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Explaining Ceres' two measures
Howard Johnson
Measure E would affect the cost of staying at Howard Johnson Inn (above) and Microtel Inn in Ceres, not anyone else. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Voting will be simple this Nov. 3 in Ceres.

1). Decide which two of four will go to the Ceres City Council.

2). Vote yes or no on Measure D.

3). Decide if Measure E is a good idea.

This section will help you on D and E. Neither measure is complicated.

Measure D
Measure D simply asks voters if Ceres should elect councilmembers on the basis of four districts rather than based on the entire geographic area within the city limits. Council members like the system the way it is but fear the city will be eventually sued by minority groups that have successfully challenged at-large districts - often at great cost to the city defending itself. So they placed it on the ballot for all to decide.

City officials complain that Measure D is being forced on the Ceres voter and in the end doesn't make any difference. If voters say no, the city may be forced to adopt council districts anyway.

Legislation is in the work by state Senator Anthony Cannella, D-Ceres, that would allow a city to bypass the voters and create council districts since the trend is going that direction.

Officials say that even if the voters reject the measure, the city may be forced to make the switch to avoid a costly voters' rights lawsuit. Cities and school districts in the state have been forced to abandon at-large elections by Hispanic groups who assert that they violate the 2002 California Voters Rights Act. Certain Latino groups believe that districts make it easier for minorities to be elected to local office, a claim that has proven questionable.

With the change, a person may only run for council within their district. That means they only have to campaign in their district, not the whole city.

Ceres Unified School District went with trustee areas years ago.

In creating the four districts, a lot of criteria had to be used. First, the districts have to be carved to grant each of the current council members their own separate districts. They also had to be drawn in a way that gave at least one council district a majority of registered protected class of voters, in this case Latino voters. That district is now represented by Councilmember Linda Ryno. She protested the grouping of her home north of Ceres High School with neighborhoods west of Highway 99. Kline also opposed the way the districts were drawn, saying his home in central Ceres has been corralled with an area of southwest Ceres.

Despite the protests, the proposed boundary lines have been drawn.

The soonest council district elections would take place would be in 2017 when the council terms of Ryno and Ken Lane are up for grabs. By 2019 all of the seats will be determined on the basis of district elections.

Measure D does not change the way Ceres elects its mayor since there is only one mayor that must represent the entire city thus a mayoral district would not work.

Measure E
City officials have placed E on the ballot to simply raise the tax that guests of Ceres motels pay for rooms. Nobody pays the tax unless they stay at the two existing motels or any future hotels.

The current Transient and Occupancy Tax (TOT) is charged at a rate of five percent but E calls for the tax to increase to 10 percent. The Ceres TOT - which was established in 1964 and last changed in 1971 - generates about $70,000 annually for the city. That TOT revenue peaked at $91,000 in the 2005-06 fiscal year before the economic downturn put a serious dent in travel and tourism. City Manager Toby Wells said a five percent increase would bring in an extra $70,000.

Because the city is not specifying a certain use for the new tax revenue - it would go into the general fund - the measure would pass with a simple majority vote.

The last time voters weighed in on the issue was in 2002 when they rejected a proposed increase of the TOT to 8 percent by a margin of 45 percent to 55 percent.
Most cities in California have hotel tax rates of between 7 and 10 percent tax.

with the exception of Anaheim which capitalizes on Disneyland visits with a 15 percent rate and Mammoth Lakes which charges 12 percent. Modesto and Turlock charges a TOT rate of nine percent.