corruption

How Cities Violate Voters Rights. The Case Involving Sewer Rate Increases

 

OPINION PIECE BY DONNA WESTFALL

Just received this press release from the City of Dixon Taxpayer’s Association:

At Tuesday’s Dixon City Council Meeting the Council approved up to $200,000 for the City Attorney to proceed with legal action against the Dixon Chapter of the Solano County Taxpayers Association (DC-SCTA). The purpose of the legal action is to obtain a court ruling that the Sewer Initiative was illegal and violates the State Constitution. The Dixon Chapter of the SCTA and other citizen supporters are raising funds for legal expenses.”

THE TAX ASSOCIATION IS GOING TO FIGHT THIS EVERY INCH OF THE WAY.

It seems like every year, some city that needs more money for their wastewater treatment plant is in the business of raising rates.  Several cities have been successful in blocking those rate increases by having enough protests through the Prop 218 process.  The City of Dixon was one.  Their taxpayers association rallied the ratepayers and property owners and got enough signatures to defeat the first rate increase.

Now the City of Dixon is back with their hands out by trying in get in the pockets of the ratepayers.  Their situation; they were approved for a multi million dollar SRF loan. Members of the Taxpayers Association brought information that showed the process could be done for a couple million dollars instead, but were ignored.

Their last Prop 218 didn’t yield enough signatures.  The next legal step was an initiative which was successful in obtaining enough signatures.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  It should.  In 2007, after Crescent City claimed the Prop 218 protest had only 1310 signatures (later found to be erroneous), citizens were successful in getting enough signatures on an initiative to put the issue to the ballot. The initiative process is a guaranteed right given citizens in the California Constitution.  There are no caveats which prevent citizens from attempting to roll back rates which they find inappropriate for any reason.  After agreeing that the initiative had sufficient signatures,  the City of Crescent City sued Doug and Donna Westfall, and Rachel Towe, proponents of the initiative to keep it off the ballot.

In 2010, we went to Court.  We were represented by Attorney Tim Bittle of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.  Judge Morrison ruled on the case in favor of the City. He was afraid that the City would go bankrupt if they didn’t get their sewer rate increase.

So, after getting their rate increases, three years after the City started repayment of the SRF loan they went into default on the SRF loan.

Why?

In my opinion, bad business decisions coupled with suspected graft, fraud and corruption which the City and City Council never wanted to investigate.

One would think that the Grand Jury is the next logical place to get relief on things that go terribly wrong in this town. Unfortunately, the Del Norte County Grand Jury commonly known for it’s white bread, blue ribbon jurors with foremen more closely aligned with being called the lackey’s of the good ‘ole boys system than actually wanting to investigate the problems going on in this town.

Let’s recount those I remember as I gave testimony:

Foreman’s Jim Strong and John Ging.  I felt as though I were being treated as a criminal. Not having experienced submitting testimony before a Grand Jury before, I was understandably angry at the way they questioned me. Now, Dr. Tod Roy, is the current foreman. I really don’t expect anything will be different.

A Grand Jury is supposed to be comprised of peers of the community. We’re not a community of all white people.  Not by a long shot.  Yet, even though over 30 people volunteered to be on the Grand Jury, I don’t believe one of them was picked. And then, who picks the foreman?

We know that Judge Follet is the presiding Judge and will be until Judge McElfresh becomes  a presiding judge which will take about a year.

Now that we know how they (the City and our legal system) work against us, YOU as ratepayers and property owners, be sure to sign the Prop 218 protest. It’s easier to stop the sewer rate hikes by submitting your signature on your sewer bill with the words, “I protest sewer rate increase,” then trying to get an initiative to the ballot in this town.

Also, start contributing to the local Taxpayers Association to build up a legal defense fund. and to educate the public on how your rate paying rights and voting rights will be violated if the Prop 218 is unsuccessful.  Because you know, without a doubt, that the City will sue once again to prevent the rate issue from going to the ballot.

Nevertheless, that’s how the City thinks and that’s how they work.  They are not interested in your rights.  They do not have a Plan B.  They have no creative thinkers on their team. They only look at the ratepayers/property owners as cash cows. Period! And every time they sue, Attorney Bob Black and his legal firm get paid, win or lose; and don’t forget they also get paid from all the other agencies they represent in this town. The Airport Authority, Solid Waste Management Authority, the Harbor and on and on and on.

Getting back to the City of Dixon, former Vice Mayor/Councilman Michael Ceremello writes about their most recent city council meeting,

“Shortly into the meeting, Councilman Ted Hickman asked that the items related to the initiative to roll back sewer rates be moved up on the agenda for the convenience of those in the audience who wished to speak on the matters.  Three separate agenda items on the subject were the acceptance of the consultant’s report on the impacts of the initiative if it were to pass, the placing of the initiative on a future ballot, and the city attorney’s recommendation that the council let him sue the citizens who had the audacity to attempt to stop another deeply flawed plan to spend $30 million on outdated technology which achieves relatively little.

The consultant Brown and Caldwell were not present to defend their report.  It was attacked as being a $20,000 waste of taxpayer money where no real research was provided but rather an already reached conclusion was offered to a four to one council intent on doing this activated sludge project come hell or high water.”

Interesting to note that Brown and Caldwell is the same firm that were paid in excess of $2 million by the City of Crescent City.

The local Crescent City-Del Norte County Taxpayers Association is concerned with taxpayers money being wasted because the Crescent City,  City Council doesn’t seem concerned in the least.

EXPECT TO SEE THE LOCAL CC-DN COUNTY TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION FIGHT THIS EVERY INCH OF THE WAY.

 

 

 

 

 

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