Print this page


By Craig Mordoh

The longtime president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation, John Suttie, announced his retirement in 2020 after a stellar career fighting for taxpayers.

From 1990 until his retirement in September, John Suttie has been the chief financial officer of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association as well as president of the Foundation.

John is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach. Prior to joining HJTF, he was a vice-president of the Joseph L. Yousem Company, a real estate development and management firm, and a partner in Marina Properties, specializing in real estate syndication and development. He is a former member of the Institute of Real Estate Management and a former board member of the Apartment Association, California Southern Cities, and the Dr. Lynch Foundation, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing nongovernmental, low-income housing.

His accomplishments are many. During his time as president:

HJTF successfully defended Proposition 13 against three major court challenges, including the case of Nordlinger v. Hahn, which was heard by the United States Supreme Court.

HJTA opposed and defeated Proposition 170, a ballot measure sponsored by the Legislature that would have reduced the vote to pass local bonds and raise property taxes from two-thirds to a simple majority. Proposition 170 was voted down with 69 percent of the vote.

HJTA sponsored and passed Proposition 218 — the Right to Vote on Taxes Act — to restore and expand taxpayer protections provided by Proposition 13.

After the Legislature wrote its own ballot label, title and summary, which read like campaign advocacy, for a $9 billion bond to provide seed money for high-speed rail, HJTF sued on the grounds that voters have a right to elections free of governmental manipulation. The court of appeal, in a precedent-setting decision, ruled that the Legislature may not write its own ballot materials.

Even after a U.S. Supreme Court victory, we had to again successfully defend Proposition 13 in the superior court, the court of appeal and the California Supreme Court against a suit that was filed by former UCLA Chancellor Charles Young seeking to have the landmark tax-limiting measure declared unconstitutional.

We helped lead the effort to pass Proposition 26, a measure that stops the state and local governments from disguising taxes as “fees” as a way to avoid voter approval. We also defeated Proposition 21, an increase in the vehicle license fee.

In 2015, HJTA sponsored legislation to require officials to provide more information to voters on local tax measures, which was signed into law.

Most recently, HJTA, with John’s invaluable help, successfully opposed Proposition 15, the “split roll” property tax proposal, which was a direct attack on Proposition 13 and the first step in attempting to eliminate Proposition 13 entirely.

John’s work has enabled both organizations to protect and preserve Proposition 13 and to save California taxpayers billions of dollars. I am proud to have worked with John for all these years, and I wish him an enjoyable retirement, with the thanks of everyone connected to HJTF and HJTA.

Pictured (L to R): Gary Holme, Erin Dolan, William Kelso, Susan Shelley, Gloria Phillips, Craig Mordoh,
Jon Coupal, John Suttie