GUEST COLUMNIST MICHAEL CEREMELLO, Former Vice-Mayor/Councilman City of Dixon
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels
Now you tell me if this doesn’t sound exactly like the philosophy of those who would rule over us in Dixon as well as at the State level. There are only two things concerning me at this point in time. One is the wastewater issue and the other is the recall of Batchelor and his fellow churls on the council. As the Dixon Tribune doesn’t print news or editorials, it was the Vacaville Repeater’s editorial of last Sunday which has broken my hiatus from writing.
I would not accuse the editorial writer of lying. That presupposes she actually did some independent research, something this paper’s pseudo-journalists haven’t done in years. Rather this person is the dupe, stooge, sycophant, or parrot of the city government she should be watch dogging. Rather than beating up the messenger, let’s look at the premises for validity and veracity.
Considering that the editor brought up the subject of fines no less than three times, let us start there.
1) And, by the way, any delays would mean enormous fines for the city to pay the state water board.
2) And took the only step they had to try to protect the taxpayers from having to pay even more in the way of state fines for failing to improve the treatment plant — they vowed to file a lawsuit to stop the initiative from ever going to a vote.
3) And what’s more, if the initiative were to pass, the city would be unable to fund needed improvements and the public’s health and safety would be at risk. Plus those pesky state fines that could add up to as much as $11 million, according to the city attorney.
The truth in these statements is there is a possibility of fines, not the assurance this is the inevitable final result. Fines occur when you attempt to do nothing, something which the Dixon Taxpayer group has never advocated to the public. Fines also occur as retaliation from a petulant executive director who wanted to see something done no matter whether it made scientific sense or how costly it would be for the citizens of Dixon.
“Those pesky fines could add up to $11 million”, something parroted directly from the city attorney. Tell me Dougie boy, what makes you think it would be capped there? The fines are $10,000 per day and as long as you are out of compliance, they continue to accumulate.
This is a number which White pulled out of the past as what the State could have fined us. Did they fine us $11 million? No. They chose to fine us $220,000. They didn’t have to fine the city at all as the Waste Water Committee had been constituted and was moving ahead toward addressing the State’s concerns. Did the executive director, Pamela Creedon, take this into consideration or even acknowledge it? No again.
As with most propaganda, those three statements have a thread of truth within them. Yes, the improvements couldn’t be funded. That is the whole point of the initiative. We want to stop a project which harms the environment more than helps it by using enormous amounts of energy while burdening already dwindling landfill capacity with sludge which could be processed on site. On top of this, activated sludge does not remove salt, boron, or the majority of constituents which the editor thinks is a health and safety concern.
The problem here is pertinent to government as it is today. Government is authoritarian. You can’t question it, you can’t reason with it, and you certainly can’t oppose it. We see this from our city council and we have seen it from the State water board. Is that really what our government is supposed to be? The other aspect not to be ignored is government refuses to listen.
4) For almost two decades, the city has been fighting with the state’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board over required improvements at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Because of varying concerns with Dixon’s treatment facility, the water board issued a Cease-and-Desist Order and mandated significant upgrades to the wastewater facility to essentially bring it up to code.
5) No one likes paying increased fees, least of all the Solano County Taxpayers Association, which currently includes a lot of folk from Dixon. So the taxpayers association railed against the rate hikes and the need to upgrade the treatment plant, initiating a referendum that failed on an apparent technicality. The next step was the initiative petition, which was submitted to the Solano County Registrar of Voters last November and was verified in December.
Basically the initiative seeks to remove the sewer rate increases.
I, for one, don’t consider intelligent opposition to another half baked scheme which does essentially nothing as “railing” against the increase. The Taxpayers have consistently said they don’t mind paying for something worthwhile. The Taxpayers endorsed the 2008 rate increase designed to pay for the current rate payers portion of the expense to upgrade the head works and facilities.
The problem lies in the much more costly solutions proposed to reduce alleged, but disputed by data, pollution from percolating sewer effluent into the ground. Do you remember the 2005 “band aid” solution? Warren Salmons, Mary Ann Courville, Pamela Creedon, and the city staff all endorsed moving the effluent 7 miles south of town at a cost of $40 million. Let’s examine the similarities between that project and what is proposed.
Absolutely nothing was going to be removed from the effluent with the 2005 project. If it is a health and safety concern, how does not removing toxins from the water solve this concern? It doesn’t. Now the water board is telling us that rapid processing of our sewage to preserve water which would evaporate is the solution. I thought dilution wasn’t the solution. Once again, the same constituents are being proposed to enter our groundwater. I thought they were poisons? At least this time it is only going to cost us $33 million.
If this doesn’t make any sense to you, the light bulb just got turned on. The Dixon Taxpayers have identified other solutions which actually do take constituents out of the waste water. Why are the city and the State turning a deaf ear toward us? The cost of these along with needed improvements would reduce the total project cost down to around $10 million. The rates needed to support this are already in place but the developers aren’t here to pay their share.
I have already told you about Ferrate Treatment Technologies and In-Pipe. What about the Omniprocessor, Bill Gates’ waste solution for poor and developing countries which turns “poop water into drinking water” along with creating energy? What about Thom Bogue’s “plasma gasification”? Again, the taxpayers are doing the research the high paid city engineer should be doing rather than relying on a consultant who expects to make $3 million off the project.
The other portion of (5) which is incorrect is this is the third time we have opposed the increase. The first was the 218 process parcel protest. While the 50% threshold was not reached, 70% of the required protests were turned in. The referendum was thrown out because although each signature sheet had the required rate comparison available with it, the signature gatherers figured common sense of reusing each comparison rather than chopping down 1000 trees was good enough. The case law states that if you are overturning a 250 page document, one must be printed for every signature group.
No, basically the initiative doesn’t seek to roll the rates back. The initiative seeks the right of the citizens to say no to what their elected representatives are foisting upon them. The initiative is demanding the return of the decision to the public, the same public which gave this authority to their representatives in the first place.
6) The taxpayers group said the matter boils down to the right of the people to self-govern and vote on the initiative.
Yes, the matter is about the right to vote on large decisions which impact our community. We have a council and city staff who refuse to negotiate with the State board in light of new cutting edge technologies available now. Their ignorance should not and will not be tolerated. The city’s contention on the other hand is that the citizens aren’t smart enough to make this decision. The citizens have examined this in detail and the city knows they believe the taxpayers group and not their consultants, the State, or the city staff.
7) They obeyed the law that says the initiative is qualified for a general election and they voted to place it on the next general election ballot — which is November 2016
There were four options available to the council. One was a special election. This would have ended this drama. Why didn’t the editor back this?
8) City Attorney Doug White said the initiative is unconstitutional because it’s pre-empted by state law, statute, regulation and regulatory order. “You can’t just decide that you don’t want to comply with a Health and Safety regulation,” he explained. He is right. The initiative process is there to be binding on local law but this initiative is trying to undo state regulations. It is asking Dixon citizens to undo a state requirement.
The initiative process is guaranteed under Article 13 C and D of the California Constitution. Health and Safety code or State statute can not supercede this constitutional right. Rather than White looking into the justification for imposing a Health and Safety regulation imposed by “unelected bureaucrats”, Doug is simply a toady of the council attempting to find a way around the law. On top of this, one more time, the Dixon Chapter is not saying “do nothing” or “ignore the improvements we know must be done”. Yet this is exactly the opposite of what White contends and is exactly why he will lose in court.
What is also missed by the editor is that the city is using taxpayer money collected to do improvements to sue its own citizens so the elected officials can have their way. This alone should be grounds for a recall of the council and the firing of staff who supports this legal maneuver.
9) Our sympathy is with the Dixon City Council on this one. They must either continue with an unwelcome sewer rate increase to pay for improvements or leave the plant out of compliance and face huge fines that will cost taxpayers even more in the long run. Letting a neutral arbitrator (a judge) sort it out is the only and best next step.
The conclusion is another attempt to use scare tactics in the form of potential fines to cow the citizenry. Hidden in this whine is how the editorial staff at the Repeater make their decisions. Your sympathy shows your logic is jaded by emotion rather than reason.
The plain and simple fact of the matter is the city of Dixon would be in compliance with the State’s effluent limits, those arrived at by using phony data prior to 2005, if they had employed just the two projects the Dixon chapter suggested. Rather than do this, the city and its media mouth piece continue to push their propaganda lies while attempting to punish the dissidents who speak the truth …