corruption

PROP 218 “RIGHT TO VOTE ON TAXES ACT”

BY DONNA WESTFALL

In the Thursday, September 19th edition of the Triplicate, reporter Jessica Cejnar quoted me accurately.  I did ask the City to provide their water department list of names and addresses to Katherine Kelly, the organizer of this current Prop 218 Protest Vote against raising water rates 60%.  For Mayor Enea to come back and say that it would expose 900 officers in the area is silly. Actually ludicrous. Does Mayor Enea think protesters are planning on knocking on doors and the first question out of their mouth will be, “Are you a correctional officer?”

No, that’s not the intent of the Prop 218 protest.  The question that is asked is, “How to you feel about a 60% increase in your water rate?”   I predict 8 out of 10 households will say, “I can’t afford them,” and they will sign the protest letter as is their constitutional right. The intent of having the list of names and addresses of the water company is to cut down on the questions that come up with the City.  For example; take Spruce Haven Mobil Home Park.  They have 85 mobile homes each with their own parcel numbers.  Each has a meter.  Yet, they are under a master meter for the Park.  The Park bills and collects the water fee from each space.  Now, does the city count that as 1 vote, or do the signature gatherers collect 85 votes?  The City has not bothered to answer.  Who knows when the city will answer?  Should those volunteering waste their time knocking on 85 doors or on 1 door?  If the city were more responsive, we wouldn’t be concerned. The City does not respond in a timely manner.  Why should they?  They’re not interested in seeing the Prop 218 protest succeed and their cash cow stopped dead in it’s tracks.

Why is it that 8 out of 10 households will protest?  It’s because our City does little to nothing to create industry and jobs in this area.  The majority of people are hanging on by a thread.  For seniors that’s specially true because their income earning days are over.  Being on a fixed income they don’t see a 60% increase in their Social Security check.  Instead, they will have to make even harder decisions.  Do I cut back on my food budget, my medicine budget or utility budget? For those working at minimum wage jobs, they too can hardly make ends meet.  For those on other government benefits, their incomes haven’t gone up 60%.  Since Obama took office they’ve seen their incomes/benefits cut.

As another example, former Mayor Charles Slert stunned the folks around here when he and his wife suddenly packed up and left their Pebble Beach house due to foreclosure.  I couldn’t believe he had voted to raise salaries, benefits and in many instances, approve expenditures on the waste water treatment plant that clearly should have been voted down.  Case in point; A $30,000+ design error.  I recall Slert saying that it would be more trouble to contact their Errors and Omissions Insurance than for the ratepayers to just pay it.  Huh?  Did he  price himself out of a place to live?

Getting back to having a copy of the names and addresses of water customers, this has nothing to do with public safety.  This has everything to do with a City with a long history of ripping off it’s ratepayers.  Crescent City is not unique in having a government with a tax and spend mentality.  Prop 218 was created and passed by a public sick and tired of increased taxes foisted upon them.  That’s why the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA)  initiated Prop 218.  It was to stop one of the loop holes the governments found when they could no longer add tax upon tax to property taxes due to the limitations of Prop 13.  California municipal governments  jumped on the utility bandwagon big time with the utility loophole.  After all, they were in charge of water or sewer or garbage.  They controlled the rates.  Are you beginning to see the bigger picture?

Why would the organizers of the Prop 218 protest vote want a copy of the city’s water customers?  It’s to keep the city honest.  In 2007, I purchased their list containing only addresses.  They sold me their list.  Why is it such a big deal this time around? Why would they come up with this insane, “We have 900 officers…..”  bull crap?  They are the ones that set precedent last time by selling me their lists.  With a list containing names of water customers, the process would be direct, no questions asked.  You go to the door.  You ask for that person.  You give them the opportunity to say, “Yes, I want to sign”, or” No, I don’t.”  It’s that simple.   You don’t worry about someone’s mother/sister/brother/aunt /uncle/ friend, etc signing and providing a copy of their lease agreement showing they pay rent at that address and it includes water in the rental figure.

I also purchased the cities control sheet containing assessor parcel numbers.  They sold it to me. This is how we were able to catch them committing fraud.  This is why we initiated a recall action against former City Clerk Diane Nickerson who resigned as a result.  She had 22 duplications.  She had over 165 protest votes that she didn’t count right off the bat.  More were found later.

Just in case you haven’t lived here long term and aren’t aware of the types of corruption and fraud that goes on in this City, let me recount the ways.

1.  The water dept list I purchased from the City in 2007 was incomplete and inaccurate.  I was never provided with a refund or an updated, accurate, complete listing.

2.  The Assessors Parcel Number (APN) Control list I purchased from the city had duplications and showcased hundreds of votes that were not counted.   I was never provided with a refund.  A team of people from the protest worked on the County’s APN list double checking it against the City’s control list.  That’s one of the ways we discovered so much fraud.

3.  The County Assessors Parcel List I purchased had some entries that were up to 11 years out of date.  Does it make you wonder why?  If not, it should.  A lot of people are paid good salaries and benefits to do a job.  It irks me to no end that the job they are doing results in incompetency.  Or is it more fraud?

4.  When I complained to the Grand Jury, I discovered as have so many others in this community, that they have government plants on the Jury.  Plus the Judge has the power to tell them when to stop investigating.  So the Grand Jury doesn’t do their job, or isn’t allowed to do their job.  Our Grand Jury is not representative of the people.  For the last decade there have been NO Hmong sitting on the Jury.  There have been FEW Hispanics.  There have been NO Native Americans.   I don’t know about African-Americans, but venture a bet that there have been none to few. What you will see on virtually every Grand Jury in this County are predominantly white good old boys who already have jobs protected by other gold old boys.  You’ll find their wives, their in-laws, and their friends.  When 30 people recently volunteered to sit on this 2013-2014 Grand Jury, including myself,  only one was picked.  He resigned within 10 days stating they were not interested in investigating any of the complaints he had.

This is what has to happen.  The City has to sit down with the public and come up with some solutions that will be mutually beneficial.  They have to stop being BIG BROTHER.  They have to stop thinking they have all the answers when they are not even addressing the right questions.  They have to rethink that the Smith River is abundant and has an endless source of water.  They have to stop spoon feeding companies like Willdan who are paid thousands of dollars to do these “reports” to come up with a predetermined result.

Predictably, only when this current Prop 218 protest is successful will those in positions in the government start to scratch their head and other body parts wondering, “Now what do we do?”

Should the Prop 218 protest fail due to tenant issues, we have HJTA to fall back on:

Prop 218 allows any tenant to protest a proposed fee increase if he is “directly liable to pay the … fee.”  (Cal. Const., art. XIII D, § 2(g).)  A tenant could be “directly liable” to pay water and sewer fees under the terms of his lease, whether or not he is the named subscriber in the city’s billing records.  Many cities allow only one name to be listed as the subscriber.  In such cities, landlords may require a husband and wife to both sign the lease, making them both directly liable to pay utility bills, even though only the wife, for example, is listed as the subscriber in the city’s billing records.  If that were the case, a protest signed by the renting husband should be counted even though his name is not on the city’s billing records.
 
State statute is even more lenient than Prop 218 with regard to who may sign a protest.  Gov. Code section 53755(b) provides, “One written protest per parcel, filed by an owner or tenant of the parcel, shall be counted in calculating a majority protest.”  Section 53755 contains no requirement that the tenant be directly liable to pay the fee.  If the only written protest for a parcel is submitted by a tenant, whether or not he is directly liable to pay the fee, the statute says it “shall be counted.”
 
Donna, feel free to forward this email to your city council, city attorney and/or city manager to warn them that if the raw number of protests received is sufficient to defeat the proposed fee increase, and they disqualify tenant protestors merely because they are not the named subscriber in the city’s billing records, the city may face a lawsuit from us.
 
Timothy A. Bittle
Director of Legal Affairs
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

 This e-mail was forwarded to our Mayor, City Attorney and City Manager as well as read at the City Council Monday, September 16th.

Next up; what’s with the Prison and how does it affect the water rates?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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