Valley Voices: Citizens have the right to vote on water debt (June 12, 2016)

Before politicians obligate people to tens of millions of dollars in long-term debt, residents should have the right to vote on the plan. Unfortunately, the Town of Apple Valley did not respect voters enough to ask for consent before paying private lawyers, public relations firms and other consultants over a million dollars to file an eminent domain lawsuit to try to seize the local water system.

Town officials say that their professional appraisal concludes that the system is worth $50.3 million and that they intend to issue bonds to pay for it.

Unfortunately, Town officials refused to give voters a choice; rather, they wanted to make the decision and force residents to pay for it, whether you support their plan or not. A recent Daily Press online poll, which garnered more than 800 votes, indicated that residents oppose the eminent domain takeover attempt by an overwhelming 54-37 margin. Maybe that’s why the lawyers and bureaucrats recommended against giving people the right to vote.

Instead of standing by and allowing our children and grandchildren to be saddled with debt, we sponsored and submitted more than 5,300 signatures from Apple Valley voters to place on the November ballot a simple initiative that requires that the town get voter approval if it wants to borrow more than $10 million for the purpose of funding an eminent domain takeover.

The initiative does not take a side with regards to water. It simply gives voters the right to decide, so politicians aren’t making reckless decisions that could negatively impact the financial stability of our community for generations to come.

Voter approval of major debt is the foundation of our democracy and recent history suggests that voters need to reel in politicians who think going deep into debt is good for the community. Horror stories of revenue bond debt mismanagement are currently flooding the news, and have been for the last several years, particularly in San Bernardino County and the Inland Empire.

Recently, seven Beaumont city employees were arrested in connection with the alleged embezzlement and misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue bond debt over two decades. The same company that allegedly mishandled Beaumont’s debt also handled revenue bond debt for our neighbors in the City of Adelanto.

Several years ago, the City of San Bernardino filed for bankruptcy, in large part because of its debt becoming too large to manage. When politicians or bureaucrats tell you that borrowing millions won’t cost you more money, that’s a huge red flag.

The Daily Press has been on record for over a year now saying that Apple Valley voters should be the ones to decide if they want to borrow $50 million and repay it with interest for an eminent domain effort. Our ballot initiative will give people the right to vote, and hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable for how they intend to spend local tax dollars.

We would have hoped that the Town had respected voters enough to do this on its own, but it has steadfastly refused. At no cost to taxpayers, voters will be able to pass a measure that gives them a voice, something that will benefit everyone.

— Chuck and Pat Hanson

Chuck and Pat Hanson have qualified a ballot initiative for the November election that will enable Apple Valley residents to vote on public debt of $10 million or more.

Source: Daily Press