The Dixon City Council meeting last Tuesday, December 9, was proof of the adage that “The more things Change, the more they stay the same.
Following a reception bidding farewell to the two council members defeated in the November election – Dane Besneatte and Thom Bogue – and before the new members were sworn in, the outgoing council unanimously approved an ordinance raising the salary and adding health benefits for future councilmembers.
By doing so, the old council made the new councilmembers eligible for the raises. State law prohibits any elected official who votes for a raise from being eligible for it, until re-elected later. Because Scott Pederson and Ted Hickman did not vote on the raise, they will be immediately eligible for it. They were sworn in after the vote.
He new council voted to add several employees and to reclassify others.
The meat of the meeting was the recurring issue of the Waste Water Treament Plant – with the twist of the status of the Initiative to roll back Sewer Feest.
The council, with only Ted Hickman dissenting – voted to send out requests for bids to actually construct the plant.
As part of the action, a separate authorization to seek bids on a new water well at the waste water plant. That matter drew no opposition from the public and was passed unanimously. Estimated cost is $250,000.
The bid for constructing the actual plant drew opposition from the public, both on technical grounds and the process
Several members of the public alleged the city was rushing the bids, while having deliberately delayed the certification of the signatures on the Sewer Rate Reduction Initiative.
The petition was submitted to the City Clerk just after the November election – with a total of 1788 signatures. The petitions were then sent to the Solano County Registrar of Voters office in Fairfield to have the signatures verified against the county’s official registration records.
The IV found out last week that a random sampling of 500 of those signatures – a procedure authorized by state law – showed 87.2% were valid. Extrapolating that percentage, the valid signatures would be 1556 – while only 1303 were required. The difference is more than 18% over the number required. State law provides that if the sample shows valid signatures will exceed ten percent of the number required, there is no need to count all the signatures.
However, there was a deliberate decision to delay certify the Initiative by counting each and every signature – putting the first chance for the City Council to consider the Initiative on January 13.
Meanwhile the city will proceed with publishing the bid request and proceed toward accepting bids and accepting a contract. The proponents of the Initiative contend the city is trying to have a contract signed before an election on the issue can be held – and the city is hoping if a contract is signed the courts will side with the city and refuse to allow a vote.
Officials with the City and the County have given conflicting statements as to who requested the full count. The Assistant Registrar of Voters, John Garner, told the IV and others that the City Clerk requested it. The City Clerk also told the same people that she requested the full count, upon the advice of the City Manager and the City Attorney.
The City Attorney, however, told a group of citizens after Tuesday’s meeting that the Registrar made the decision and only told the City Clerk about it. The truth of the matter is important as it is evidence of a connivance to derail the Initiative.
After the bid requests vote, the City Council did authorize $20,000 to hire a consultant to prepare a report on the fiscal impact of the Initiative. That tactic would also delay a vote by another thirty days.
As was done with the Open Government Measure N – the report would be biased against the Initiative and used to persuade the citizen to vote against rolling back fees.