On November 6, 2012, one initiative was approved by the voters; the other was rejected.Motion to Dismiss The city clerk, the City of Brea, Schweitzer, and Murdock (respondents) filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the ground it is moot because the election has long since passed.The city attorney advised that the arguments would be signed, “City Council of the City of Brea by the Mayor, attested by the City Clerk.” Schweitzer and Murdock provided the arguments against the initiatives to the city clerk later that day.
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Steven Vargas, a Brea resident, filed a petition for a writ of mandate to compel the city clerk and the registrar to print the ballot arguments submitted by Schweitzer and Murdock as having been submitted by them, not by the city council.
Following briefing and a hearing, the trial court granted the petition in part and denied it in part.
Although the election has long since passed, and there is no longer an actual controversy regarding the two initiatives at issue, we exercise our discretion to consider this appeal.
We do so because the issues presented are of significant public interest and are likely to recur while evading review, given the timeframes applicable to elections.
Rebuttal arguments were limited to 250 words, but had the same requirements regarding the names and signatures of the arguments' authors.
At a special meeting convened on July 3, 2012, the city council authorized Mayor Don Schweitzer and Mayor Pro Tempore Brett Murdock to prepare arguments against the two initiatives and to prepare rebuttal arguments in opposition to the arguments in favor of the initiatives, all of which were to be published in the sample ballot, on behalf of the city council.
The City Council hereby authorizes: [¶] Ron Garcia (Councilmember in Favor/Against) [¶] Roy Moore (Councilmember in Favor/Against) [¶] Brett Murdock (Councilmember in Favor/Against) [¶] Don Schweitzer (Councilmember in Favor/Against) [¶] Marty Simonoff (Councilmember in Favor/Against) [¶] as members of the City Council, to file (a) written argument(s) not exceeding 300 words regarding the City measures specified above, accompanied by the printed name(s) and signature(s) of the author(s) submitting it, in accordance with Sections 9280 through 9287 of the California Elections Code, and to change the argument until and including the date fixed by the City Clerk after which no arguments for or against the City measure may be submitted to the City Clerk.
[¶] The arguments shall be filed with the City Clerk, signed, with the printed name(s) and signature(s) of the author(s) submitting it, or if submitted on behalf of an organization, the name of the organization and the printed name and signature of at least one of its principal officers who is the author of the argument.
The only change ordered by the court was the addition of the following line before the city clerk's attestation to the signature block at the end of the ballot arguments: “By: Brett Murdock, Mayor Pro Tempore.” Judgment was entered, after which Vargas filed a motion for a new trial.
The trial court denied the motion for a new trial, and Vargas timely appealed from the judgment.
Again, the materials on the city's Web site and otherwise publically available did not state the registrar had been provided with different information regarding the authors of the rebuttal arguments.