Tuesday evening also saw a City Council Chamber packed with rate paying Sierra Madre residents, 90% of whom were there to help contest the outsized rate increase demand that had caused so many to send in their forms per the requirements of Proposition 218. Some of them spoke out and carefully detailed why they were opposed to the hike, and in particular how the City did not fulfill its part of the deal by working with the people whose money they wanted.
Which seems odd if you think about it. Even the guy standing on a street corner with a squeegee and a bucket of water asking for spare change will at least offer to clean your car windshield.
I am writing this at around 9:30 Wednesday night, and so far this evening I have received several phone calls from concerned friends who have heard the same story. That being City Hall, while conceding that the protest process had carried the day and the water hike as it now stands is dead, would soon be coming back with another proposal. One strikingly similar to the one that we just ran out of town.
So, if this is true, it would appear that we would be forced to go and get 1,848 signatures on protest forms to stop it. At which time they could very well tweak the 40% rate hike once again, and we would have to collect signatures, once again. And on and on it would go. They tweak, we walk. The assumption being that eventually we would grow tired and fall asleep on the couch.
Perhaps this might be some form of City of Sierra Madre physical fitness regimen for its community activists? Thoughtful indeed that they should care so much for the state of our health.
Thankfully, there is a better way to prevent any Lazarus style re-emergence into the community of this atrocious water rate increase. And that would be to forgo the protest procedure altogether and take this matter to the ballot box. Should we need to do this it would be a much more lasting and effective solution.
Here is some of the actual language from Prop 218:
SEC. 3. Initiative Power for Local Taxes, Assessments, Fees and Charges. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, including, but not limited to, Sections 8 and 9 of Article II, the initiative power shall not be prohibited or otherwise limited in matters of reducing or repealing any local tax, assessment, fee or charge. The power of initiative to affect local taxes, assessments, fees and charges shall be applicable to all local governments and neither the Legislature nor any local government charter shall impose a signature requirement higher than that applicable to statewide statuatory initiatives.
Now I am not a lawyer, but I have recently had conversations with some very good people who are. And since this would appear to be an initiative procedure, we would be required to get the signatures of 15% of the voters in our fair city to put our grievance on the ballot. Something that would be far easier than what we just did since now we would be able to ask for signatures from all registered voters and not just those whose names show up on water bills.
Also note that 15% of the voters would be a far lower number than 1,959. And we do have a very nice list of names and addresses now.
So there you go. A line in the sand. Let's hope for the sake of all that the folks down on Sierra Madre Boulevard will come back with something that won't cross it.