Tempe props 417 and 418: Voters weigh arts tax, rule for booting council member

Students at Arizona State University's Tempe campus were sent free pizza from Twitter users and the Arizona Democratic Party while waiting in line to vote on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018.

Tempe voters will decide the fate of two ballot propositions on Tuesday. 

Proposition 417 would permanently extend a sales tax that funds arts and cultural programs in the city.

Proposition 418 would amend the city charter to allow the City Council by a five-sevenths vote to remove a member for unlawful conduct.

Prop. 418 is about council behavior

The charter amendment would allow a council super majority to remove a member from office after an investigation and public hearings if there is “clear and convincing evidence” of unlawful conduct “involving moral turpitude, fraud or corruption.” 

The proposition has become synonymous with Councilman Kolby Granville after three former students accused him of misconduct. Granville was never charged, and he has denied the claims. A Phoenix police investigation, initiated at Tempe’s request, was closed after there wasn’t enough information to file charges.

But supporters of the measure say it’s not intended to target Granville, but that it would give the council the power to hold a colleague accountable. 

Currently, council members can be removed from office through a recall election, or if the city finds that the official lacks any of the qualifications for office, violates the city charter, is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, or is absent from three consecutive regular council meetings without being excused.

The charter change would not require the council member to be convicted of a crime to be removed.

The Tempe City Council voted in June to send the charter amendment to voters.

The vote came as the city evaluated how to move forward with a code-of-conduct investigation into Granville, a former teacher at Tempe Preparatory Academy who was fired in December after the two former students alleged he gave them alcohol when they were under 21 and one said he made unwanted sexual advances. 

Granville has alleged the ballot measure was crafted because of him and the council will apply the new charter amendment to him, if it passes.

Vice Mayor Lauren Kuby said the change cannot be applied retroactively to remove Granville from the council.

The Mesa and Phoenix councils can remove a member for code-of-conduct violations by a five-sevenths and two-thirds vote, respectively. In August, Phoenix voters approved a charter amendment that allows the council to remove a member if he or she violates the Phoenix Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.

A “yes” vote on Prop. 418 would amend the city charter to authorize the council to remove a council member from office for unlawful conduct. A “no” vote would leave the city charter unchanged.

Prop. 417 is about art

Tempe voters also will decide whether to permanently extend a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax that funds arts and culture programs.

The tax, which is used to build, operate and maintain city art centers and was first approved by voters in 2000, is set to expire Dec. 30, 2020.

Former Tempe City Councilwoman Barbara Carter, who is leading a campaign in support of the measure, said the tax generates about $8 million annually, after the bonds are paid off, and $600,000 will be shifted into a Capital Improvement Plan account each year.

She said extending the tax would help the city expand its arts program to south Tempe, provide more classes for school-aged children, and operate and maintain four historic properties, the history museum and the Tempe Center for the Arts.

A “yes” vote on Prop. 417 would renew the tax in 2021 and permanently extend it. A “no” vote would mean the tax will expire at the end of 2020.

Reach the reporter at paulina.pineda@azcentral.com. Follow her on Twitter: @paulinapineda22.

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