Final Vote Count Puts UUT Win at Nearly 80 Percent

Marcy and Guillermo Guzman and Ed Ristow were on the losing end of the final count. Photo by Steve Whitmore

The final count shows that South Pasadena voters overwhelmingly want the city’s utility users tax (UUT) to remain intact, according to the latest official figures.

The final tally with all precincts reporting along with provisional and absentee ballots counted, have Measure N, the UUT repeal ballot measure, going down to defeat by 79.91 percent, 8,849 votes, while those in favor of the repeal were at 20.09 percent, 2,225 votes, according to the final numbers with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office.

On election night, the tally was 6,000, 78.71 percent, in favor of the UUT and 1,623 wanting the UUT to be repealed.

Although supporters of the UUT were confident the repeal would fail, they were concerned that the ballot initiative was confusing and therefore could squeak by because of the confusion.

“We were concerned about the wording of the measure,” Ed Donnelly, co-chair of the committee that fought to defeat the repeal, South Pasadena Public Service Committee 2018, said after the election. “People were confused on how to vote for the measure because if you wanted the UUT, you had to vote no, but if you wanted the repeal, you voted yes. That’s one of the reasons our committee was the ‘No on Measure N Committee.’”

The UUT provides about 12 percent of the city’s general fund, which translates to about $3.4 million of the city’s approximate $26 million budget. The UUT, which stays in South Pasadena, pays for police, fire, library, crossing guards, street and sidewalk repairs, the July 4 parade, and summer concerts to name just a few of the services.

The UUT barely passed the last time in 2011 by just above the required 50 percent and is going in front of the voters again in 2020.

If the repeal had been victorious, city officials predicted drastic cuts would’ve been implemented and the quality of life in South Pasadena would’ve been adversely effected.

But even those who fought hard to defeat the repeal say the city has got to rein in its spending and prepare for future fiscal challenges, especially in light of the looming pension liability facing South Pasadena as well as many cities statewide.

“We were fighting for fiscal responsibility and our quality of life here in South Pasadena,” Donnelly said in an earlier email. “Maintaining that fiscal responsibility means we’ll have to look to the future to be sure there are prudent ways to generate revenue and to spend wisely so that we sustain our small town way of life.”

The group that fought to repeal the UUT has said all along that one of the reasons for taking on this thankless task was to alert the city as to the fiscal catastrophe that lies ahead unless the pension situation is brought under control along with what they characterized as “bloated” city salaries.

“Even though the effort to repeal the UUT failed, proponents feel that the current unsustainable financial path of the city is an issue that cannot be voted away,” Ed Ristow, Guillermo Guzman and Hugh Hemington, the leaders of the group that failed to get the UUT repealed, said in an email to The Review. “There is a huge unfunded pension liability that will have to be paid in the future. It is estimated to be over $100 million – see – which is roughly four times the annual amount of the city’s general fund. Because of this measure, public awareness of this issue has been raised for the first time.”

Registered Voters in South Pasadena – A Breakdown

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office keeps voter registration data historically by general elections.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.