Town paid more than $50K for ballot measure (August 31, 2016)

APPLE VALLEY — Between February and May, the town paid more than $50,000 to a Sacramento-based law firm for advice services related to Measure W, the town’s alternative to Measure V, the Liberty Utilitiesbacked Right to Vote on Debt Act.

The amount paid for the ballot measure advice services of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell LLP totaled $54,560.28, invoices obtained in a public records request show.

Similarly, Liberty Utilities California President Greg Sorensen told the Daily Press on Tuesday that the water company contributed approximately $50,000 to help (Measure V) qualify for the November ballot.

While the exact number wasn’t disclosed, Sorensen said the newly formed Apple Valley Citizens for the Right to Vote on Debt Campaign Committee will file all of the disclosures that detail contributions by Liberty and expenditures as part of an effort to give residents the right to vote.

The competing ballot measures both relate to voters’ rights in instances of the town’s acquisition of enterprises that incur public debt.

A key difference is the voter-initiated Measure V aims to require voter approval for all acquisitions that incur public debt over $10 million — namely Liberty Utilities, Apple Valley’s water system — while the town’s Measure W would allow for similar oversight, but with acquisition of the water system excluded from voter approval in the future.

The Town Council unanimously approved both ballot measures during the July 26 meeting, but voiced concerns related to Measure V, which they characterized as confusing.

Attorney James Harrison — who works for the Remcho firm — presented a report to Council on the potential impact passage of Measure V would have on the town during that meeting. He described some language in the measure as complicated and broadly defined, which he said could result in a significant impact on the town, including the immediate impact of increasing time and costs related to acquisition of the water system.

This measure, however, goes beyond the town’s plans to acquire the Apple Valley water system, Harrison said, and would in fact cover other projects the town may want to entertain in the future. And that results from the fact that ‘enterprise’ is defined to include other projects such as electricity generation, stormwater (and) sewer systems.

Measure V would effectively impose another step in the process, according to Harrison, who said voter approval for other projects could result in delays, legal challenges and additional costs in connection with the conduct of elections.

But Pat Hanson, who co-chairs the volunteer Yes on V campaign committee with former Town Councilman Peter Allan, described the measure differently in a statement released Tuesday.

Measure V is simple, clear and respects Apple Valley voters, Hanson said. It guarantees our right to vote on public debt exceeding $10 million. My late husband Chuck and I felt very strongly about our rights and the need to reel in runaway spending by the Town Council. They refused to give us a voice. That’s why we committed ourselves to this measure.

Meanwhile, some proponents of the town’s ballot measure formed their own advocacy group — H2Our Water Now — and they pointed to skyrocketing water rates in the town when discussing the necessity of Measure W.

In a statement released last week, Chairman Rick Piercy said he and fellow citizens Bill McDaniel, Adolph Collaso, Lance Arnt and Pat Orr formed H2OWN to support the town and to fight Measure V.

The statement described the battle between the two measures as being fought on uneven ground because the the Town cannot spend any money to defend Measure W.

… all of (Liberty’s) campaign finances will be loaded into their next rate increase request (to the California Public Utilities Commission) which they are preparing right now, Piercy said. We are all going to be paying for their advertising.

Liberty officials previously stated, however, that the company’s shareholders — not its customers — are funding efforts to combat the town’s takeover of the water system.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press

Files related to Measure V