Our View: The right to vote on big projects (September 18, 2016)

Many months ago, when Apple Valley’s water war was just starting to heat up, this newspaper’s editorial board recommended that the town’s residents be allowed to vote on whether or not the Town Council should seek to take over Ranchos Water Company, which subsequently was sold to Liberty Utilities.

We took that same position on the massive Tapestry housing development in Hesperia, which will essentially create a new city of 50,000 to 80,000 people in the southeast section of the Victor Valley.

While we realize that voters elect the members of Town and City Councils to make decisions in the best interests of their communities, there are issues so big that we believe it behooves these elected officials to seek voters’ specific guidance on them rather than rely solely on their own judgment.

Nothing has changed our opinion that this is still the right thing to do.

It is apparent that many Apple Valley residents agreed with us, as nearly 4,000 signed petitions to bring Measure V to the Nov. 8 ballot. This measure would require voter approval of any Town project of $10 million or more, including the attempt to take over Liberty Utilities’ water system.

We see nothing inherently wrong with this concept.

In the case of the water system takeover attempt, we’re not sure the Town Council of Apple Valley has anything to fear, either. If you live in the town and your water is provided by Liberty Utilities, you are well aware that your rate is much higher than that of your neighbors in Victorville and Hesperia.

And you know Ranchos consistently turned to the California Public Utilities Commission to increase that rate, by not insignificant amounts.

Therefore, it would seem very likely to us that if the townspeople of Apple Valley were polled on whether or not to support a takeover attempt, the majority would likely favor doing so, whatever the cost.

The Town Council seems to have complicated things by — in response to other residents’ requests — having a competing ballot measure crafted for the Nov. 8 election. Measure W would require voter approval of any project over $5 million unless the Council did the following: 1) Conducts a public hearing prior to issuing the debt; 2) Certifies projected revenues exceed projected debt payments; 3) Certifies the debt won’t be paid by the taxing power of the Town; 4) Has an annual independent audit to ensure proceeds of the debt are used in connection with the project only.

The other big difference between the two measures? Measures W would not apply to the town’s attempt to take over the water system.

Apple Valley residents will get the opportunity to vote on both of these measures on Nov. 8. However, they should be aware that if Measure W gets more votes than Measure V, it will render V null and void.

This isn’t the way we would have chosen to do things, but we are happy about one thing: On Nov. 8, Apple Valley residents will have the ultimate say on whether or not they want the right to vote on big projects, such as the water takeover.

Source: Daily Press

Files related to Measure V