A lobbyist-funded ballot initiative will attempt to overturn San Jose’s ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS) to-go containers at local restaurants. Sponsored by the California Restaurant Association, a petition that gathered 38,952 signatures was turned in to the City Clerk’s office Nov. 18. A day later, the clerk’s office forwarded the signatures to the county Registrar of Voters to verify their authenticity.
But before the ROV verifies if the necessary amount of signatures were gathered (20,946), critics have already lodged complaints with City Clerk Toni Taber about the misleading language in the petition.
Taber said she received numerous calls complaining that the initiative misled signers, who were told that the effort was designed to “expand recycling” and reach the city’s “Zero Waste” goals, when in actuality it just intends to repeal the EPS ban by adding Styrofoam-like products to the list of recyclables. San Jose approved the EPS ban in August, to the chagrin of the CA Restaurant Association and DART Container Corporation. The ban’s rollout is set to begin at the beginning of next year, with larger restaurants granted an extension until 2015.
Adding a little more opaqueness to the situation, downtown San Jose restaurateur Netsor Daniel Zubizarreta, owner of Mucho’s taqueria, signed his name to the notice of intent to file a petition with the clerk’s office in October, along with CA Restaurant Association “independent contractor” Jade Vo.
But when reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Zubizarreta hurriedly claimed not to know about the initiative. When asked if his signature was on the forms, Zubizarreta said he was busy with customers and hung up.
Taber told San Jose Inside that she intends to contact Zubizarreta and has already forwarded complaints about the petition’s messaging to the offices of District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Taber added that previous case law generally has not resulted in a challenged initiative being removed from the ballot, allowing voters to make the call rather than suppress the vote.
The petition is a ballot initiative effort instead of a referendum, because the petition signatures were not submitted to the clerk’s office within the 30 days of the City Council’s decision to ban EPS.