BY DONNA WESTFALL
If you were one of the 2200 people that signed a protest to stop the water rate increase and you are a tenant, your protest was probably not counted. In all likelihood it was disqualified. Why? Because this city wants to go by it’s own rules instead of following the law.
During the Special Meeting of the City Council November 12th, I read the law into the public record. It breaks down this way. Prop 218 gave rate payers the right to reject rate increases. This covered owners and those tenants that paid the bill. What happens to the huge segment of the population who rent and have their water included in their rent? Are they out of luck? They realize that if the rates increase, their rents increase. In 2007, the governor corrected this oversight by signing into law Assembly Bill 1260 which gave all tenants the right to protest. Here’s a copy of that email which was sent to the City Manager, City Attorney and Mayor on September 16th.
Director of Legal Affairs
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association”
I read this into the public record in the Special Meeting and ended with: “Then this is the question I want to leave with our City Clerk. Are you sure you stand by your numbers?”
Yes, she was . When City Clerk, Robin Patch, (with the assistance of Water Dept Supervisor, Debra Wright and IT Department head, Fritz Ludemann) announced that only 1302 protest were validated and the protest failed those volunteers involved in the protest knew this was drastically wrong. Why? Because when 90% of those asked to sign the protests said, “YES” you know that the area is against the increase.
Will this City continue to be saddled with a smug attorney who disregards the law? Will this City continue to be ruled by council members who only know how to rubber stamp?
What will happen next?
LAWSUIT: All it takes is for one tenant to challenge the City. We have hundreds.
REFERENDUM: All it takes is for 89 people to sign the petition to repeal the water rate increase and put it on the ballot. We have hundreds.
County resident, Linda Sutter, used to live in the City. While she still pays for City water, she can no longer vote for city council members. Her 3 minute public comment centered on, “You don’t care for the people you are supposed to represent. You can all be replaced”
RECALLS. There are 6 positions that could be subject to recall. 5 council members and a City Clerk. However, 2 positions are up for election in June 2014. Kelly Schellong and Rich Enea. Reliable sources state that Schellong will not be running for re-election. All it takes is for 35 signatures to put it on a ballot and call for a special election. We have hundreds.
RESIGNATIONS: Now that would really be something.
Another county resident, Eileen Cooper, got up and read about $900,000 plus coming back to the city. $400,000 was not spent. OMG! We have a $400,000 deficit in the water enterprise fund why don’t we use that money for the water deficit?
Nope. Here the council was offered a solution and chose not to take it. They had already made up their minds to ding the ratepayers rather than think creatively. Other options, they could have delayed the decision to raise water rates. Nope. Not going to happen. They were firmly set on their course. They could have concentrated on reducing expenses. Nope not going to happen. Course set, full steam ahead.
Have other areas recalled entire city councils? YES. Actually anger and frustration over rate increases, corruption, voter fraud all seem to be a big reason for recalls. Remember the City of Bell, California?
Two LA Times journalists wrote an article on possible malfeasance in the neighboring city of Maywood, California. In their exposé, they revealed that the city officials of Bell (a small blue collar community) were receiving salaries that were reported as the highest in the nation. Subsequent investigations found atypically high property tax rates, allegations of voter fraud in municipal elections and other irregularities which heightened the ensuing scandal. These and other reports led to widespread criticism and a demand for city officials to resign.
On March 9, 2011, city voters overwhelmingly voted to recall the Mayor and 2 council members as well as 1 council member, who had resigned from the council in 2010. The lone councilman who was not charged in the Bell corruption case, also lost his seat.
However, that left no majority in the city council to swear in the newly elected council. An emergency action was passed in the state Senate, obtained final approval in the Assembly and was signed by the Governor to empower an alternate to preside at the swearing-in. On April 7, 2011, the bill’s author, California Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), swore in the entirely new city council.
Instead of popularity contests, and candidates that gush, “I’m local so vote for me,” our voters are going to have to take more than 5 minutes to think about who is going to have power over their lives. Do they have a history of only working for the government? Have they ever been in business for themselves? Do they understand economics? Do they have any ideas on bringing in industries or businesses that will create jobs here? Our current council members with the exception of Kelly Schellong, have all worked for government. Rick Holley has been here for 33 years. His retired from his last position at the School District. Kathryn Murray is a social worker. Rich Enea retired police officer. Ron Gastineau works for Rural Human Services.
They are very good at nodding their heads up and down when staff says, “Boo.” They are not very good at listening to the people they represent. Thus they perpetuate a poor, repressive community.
What are the problems.
1. Who will replace the five idiots currently on the city council?
2. Who will count the votes?