Sewer Rate Hike Protest Fills Council Chambers

City Council Chambers

The Dixon City Council chamber was packed almost to capacity this past Tuesday, as about 90 Dixon residents attended to protest the recent doubling of Sewer Fees and the council’s refusal to allow the issue to go on the ballot in the November General Election.

Organizers first rallied their troops at a BBQ picnic in park, then marched to City Hall chanting slogans including: “Let us Vote”; “You Work for Us” and “Repeal Doubled Fees.”

Arriving at City Hall at 6:30 pm, the group continued their rally and chants while Channel 13 news crews and reporters from the Vacaville Reporter interviewed members and organizers.

The protest rally caught members of the council by surprise, as Mayor Batchelor and Council members Steve Bird and Jerry Casteñon snuck by the crowd and into the chambers – where the doors were closed until shortly before the meeting was to begin.

Vice-Mayor Thom Bogue, however, joined the crowd and encouraged their participation.

The rally continued to grow in size both outside the chambers, and once inside.
An obviously nervous mayor Batchelor – whose voice was quivering and body language should discomfort and annoyance – announced at the beginning of the Public Comments of Items Not on the Agenda, that speakers would be limited to a maximum of five minutes.

Well over a dozen people spoke, with most keeping well under the five minute limit. Even so, the public input took forty minutes. Speaker after speaker chastised the council as being arrogant and violating the people’s rights to control their government. Many noted they had voted for three of the council members, but now were committed to Recalling and removing them if they did not heed the public’s demand to vote on the sewer issues.

One of the most dramatic moments was when long-time Dixon resident and businessman Mike Doyle came to the microphone carrying his oxygen tank which he needs because of serious health problems.

“I can stay for long,” Doyle said, “Because my oxygen is running out. But all I need to say is we have got to get rid of this bunch of idiots (the Mayor and council majority.)”

After the public input, Vice-Mayor Bogue told city staff that he was directing them to put on the Agenda for the next meeting on July 8 an Action Item for the council to vote to place the issue on the ballot.

Bogue also commented to the crowd that he was pleased to see them there to let their voices be heard. “But you need to start coming before action is taken, not just to come to protest after it is done. You need to be heard at the next meeting, and start attending when things first come up and decisions are being made.”

In other business, the council unanimously passed a “local business preference” policy requiring bids to be award to local businesses even when their bid is up to five-percent higher than out-of-town bidders.

During public comments on the matter, Dave Scholl – the publisher of this newspaper – asked for specific examples of how the policy works. He noted it clearly would apply to vehicle purchases, giving DuPratt Ford an advantage, but would Wal-Mart – which has a local presence – be just as entitled to that preference as would Ace Hardware – which is locally owned.

Mayor Batchelor and City Attorney Doug White pointed out the policy considers as local businesses those owned by local residents and in which the majority of employees are local.

That newly adopted policy was put to the test immediately on the following agenda item – the award of the City’s Legal Advertising contract. During that discussion, Scholl noted that ONLY Dixon’s Independent Voice qualifies as locally owned. The competitor, the Tribune is owned by Gibson Publishing in Vallejo, and nowhere near the majority of Gibson’s employees live in Dixon.

The other controversy on the bid issue was a change in the contract that has been used for the past four years. At the secret behest of Mayor Batchelor, City Manager Jim Lindley ordered the City Clerk to alter the bid form to required bidders to publish at least twice a week. At the meeting when the call for bids was adopted, the change was surreptitiously placed on the “Consent Calendar” without pointing out the change to the council or the bidders.

That move was an obvious attempt to disqualify the Independent Voice from even bidding – despite its yearly bid that has been forty percent lower than the Vallejo owned Tribune – and despite the IV’s circulation to Dixon residences being six times higher than the Tribune.

Since the IV was first adjudicated by the Solano County Superior Court to be qualified as a Newspaper of General Circulation, top city officials have tried to disqualify the IV by imposing stipulations never before used by the city.

The council voted to “Reject all Bids” and send the matter back to City staff to clarify the criterion.

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