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By Eric Heinz
Ther will be 12 candidates on the ballot this November for the San Clemente City Council election.
The candidates who qualified for the ballot at the end of the day on Wednesday, Aug. 15, are: Dan Bane, Don Brown, Wayne Eggleston, Laura Ferguson, Jackson Hinkle, Gene W. James, Tiffany Robson Leet, Mikii Rathmann, Jake Rybczyk, Ed Ward, incumbent City Councilmember Kathy Ward, and Bernie Wohlfarth.
Brad Malamud announced he had withdrawn from the City Council race earlier the same day, but he did qualify for the ballot per the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
Editor’s note: San Clemente Times has listed candidates in alphabetic order by the first letter of their surname. The California Secretary of State is expected to draw the random alphabet tomorrow, Aug. 16, and we will publish the list of candidate names according to that order going forward.
There are three open seats this election, and current Councilmember Lori Donchak will not seek reelection, having served three consecutive terms, neither will Mayor Tim Brown, having served two consecutive terms.
By law, the deadline to file nomination papers was extended from Aug. 10 to Wednesday, after the two incumbents did not file. It only takes one incumbent to not file or qualify for the ballot to trigger the extension.
In 2016, there were just five candidates for two spots in which Councilmembers Chris Hamm and Steve Swartz were elected.
City Council voted 4-1 at a meeting on July 31 to sign and approve a ballot initiative that would increase the “hotel tax” (transient occupancy tax or TOT) from 10 percent to 12.5 percent of every hotel bill. This would bring in an estimated $570,000 to the city. The City Council approved the ballot measure to be submitted for the general election.
Measure W will be the designated letter for the TOT ballot question. The same ballot initiative was proposed in 2016, but it would have increased the tax to 13 percent, and it failed by just eight votes.
The city’s TOT percentage hasn’t been increased since 1991.
Another ballot initiative, submitted by residents, will be decided this year—whether to separate San Clemente into voting districts. If it passes, the city would create a task force to design the districts; however, the initiative asks voters if a special election should be held in the event the City Council declines the task force’s recommendations.
The current City Council is still considering separate pieces of a ballot initiative that would set term limits to City Council, but that initiative will not be placed on this year’s ballot, and instead, the Council opted to set it for the 2020 election.
What those term limits will look like have yet to be determined, but Councilmembers leaned toward not setting lifetime limits. This would also apply to term limits for city commissions and committees, and Council is expected to discuss whether to appoint its clerk instead of elect the position.
We’ll have more detail on the initiatives tomorrow.
Follow the San Clemente Times up-to-date City Council election coverage online here and on Facebook and Twitter at @SCTimesNews.