corruption

A New Approach

NOTE BY EDITOR, Donna Westfall:  The city of Dixon is close to Sacramento.  The problems and issues they face are very similar to Crescent City/Del Norte County.  The increase in their water and sewer rates are a familiar tune.  The highlighted portions below, in particular about structuring a repayment agreement to existing sewer customers when developers come on board is the same thing I said years ago.

By Michael Ceremello, Guest Columnist, Former Vice Mayor/Council member of the City of Dixon

I got a call from a friend the other day. He offered what I thought was a valid suggestion on where the direction of this column should be at this present time. As I get relatively little feedback directly, and I know many of you enjoy my battering of the incalcitrant incompetents despite it being non-stop, I will exercise my Gemini tendencies and go in an almost polar opposite penchant.

Any reader of this column, regular or occasional, understands I dislike our city government but not government in and of itself. I believe, as well have heard, that some think I am an anarchist because of my libertarian leanings. An anarchist believes in no government or laws. While the cursory limited research I have done on this subject through the infamous Wikipedia shows that libertarians were some of the first anarchists, and there may be some remnants of that in the political organization, my take is that libertarians believe in limited government and limited laws designed to advance their philosophy that you may do whatever you want as long as it does not directly affect others.

That being said, yes our current city council has gone way beyond the bounds of propriety. I will simply mention the “civility ordinance” which was put in place at the last meeting. Ted Hickman said, “why don’t you call it what it is … you will get more support for it … call it the Anti- Mike Ceremello ordinance”. Needless to say, Hickman was the only one laughing. The truth of the matter was this ordinance isn’t put into place for “stability or civility” as Jerry Castañon said in his redundant repetitive manner of speaking. It is put into place to halt detailed coherent argument against those who would rule us.

This is just a continuation of Jack Batchelor’s modus of sitting high and mighty at the dais, pretending he is listening to the public while totally ignoring any and all input. This is what four of your councilman did when the citizens asked for their right to vote on the sewer issue. But enough of the past and present. It is time to go toward the future.

So, I have been tasked with telling you what I would do differently, rather than complaining at all about what has been done. Whether this is just a psychological exercise or an attempt to be more “positive”, my friend must acknowledge that even saying there are better ways to do what has been done, is still a manner of criticism. Instead of overthinking this, let me just proceed.

As a preface to this, it was also suggested that anyone considering running for elective office, whether during the promised recall or the regular election, needs to confront those in power similarly by telling the public what they would do differently, or in the case of those I have in mind, what they have done sitting on commissions and say it via a letter to the editor. Yes, it is time for those who would lead to truly lead and call a spade a spade as well.

To get this started, let’s bring up the obvious first. You, the citizen, have the constitutional right to rein in your government through the initiative process on matters related to increased fees, taxes, and the like. You would not need this right if I was on the council.

When 1500 people sign a petition in less than a month, any good council would understand that they have done something wrong. If there is a mandate from the State, it is up to the council or individual councilmen to explain the impact of your opposite view. The bottom line is you are a representative of the people. If you aren’t willing or able to stand up to higher authorities for your citizens, then you have no business being in office.

Why should the citizens have to do a recall of their representatives? Those who are told they aren’t representing the common view should resign on their own so that others who can do the job they are nwilling to do can get it done.

I listen to the people and not Jerry Brown or Pamela Creedon of the State Water board.

I would have called for a vote as that is my responsibility as your representative. I would have examined all of the alternatives and if activated sludge actually accomplished something and was the cheapest, I would have endorsed it and told you why. Does it seem strange to you that not one of the sitting councilmen can tell you why activated sludge is the best choice? All they know is the State Water Board agreed to the project.

The next logical progression of what I wouldn’t do is also related to this project but goes beyond that. I wouldn’t have doubled your water rates. When I was on the council, Bogue was advised that rates needed to be raised to fund the takeover by the city of the SID water operation. After I left the council, there was no discussion of rhyme or reason to the amount or percentage of the increase. There has also been no accounting for the increased revenues from these higher rates.

So water rates were doubled but was it necessary? Certainly some of it was, but how much and why wasn’t this question asked. I ask those questions. How does your present council function? They simply take staff’s word on everything.

Sewer rates were tripled to fund a new sewer plant benefitting future development as well as existing users. That is illegal. I would have forced a repayment agreement so existing ratepayers would get a refund when developers, who are going to get a free ride, come on board.

It is interesting that a letter to the State supporting even more taxes on you was going to be endorsed by this council.

It was I and Dave Scholl who made the argument to look at this in more detail after Ted Hickman asked for the item to be pulled. Your mayor didn’t question it. Neither did Castañon or Pederson. Steve Bird, to his credit, backed Hickman. Now I understand that Castañon and Bird think Hickman owes them some sort of favor or behavior based on Bird’s once in a lifetime support?

I read the agenda items in detail, quickly and cogently, analyze their impact, and then ask the appropriate questions.

I have heard that the others, less the mayor, cram for 15 minutes before the meeting starts. Obviously, as they never ask questions, this isn’t working for them. Why would you keep these people?

I realize this is starting to sound like a campaign piece. This is what I was told my readers want: no name calling and what I would do. I intend to continue down this line until you realize this isn’t just what I would do but what anyone who really represents you, the people, would do.

I think I will wrap this up with one more point on the First Amendment and the “civility” ordinance just passed. I would not tell you this is about “stability and civility” as Castañon said not once but three times. It is another attempt to stop a councilman from doing his job. A councilman should not need a second councilman to join him to have something put on the agenda. A councilman should not be limited to five minutes any more than a member of the public should be limited to three minutes to speak to an issue. What if it is more complicated than banning roosters in Dixon?

Now I know that there is a mob of these cacklers somewhere in this town, wearing their combs at a jaunty angle and harassing sleeping citizens by crowing at the crack of dawn. So this council, again with no discussion, passed this prohibition unanimously. Dixon is a farming community invaded by city people. If you don’t like farm critters, you need to live elsewhere instead of taking rights from people. I certainly wouldn’t do this, vote for it, sit silently, or make jokes about it.

Someone said “civility is earned”. No, respect is earned and civility comes with mutual respect. As the mayor hated me, hates me, and couldn’t control me before or now, he has someone do his dirty work for him. It was Rick Fuller who interrupted me three times while I had the floor. The mayor now claims this ordinance would prevent what occurred while he sat there letting Fuller disrupt the meeting. Disrupting the meeting is grounds for removal of an audience member. The mayor doesn’t do his job because of personal animosity.

The one meeting I chaired, we had no problem and it ran smoothly. I let audience members comment without interruption and even reopened the comment period after the council had made their statements. This is the way a meeting should be run. The citizens aren’t the enemy of the city but what city government is put in place to serve.

I served that way. Why is it that getting elected make some think they are all of a sudden so much smarter than all of the rest of us. As Chris Duncan stated, as the planning commission chair he never had to limit public comment. I see it exactly the same.

The citizens of Dixon have not been paying attention. I don’t mean all of you, but the vast majority of you continue to elect people who have no business holding public office.

Next week, I am going to list all of the laws and rules which need to go. How many elected officials ever bother to review the current laws and give you back freedoms? That should be entertaining …

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