Credit to Dixon’s Independent Voice
City Attorney Files With Courts to Stop
People’s Vote on Sewer Rates.
City Clerk & County Registrar of Voters Named as Respondents
The Dixon City Attorney, following instructions from the City Council, filed legal motions in Solano County Superior Court in the late afternoon this past Wednesday seeking to prevent a vote of the people on the Initiative to roll back sewer fees.
The motions submitted were for an Injunction and a Writ of Mandate against the Dixon City Clerk – Suellen Johnston – and the Solano County Registrar of Voters – Ira Rosenthal to prevent them from putting the issue on the ballot. Named as “Real Party in Interest” was the Solano County Taxpayers’ Association.
City Clerk Johnston is an employee of the City of Dixon, subject to the City Manager and the City Council. She is also the Election Officer for the City. Thus both the Petitioner (the City of Dixon) and the Respondent (the City Clerk) are in effect the same entity.
While both Johnson and Rosenthal have a fiduciary and ethical duty to defend the peoples’ rights to ballot access for ballot measures, they are not expected to do so – and may well argue they agree with the City Attorney.
If the City Clerk does defend the right to vote on the initiative, the City is obligated to pay legal fees to do so. That creates the situation where the taxpayers’ money is being used to pay both sides of the issue.
The Right to Initiative (and Referendum) to set and lower sewer fees in explicitly granted by California State Constitutional provision adopted by an over 70% vote of the people for Proposition 218 nearly two decades ago.
Quoting the California Constitution, Article XIII C SEC. 3. Initiative Power for Local Taxes, Assessments, Fees and Charges states:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, including, but not limited to, Sections 8 and 9 of Article II, the initiative power shall not be prohibited or otherwise limited in matters of reducing or repealing any local tax, assessment, fee or charge. The power of initiative to affect local taxes, assessments, fees and charges shall be applicable to all local governments and neither the Legislature nor any local government charter shall impose a signature requirement higher than that applicable to statewide statutory initiatives.
Section 5 requires “The provisions of this act shall be liberally construed to effectuate its purposes of limiting local government revenue and enhancing taxpayer consent.”
The voters of Dixon have shown massive opposition to the planned new Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) – with a Prop 218 protest of owners of about 45% of properties in Dixon (50% was required); a Referendum signed by nearly 20% of Dixon voters – but thrown out by the City Attorney and City Clerk on a technicality; and the Initiative also signed by nearly 20% of Dixon voters while only 15% was required.
At each step the City Council could have put the issue on the ballot – including for the past June primary, the past November General Election, or even a Special Election.
At each step – with the orchestration by the City Attorney – the Council and city management has hampered and delayed a vote of the people while rushing through steps towards funding and constructing the sewer plant.
The Solano County Taxpayers’ Association has set up a special legal fund and is seeking donations from the public to pay to protect the public’s right to vote on the initiative. (See the notice on Page 5 inside for details on that legal fund.)
Besides a legal defense, the public does have one other option – a Recall of the Mayor and City Council members. As of March 9, even new Councilman Scott Pederson will be eligible for a recall.
Qualifying a recall, however, would require valid signatures of 25% of Dixon registered voters on separate petitions for each individual official being recalled. The signatures must be gathered in 90 days from the date the officials respond after being served a notice of recall.