Hot under the collar (July 26, 2016)

It was really hot today in Apple Valley on July 26, 2016, but it will never be as hot as it was under my collar when I read the staff reports on the ballot measures that came before council on this date. I urge each reader to consider the following:

1. Agenda Item 8, the report on the community’s initiative. The report is attached. Two major factors are raised … first on page 8.7, the issue of delay in projects is raised, suggesting that requiring an election will delay a benefit to the residents. That is complete hooey. We need only look at the budget to know that capital projects are listed on a schedule that is planned 3 to 5 years in advance. If they can’t plan the financing as well, any delay only results from poor planning, not a delay in securing financing..

2. Second, the interpretation of the project at pge 8-8, is a political wordsmithing game the town can play. The word enterprise is defined in the California Government Code §54309. City projects are identified in the capital improvement plan, and identifying which projects are to be funded is a council/staff function. Seeking financing requires planning, identification of projects, a prospectus and lots of cost. The interpretation issue is an excuse crafted by lawyers … gotta love ‘em for making controversy where none exists.

3. Agenda Item 9 raised my blood pressure, compare page 8-4 and page 9-5. The Town has rephrased the community’s measure to read …

Shall an ordinance be adopted requiring voter approval before the Town of Apple Valley can issue public debt of more than $10,000,000 to pay for acquiring, improving, or financing a project, such as the acquisition of the Town’s water system, which is currently owned by a private company, when the debt is to be repaid by fees collected by the Town and not from the Town’s taxpayer revenues (Yes) (No).

The phrase in italics above is not in the language of the original ballot measure. Why would it be added here except to prejudice the initiative? It does not need to be there. I believe it was added because the town wants the public to know the initiative was funded by Liberty Utilities and wants to create bias. What it does is create confusion, because the Town has more than one water system.

Nonetheless, who cares who funded the initiative, it could be me, or Walmart, or Napa Auto Parts, or even Best Best & Krieger. The initiative process is a legal process allowed to the voters to bring measures to the ballot. Don’t denigrate it by putting in biased language, to do so is somewhat misleading bordering on fraudulent … don’t do that to the voters.

The final vote was, predictably, unanimous, without changing any language. The Expert, Mr. Harrison said the use of the phrase regarding the water system was in the Notice of Intent filed by the proponent, Pat Hanson, although not in the initiative itself. The initiative should control! Oh, by the way, The Town council members state the measure is confusing, not clear … really? Compare the following:

4. Agenda Item 10, Page 10-8 sets for the town’s initiative, which states:

Shall an ordinance be adopted authorizing the Town of Apple Valley to finance the acquisition of the Liberty Utilities water system AND to acquire, improve or finance other projects, by issuing public debt in excess of $5,000,000, if the Town obtains voter approve OR the Town Council hold a public hearing, certifies that the revenues from the project will cover debt payments, prohibits the use of taxpayer revenues to repay the debt, and conducts an annual independent audit? (Yes) (No)

The writer added the underlining, CAPITALS, italics, and bolding of the language.

First the entire Town Council thinks the above initiative is ‘NOT CONFUSING’. Look at the measure in sections … first … Shall an ordinance be adopted authorizing the Town … to finance the acquisition of the Liberty Utilities water system … Frankly, that should be the voter measure in a nutshell, adding nothing else. Let the eminent domain issue rise or fall on its own!

Second, to do public financing, the Town ALREADY HAS TO HOLD A PUBLIC HEARING, thus the measure provides no new process or protection. Third, depending upon the project (which is not identified as an enterprise but other projects), the measure requires revenues from the project to cover debt payments. Does that mean if the Town paves a road, with bonded indebtedness or other financing, we have to charge a toll in order to pay for the bond? Of course not, that is silly. But by failing to identify the type of project subject to the measure (as enterprise is defined in the community measure) confusion has been caused by the Town.

An annual independent audit is already required of public financing. The measure provides no new protections.

The limit of $5,000,000 is equally as silly. The Town attorney and council say that the $10,000,000 in the community measure is too low and would harm small projects, but the Town goes lower, why? Solely to entice your vote and for no other reasons. The Town knows it does not have to go to the ballot at all, it can hold a public hearing (which it already does) to acquire financing.

So the confusion and lack of clarity lies with the Town ‘s measure and is just another of the hide the ball games we have been seeing lately out of the Town. Comments by the council members demonstrate they don’t really understand what they are talking about. Lip service is just lip service. Even the mayor pro tem demonstrated a lack of knowledge when he suggested that Measure I transportation projects would be subject to a vote of the people under the community’s measure. Measure I projects are not an enterprise under the Government Code. His comments were in error, and the expert, Mr. Harrison admitted to me after the meeting, that it would not apply and that he really did not know what Measure I was.

The measures as set forth in the agenda were passed, predictably, on a 5-0 vote (I am beginning to believe there is not a No button on the dais voting equipment). I am incredibly shocked at the lack of respect for the community, the lack of leadership and the resorting to political gamesmanship. I never thought that about any of our council members before. I am pretty darn disappointed now … the circumstances cry out for change.

Diana J. Carloni, Attorney at Law, Apple Valley, CA