BY DONNA WESTFALL
In the next week, you’ll hear a lot about Prop 218 Protest Vote. It is neither an election, nor do you have to be a registered voter. The Prop 218 protest vote allows each property owner or tenant the right to say, “NO MORE RATE INCREASES.”
Last time, in 2007, the city proclaimed they didn’t know what they were doing. But those of us that went in and double checked their work discovered that fraud did indeed take place. Duplicate entries on some parcel numbers and miscounting the vote by hundreds helped force former City Clerk Dianne Nickerson to resign instead of being recalled.
Here are the parameters of Prop 218.
ONE VOTE FOR ONE PARCEL.
Who can vote?
Either the property owner or the tenant. Only one vote is counted per parcel. If both the owner and tenant vote, then only one vote will be counted.
Do I have to be a registered voter?
NO. You can “vote” if you own the property or if you are a tenant on the property.
The city is trying to pass a resolution that says only the responsible utility customers can vote. Here’s the skinny on that:
Government Code Section 6254.16 prohibits the city from giving out information on utility customers.
This is one way that the city can thwart the efforts of the Prop 218 protest.
According to an associate of Attorney Harriet Steiner who the city has used in the past; the Public Records Act contains a specific exemption for utility customer information.
Specifically, the Public Records Act exempts from disclosure the name, credit history, utility usage data, home address, or telephone number of utility customers, subject to certain limited exceptions, such as where the information is being made available to a family member to whom the information pertains or upon a court order.
However, the City can provide a list of the parcels subject to utility rates.
Indeed, other cities, such as Dixon, have been more willing to waive that exemption in the Public Records Act and provide Prop 218 protesters the full list of names.
If they did it in Dixon, they can do it in Crescent City.
In order to stop the water rate increases 50% plus 1 of the affected parcels must lodge their vote in writing.
If all else fails, the voters are entitled to referendum any city ordinance, including the ordinance that would raise the rates. Every municipal ordinance can be overturned through the referendum process.
What will happen when Prop 218 succeeds? The city will be forced to look at other options like taking the money from the general fund. Threats to close the swimming pool and stop maintenance of the parks have already been thrown around. Will that force layoffs?
Just remember. These elected officials could have been more diligent on their tax and spend mentality over the last 8 years. Instead, they buried their heads in the sand, continued to raise rates, give hikes in salaries and/or benefits, misspent money, would not perform financial audits on the sewer plant just to name a few.