Residents’ voting rights initiative moves forward (March 7, 2016)

Campaign says it has ‘received tremendous support’ in town

APPLE VALLEY — A ballot initiative that would allow residents to vote on the town’s use of bonds to acquire the water system owned by Liberty Utilities, Apple Valley — formerly Apple Valley Ranchos —is progressing as intended, according to a campaign spokesperson.

Signature gathering for the informally-titled Right to Vote on Debt Act began Jan. 16 and the campaign is on track to submit signatures this summer, the spokesperson told the Daily Press last week.

An exact number of signatures gathered since January was not disclosed, but the town’s registered-voter population stands at 31,713, according to the spokesperson, so the campaign needs just over 3,100 signatures — or ten percent of registered voters — for the initiative to move forward.

The Right to Vote on Debt Act was proposed by Apple Valley residents Chuck and Pat Hanson, and the Daily Press reported in December that Ranchos was financially backing the initiative.

Liberty officials declined to comment on the campaign, and it’s unclear if the company has continued to support the initiative since the sale of Ranchos to Liberty Utilities in January.

If adopted, the initiative would amend the Apple Valley municipal code to add a requirement that voters approve by a majority vote any public debt over $10 million that provides funds for the acquisition of an enterprise, a statement said.

That public debt mentioned in the statement is in reference to bonds the town would likely use to fund its acquisition of Liberty’s water system by eminent domain, according to the campaign’s spokesperson.

Chuck and Pat Hanson — who are not Liberty customers — have been vocal opponents of the Town Council’s proposed acquisition of the water system at numerous Council meetings, and Chuck Hanson said the initiative has received tremendous support throughout the Town.

(M)any people feel strongly they should have a right to vote before politicians take on tens of millions in debt that our children and grandchildren would be responsible to repay, he said in a statement. The fact that they wouldn’t look to the voters in the first place on such enormous debt should raise questions about the government takeover in the first place.

The tremendous support Hanson spoke to seemingly calls into question the town’s position that Apple Valley residents overwhelmingly support acquisition, but town spokeswoman Kathie Martin told the Daily Press Thursday the town can’t comment on the initiative until the signatures are filed with the town clerk.

Town officials returned the initiative’s title and summary to the campaign on Jan. 6, according to the spokesperson, who spoke to the grassroots element of the campaign’s push for a spot on the November ballot.

(The campaign) is mainly being propelled by supporters talking to neighbors, the spokesperson said, but added that a number of paid signature gatherers are taking a more traditional route to achieving the 3,171 required signatures.

The campaign will turn the signatures into the San Bernardino County Elections Office of the Registrar of Voters for validation in mid-July, the spokesperson said.

Campaign finance disclosure reports, the spokesman added, will be posted as they’re due.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press