiatives in California which included dollar figures in their ballot question.

Councilmembers voted 4-3 July 31 to reject Murray’s proposal and keep the previously approved ballot question, with Murray, Councilwoman Lucille Kring and Councilman Stephen Faessel voting no.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said he’s never seen a ballot question rewritten before and questioned Murray’s motives.

“I would worry about accepting anything else, especially [language] by someone clearly opposed to the ballot measure as being a biased provision,” said Tait.

Faessel defended the revised language as more specific, noting that nearly all the language in Murray’s version of the ballot question was taken from the initiative itself, except for the phrase comparing the $18 hourly wage to the statewide minimum.

“Whether I agree or disagree with the initiative, are we giving the residents full disclosure? I believe the first [ballot question] doesn’t and the second does a better job,” Faessel said.

Murray offered to remove that phrase, although other council members voted against her proposal before that could be considered.

Murray also proposed a separate ballot initiative for the November general election ballot that would require increased oversight in the event of a tax increase, including the creation of a citizen’s oversight board and clarifying how the money would be spent.

Discussion of Murray’s item began after midnight, and Tait called on the council to table the item, arguing the measure is confusing and requires further examination. Tait said he is not in favor of any tax increases.

The council voted 4-3 to table the item indefinitely. It will not appear on this November’s ballot because the council has no scheduled meetings before the August 10 deadline to submit ballot materials to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

Two other ballot initiatives were proposed by Murray and Kring at a previous city council meeting, but did not appear on the agenda Tuesday.

Kring proposed a ballot initiative to amend the city charter to ban fireworks but it was later determined that an ordinance created by the City Council “would be the appropriate course of action,” said city spokesman Mike Lyster.

Murray also proposed a ballot measure to require a vote of the electorate in order to alter the city’s anti-camping ordinance, a law that allows the city to ticket and confiscate the belongings of homeless people who camp and sleep in public spaces.

The city currently is being sued by an advocacy group for the homeless over its enforcement of that law. The city also is a party in a countywide lawsuit in which attorneys for the homeless are asking for an injunction temporarily suspending enforcement of anti-camping laws until more shelter beds are made available countywide.

Lyster said the city decided to “put off any action” related to the anti-camping ordinance as court proceedings continue.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Councilwoman Kris Murray introduced a ballot measure that would require a two thirds vote of the electorate to approve a tax increase. Her measure would have required increased disclosure in the event of a tax increase, but did not require a two thirds vote. 

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

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