The Frontline Impact Digest

Unrestricted Dollars Pivotal in Measure J Legal Battle

By Julio Marcial, Liberty Hill Senior Vice President of Programs

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The unyielding spirit of communities striving for change, coupled with flexible dollars, is an unbeatable combination, as evidenced by the legal battle over Measure J.

In a historic display of civic engagement, 2.1 million voters cast their ballots in favor of Measure J in the November 2020 election. This landmark measure earmarked a substantial portion of the county budget for community programs, as opposed to excessive spending on law enforcement and incarceration.

Law enforcement unions immediately launched legal challenges. Their primary argument was that Measure J violated the California Constitution's requirement for a two-thirds majority vote to approve appropriations-related measures. With flexible funding from our philanthropic partners, Liberty Hill provided a grant for community members to hire a reputable law firm. The community's legal team contended that Measure J was not a revenue-raising measure but a budgetary measure and did not require a supermajority to pass.

After two years of intense litigation, the appellate court finally delivered its verdict in favor of the measure's constitutionality. The ruling was not just a legal victory. The decision represented a significant shift in power dynamics and a validation of the right of communities to shape their own future.

The journey of Measure J also offers several valuable lessons for communities and funders seeking to drive change through local initiatives.

Community Engagement Matters

The overwhelming support for Measure J shows that when communities come together to address their concerns, they can have a significant impact on local policy.

Resilience is Key

The legal challenges faced by Measure J could have discouraged many, but the community's resilience and determination allowed them to overcome formidable obstacles.

Legal Battles Require Resources

Liberty Hill stepped in at a crucial moment to provide pivotal funding for the legal challenge. Measure J would not be in effect today if not for these resources.

Flexible Funding is Crucial

Several funders provide flexible funding to Liberty Hill for moments just like this. Unrestricted funds allow Liberty Hill to understand up-to-the minute developments and put resources right where they need to go at just the right time.