Analysis of City Attorney’s Anti-Voters Pleadings

The Independent Voice Analyzes City Attorney’s Anti-Voters Pleadings – and the Reporting by Courthouse News Agency
The Courthouse News article repeatedly states “the city says” – and that the city is calling the taxpayers group “a small band of renegade tax-haters.”
The “art” posted with the article also refers to “Haters.”
Contrary to the article and the claim of the city, the issue is not and never has been whether to upgrade the sewer system.
The issue is the city’s push for 100 year-old obsolete technology which only dilutes the waste water system’s pollutant outflow; does not remove one ounce of the critical pollutants; and cost multiple millions more than new technology that actually does remove them.
Back in 2006 the city planned to “solve” the waste water issue with the State Water Board by building a $40 million seven mile long pipe to discharge the water in an area where the ambient water quality was worse than the waste water outflow.
The City Attorney’s pleading refers to that situation as the first attempt by the city to “upgrade the sewer plant.” But they never tell the court what the purported “upgrade” was – in fact a stupid scheme that did absolutely nothing to clean up the effluent.
The City Attorney’s current pleading claims those opposing the city’s incompetent scheme “refuse to spend one cent” to upgrade the waste water system. That claim is demonstrably false – and the City Attorney knows it.
The people of Dixon – with leaders of the Solano County Taxpayers Association (SCTA) – put an initiative on the ballot to rollback the sewer fees that were tripled to pay for that foolish idea. The initiative was passed handily.
At the prodding of the citizens – including the SCTA – the city set up a Citizens’ Waste Water Review committee. About half the members appointed were members of the SCTA. Members of the committee included professionals in the field of water and engineers as well as rate-payers.
At the time, the state concern was only about salinity. The committee, with the support of the SCTA recommended the city ban new installations of salt-based water softeners which increase the salinity of household water. (There are softeners that do not increase salinity.)
The committee also recommended – with SCTA support – a “buy-back” program to remove all ready installed salt-based water softeners. The city did adopt that plan- which resulted in dramatic reductions in waste water outflow salinity.
The committee also recommended a 50% increase in fees with the revenue to be dedicated to improving the current waste water system by repairing the sewer pipes throughout the city; drilling new test wells near the sewer plant to get more accurate readings of the ambient water quality; and building up a fund to pay for the current rate-payers’ share to upgrade the headworks; . (The remainder to be paid by new development, which is a major reason the upgrades are needed.)
The SCTA supported that reasonable increase. That increase was supposed to be temporary and rolled back once the dedicated purposes were accomplished, that was never done.
In fact, the SCTA held a demonstration at the State Water Board to get their support to allow the city to ban the culprit water softeners.
The SCTA pushed through the legislature a law allowing Dixon to adopt such an ordinance. Prior to the SCTA effort, state law PROHIBITED local government from banning them.
Instead, the city abolished the Citizens’ Waste Water Committee claiming they “had not done anything,” and because it had not met for several months – which was due to sabotage by the chairman of the committee who would not call meetings and who is a close political ally of the Mayor – who in turn had been annoyed by the committee’s actions.
The current controversy is over the city’s adoption of a 100 year old obsolete technology – “activated sludge” – and its refusal to seriously consider modern technology with capital and operating costs that are considerably less expenses, and which actually remove contaminates – including fats, oil, grease, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides – and reduce heavy metals and other contaminants.
Former members of the Citizens Waste Water Committee continued researching options – and informed the city about proven new technology.
They even tried to get the state water board to review them.
The 2006 initiative that was passed included a clause to require a vote of the people for any rate increase. Without such a vote, the city slipped in an amendment to the minor rate increase noted above which simply edited out that provision – all without a vote of the public. As you know, initiatives passed by the people cannot be amended without another vote of the people.
It was when the city passed a more than doubled water rate increase to fund the obsolete technology plan that the people revolted.
First by organizing a property owner protest under prop 218 which garnered about 45% of the necessary property-based owners.
While that is an impressive protest which should have given the council pause – a 50% protest is required, so the city went ahead
The city claims the “people voted for the rate increase” – but that is a deliberate misrepresentation. NO ONE VOTED FOR the rate increase – instead, the way the 218 PROTEST process works is that if someone DOES NOT send in a protest, they are automatically counted as a YES vote.
Talk about stuffing the ballot box!
But Prop 281 included additional methods for the people to require a direct vote of all the voters – referendum and initiative.
After falling short on property based 218 process, the City Council went ahead and passed the rate increase.
The people responded with a referendum, and in less than 30 days almost 20% of voters signed those petitions. The city attorney, however, declared the referendum petitions invalid because only the signature pages were filed with the City Clerk – although the full text had been presented to the voters signing.
That denial of a direct vote, in turn, resulted in the citizens filing an initiative petition to roll back the rates. While state election code allows up to 180 days to gather signatures, the citizens again obtained the signatures of about 20% of voters on the initiative.
Only 15% is required to call a Special Election, but because the petitions did not specifically ask for such an election, the city council instead placed in on the November 2016 ballot – by which time the entire waste water plant project would be completed.
So the citizens again organized a new petition specifically calling for a special election. Again much more than the requisite number of signatures were gathered in less than 30 days.
All along, the city has deliberately stretched out its processing of the initiatives and hurried the construction of the sewer project – clearly intending to make the citizens’ objects moot.
The right to vote on sewer fees are specifically allowed under prop 218 – which is in the state constitution. But the city attorney has claimed the initiative is unconstitutional.
The whole purpose of the project, initiative and referendum provisions of 218 are to give the public an ability to halt a foolish and wasteful project.
It is position of Dixon’s Independent Voice that ANY encumbrance of such huge magnitude should be put to a vote of the people. That could have, and should have, been done anytime in the past two years – including the 2014 June election or the November election.
The city has acted in bad faith throughout the controversy – and now attacks its own citizen in the article published by Courthouse news.
The City Attorney now argues because contracts have been signed with the State Water Board for a loan and with construction contractors, the vote would violate the law by preventing the city from complying with those contracts.
But the City, the Water Board, and the contractor know all along that the citizens had collected enough valid signatures to place a roll back of the sewer rate increase. They all ACTED IN BAD FAITH, which would invalidate those contracts.
In fact, the city council authorized the construction contract AFTER the Registrar of Voters validated the signatures on the Initiative petition to be sufficient. Construction began a month after the Registrar informed the City Clerk of that fact.
It is just like the parable of the young man who killed his parents to collect an inheritance, and when caught pled during the trial for mercy because he was an orphan.
They created the situation, did so knowingly and deliberately, and now want to violate the rights of the public because of their actions.
It is important to note that NONE of the staff in the City Attorney’s office is or has been a resident of Dixon – it is easy for them to demand an unreasonably expensive, inefficient, and in effective obsolete technology be imposed on their unwilling subjects – the people of Dixon.

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