CA: Coalinga Patients Attempt to Join City, County Lawsuit

Patients at Coalinga State Hospital filed today a motion in Fresno Superior Court that, if granted, would allow them to join an existing lawsuit that attempts to negate their votes taken in a recent City of Coalinga election.  The City of Coalinga has blamed the patients for the defeat of its attempted increase in the city’s sales tax.

“The voting rights of the patients at Coalinga State Hospital must be protected,” stated attorney Janice Bellucci.  “The patients reside within the City of Coalinga and Fresno County has determined that they are eligible to vote in city elections.”

The election at issue took place on November 7, 2017, and 322 patients were registered to vote at that time.  The tax increase was defeated by a citywide vote that included 582 “no” votes.  Of that total, 127 “no” votes were cast by patients at Coalinga.

Subsequent to the defeat of the tax increase, the City began to scapegoat patients at Coalinga.   The Coalinga Mayor and City Council members later filed a lawsuit on December 14, 2017, in an attempt to overturn the final vote on the tax increase on the grounds that the patients’ votes cast were “illegal”.  The sole named defendant in the case at this time is Fresno County.

The party attempting to intervene in the case is Detainee-Americans for Civic Equality (DACE), a group of current and former patients at Coalinga State Hospital.  The members of DACE are among the most politically vulnerable in California, that is, patients civilly committed to that hospital.

According to the lawsuit, Coalinga patients have been eligible to vote in elections held by the City of Coalinga for at least a decade.  It was not until the November 2017 defeat of the city’s sales tax increase that the City challenged their eligibility to vote.

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ABC30 Action News
Published on Dec 27, 2017

The Mayor of Coalinga speaks:
“A lot of those people in my personal opinion are not mentally capable of voting.”
“Initially, I you know, we didn’t know where how many votes came where and I was like so this is the vote of the people.”
“Whether they should vote is a whole nother (sic) ordeal which I can tell you our citizens are just heathing (sic) mad they were aloud to vote in the first place.”
“One, most of them, if probably all of them, never lived here. Um, two, they don’t plan on living here, and three, they’re not fixed here.”

ABC news, surprisingly, does a good job presenting facts, most contradicting what the Mayor said.

The mayor’s opinion carries no weight but does show lack of full mental faculties in considering who should and shouldn’t vote based upon where they currently reside.

Damn Janice, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel with this lawsuit. I don’t see how you can loose. I can only hope it will cost enough to make that young Mayer learn his lesson on discrimination against an unpopular group and breaking CA voting laws.

Wonder whether that pipsqueak of a mayor has met with all his little cronies in private council meetings yet to discuss how to get rid of this CSH thorn in their flesh? Wonder whether they’ve talked in private yet about the advantages and disadvantages of disincorporating CSH from the city limits? Now that the patient voters helped them pass the medical marijuana dispensary measure the City wanted back in Nov 2016, they don’t need them anymore. Here’s an idea: If the CSH guys and their voter organization there (DACE) really wanted to rock the boat, perhaps they should consider asking somebody like Prof. Patrick Keough at West Hills Community College if he’d like his seat back on the Coalinga City Council? Wouldn’t that make for an interesting coalition: a bunch of civilly-committed sex offenders at a treatment hospital and a pot-dispensary-supporting professor running for Council seat? I like the thought behind the expression when it was said that these voters were “the new reality in Pleasant Valley”.

I wonder if the city receives any federal or state grants to use for that facility and if so, if they’re used for that purpose. Notice they’re not complaining to kick them out of the city, only not to count their votes. Stands to reason that they wouldn’t complain if those residents voted for the tax increase.

Aside from that, in my 40+ years, I’ve never heard anyone complain that any kind of taxes they pay are too low. Have a hard time believing this one was knowingly supported by the rest of that community outside of the “hospital” in the first place. If it was, it was dressed up as something other than a tax increase.