Wilde v. City of DunsmuirAnnotate this Case
In 1996, California voters adopted Proposition 218 (as approved by voters Gen. Elec. Nov. 5, 1996, eff. Nov. 6, 1996 [as of Nov. 14, 2018], archived at ) (Proposition 218) to add article XIII C to the California Constitution by which they expressly reserved their right to challenge local taxes, assessments, fees, and charges by initiative. At issue in this case was whether section 3 of article XIII C to the California Constitution silently repealed voters’ right to challenge by referendum the same local levies for which they expressly preserved their power of initiative. The City of Dunsmuir (City) rejected a referendum measure submitted by one its residents, Leslie Wilde. The City rejected the referendum even though there was no dispute Wilde gathered sufficient voter signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot to repeal Resolution 2016-02 that established a new water rate master plan. The City’s concluded its resolution establishing new water rates was not subject to referendum, but only voter initiative. Wilde petitioned for a writ of mandate in superior court to place the referendum on the ballot. At the same time, Wilde gathered sufficient voter signatures to place an initiative on the ballot to establish a different water rate plan. The trial court denied Wilde’s petition, and the City’s voters rejected Wilde’s initiative, Measure W. On appeal, Wilde contended the trial court erred in refusing to order the City to place her referendum on the ballot. The Court of Appeal concluded this appeal was not moot, and that the voters’ rejection of Wilde’s initiative water rate plan did not establish that the voters would necessarily have rejected Wilde’s referendum on the City’s water rate plan. On the merits, the Court concluded the voters’ adoption of Proposition 218 did not abridge voters’ right to challenge local resolutions and ordinances by referendum. The trial court erred in finding the City’s water rate plan was an administrative decision not subject to voter referendum. The resolution adopting an extensive water upgrade project funded by a new water rate plan was legislative in nature and therefore subject to voter referendum.