The community rounded up enough signatures to get the water rate hikes on the ballot. Or so they thought.
City Attorney Harriet Steiner declared on Nov. 15 that the rate hikes are not subject to challenge by a referendum. The Proposition 218 wording only addresses community initiatives, not referendums.
Several local media outlets have sounded off, including the Vanguard and Bob Dunning in the Enterprise.
"Apparently the city attorney thinks she works only for her political allies on the City Council, not for the unwashed masses who pay her salary,” said Dunning in his column. “Her analysis of the 'legality' of the referendum process is fatally flawed.”
He goes on to note that, although a referendum is not mentioned, that “does not automatically translate to prohibition.” Read his full column to see why he says an effort to combat this move will be a slam dunk.
David Greenwald expresses similar concerns in the Vanguard. He quotes a strongly worded letter from Michael Harrington, who spearheaded the referendum process.
"The City Attorney memo is a direct attack on the civil rights to petition our government and to vote,” Harrington says in a letter to the city. “A violation of a constitutionally protected civil right is actionable and leads to damages, declaratory and injunctive relief."
Harrington says that if the memo is not retracted in full, legal action would be available if victims choose to sue.
Greenwald says that although the suit may not be a slam-dunk, as Dunning suggests, it’s a dangerous idea to hide behind. “A loophole in the law to deny a sizeable number of citizens what they clearly want – a vote.
Read more to see why he calls it an example of poor management and governance.