BY DONNA WESTFALL
Q. How many protests are needed this time?
A. The Notice of Public Hearing listed approximately 3800 sewer services To win the protest and stop the rates from increasing, we need 50% plus 1. IF they have exactly 3800, then that means 1,901 wins the protest. BUT, we have found the City to be less than honest and less than accurate. So, we shoot for 20% overage….or a total of 2,280.
Q. Why did we lose the water rate protest?
1. Even though 9 out of 10 people were signing, according to our door to door walkers, we didn’t have enough volunteers.
2. We had too many signatures from tenants. Here’s the dicey part. IF a tenant pays the sewer bill, then they can sign. But just this morning, my neighbor came and signed. He said he paid the sewer bill. I told him to bring me a copy of his bill. It was in his son’s name. In a case like that, the city will say his signature is invalid. The son is the only one that can sign the protest ballot. It’s an honest mistake that cost us. We can’t afford to do that this time.
3. Mobile home parks. Most have out of town owners. They have managers. We need the owners signature. Some mobile home parks like Spruce Haven; the money for sewer is collected by the manager and paid to the city under a master bill. Even though each of those residents own their own mobile homes, their signatures will not count.
The Pacific Terrace mobile home park is a different story. They are each billed separately, and therefore they can sign.
The Leif Circle (off Washington) manufactured home park is predominantly homeowners and each one can sign and be counted, the exception is tenants. Then it gets back to who pays the sewer bill? The owner of the tenant?
4. Apartment Buildings like Seagull Villa and Driftwood Apartments on Pacific have to be signed by the owner. The City would not count as valid any of the tenants signatures even though we provided a copy of their lease showing that water/sewer was included in their rent.
5. Too many duplications. ONLY ONE PROTEST PER PARCEL: If the husband signs, then we don’t need the wife’s signature. If the owner signs, then we don’t need the tenants signature (and vice versa). Even if you’re mad as hell and want to send in 10 (TEN) protests, the city will only count 1 (ONE) protest per parcel. If you own 6 parcels, you can sign 6 (SIX) separate protests.
6. Many people are on septic. We CAN NOT use any protest signatures from people on septic. This is a sewer rate protest. You MUST be hooked up to sewer to be able to protest.
Q. How much money do you need to help the cause?
A. Conservatively $3,000 or about $1 (ONE DOLLAR) per parcel. Last year we raised about $2,000 to cover advertising, copies, gas, etc. But this year we better plan a little more and start a fund for creating a tax payers group. We’ve been the same group of volunteers for the last 6 or 7 years on protesting sewer rates, water rates and the industrial toxic waste poison they used and called fluoride. That effort took 4 years and 2 tries at the ballot box before successfully being shut off in November 2012. Many of us are burnt out and need a break.
Q. Do I have to be a registered voter?
A. Nope. You just have to own a parcel that has sewer service, or rent a place that has sewer service in which you pay the bill. Being a registered voter is not a part of the Proposition 218 protest vote. You do NOT go to a polling place to vote.
Q. Last time you handed in all the protests at the Hearing. Why don’t you hand them in daily?
A. We discovered in the past that when the other side knows what we’re doing, they send out people behind us to get protestors to retract their vote. Now, to clarify, that happened on the recalls. I don’t believe for a second that City Clerk, Robin Patch, would stoop that low. She’s my neighbor. We love her because she’s sweet and a great neighbor; but to be quite honest, she really doesn’t understand everything there is to know about the Prop 218 protest vote.
Q. How can I help?
Can you make phone calls?
Last time we had 1 dedicated person on the phones working about 4 hours a day. We need 2 or 3.
Do you drive?
Many of our volunteers to not drive or have a car. Driving them around is extremely helpful.
Picking them up, and dropping them off with table/protests/and blue pen is much needed. Why a blue pen? Because every once in a while the City will say we handed in a duplicate instead of an original if it’s black ink. That’s why we insist on blue ink.
Do you have a copy machine?
We need 1,000 copies of the protest ballot printed up (3 to a page). If you can make 50 (more or less), every little bit will help.
Do you like walking and talking to people?
We have lists of neighborhoods with addresses and people to see.
Do you like to do detailed paperwork and/or computer work?
Last time we had 1 dedicated person double checking signatures/addresses, etc., with 2 part time helpers. This time we need 2 dedicated full time people to check and double check each ballot for accuracy and make sure there are no duplications.
Do you like to do fundraising?
Then you have a special gift because a lot of our volunteers cannot stand the thought of asking anyone for money.
Do you have a few extra bucks to donate to the cause?
Always appreciated. With $3,000 in hand, that gives us enough for advertising which is the biggest expense. Then copies. Always having to make copies. But, being able to provide some gas money to people who are driving all over the county and transporting people and supplies is needed too. Again, the best course of action is to set-up a taxpayers group for the future. I should have some figures on that soon. Last time we paid for a Post Office Box. This time we’ll use my home address to save on expenses.
Q. How long have we got?
A. All protests have to be turned in no later than May 19th. Our goal is to complete our mission by May 15th. That means we have to get crackin’ now!
Q. Why keep doing this, since they always seem to win?
A. That’s the $64,000 question. Our city council(s) have not taken the time to question the alleged whistle blower who claims that a great deal of fraud and corruption took place on the waste water treatment plant. I didn’t become aware of this alleged whistle blower until just a year ago or so. IF he’s correct, then about $15 million is in question.
Also, I believe that staff lied to the State Water Quality Board about our ability to repay a $44 million loan. I said it back in 2007 and I’ll say it again. We could have afforded $20 million loan. We (the ratepayers) cannot afford a $44 million loan.
Lastly, they quoted us that 11.8% was expansion. This is ridiculously low. Ratepayers are only supposed to pay for operations and maintenance NOT EXPANSION.
If the City would fess up and get honest, I believe we’ll discover that the expansion was closer to 50% or better.
According to the terms of the amended loan agreement, the rates cannot be lowered. That means that we can safely assume they will continue running in the red and continue to raise rates for the next 27 years to pay off this loan.