This was a comment posted regarding the proposed tax/fee:
Bill Rodewald, President of the Encinitas Tax Payers Association spoke something close to the following last night.
“I will again start my remarks by saying that clean ocean and lagoon water is very important. The truth is that the City of Encinitas has been complying with all Federal and State clean water standards for many years, and that the voters have been paying for it, thank you. This is not an environmental issue, its an economic issue.
I am not here tonight to convince the Council to abandon its efforts to tax the people of Encinitas twice for the same service. I am here to lay out my theory and opinion that the process has been rigged from the start. My opinion is that in this case and with this tax, the City has attempted, and may succeed in deceiving the people of Encinitas, the very constituents that it purports to represent.
I would agree that what I just said is strong language, and would not have made that statement had I not been interested in the opinion of the voters with regard to this issue and that the opinion survey portion of the process was fixed. The City got the answers that it wanted because they hired the team that promised to deliver just that. Let’s loook at some interesting events:
1) The City decided to spend $110,000 of taxpayer money to hire three consultants to deliver a new tax, to literally manipulate the opinions of its constituents. Interestingly, according to Jennifer Smith, the City Financial Director, there was no competitive bid process which seems odd given the value of the assignment. Even more interesting is the fact that there was no request for proposals process, and not written record of what the City was looking for in an opinion survey of the voters. Conveniently, the direction was given to the consultants verbally and without any documentation. Is anyone surprised that the survey questions were manipulated to elicit the desired results? If so, let’s get to the next item.
2) The City hired Tramutola LLC as one of the consultants and their web site is quit revealing. I’ll bet that it is meant to be seen by City Officials, not by their constituents because they spell out the playbook on how they can assist the City to manipulate public opinion. The opening page boasts that “Tramutola has advised and guided communities to successful passage of local tax measures.” The very next page is even more telling: it cuts right to the reason that the City chose Tramutola after failing to win a taxpayer lawsuit to tax its citizens twice for the same service. It says, “Working with you we will design a campaign to generate the DESIRED RESPONSE”.
They go on to say in their Planning to Win section that they will answer some though questions for the City like;
When should you hold your election? (Maybe right around the holidays so the so the opposition will be too busy to mobilize)
How do you craft a measure to maximize your chance of winning?
Can certain portions of the population be exempted from the tax?
They can even assist a city to recruit, train and empower a third party advocacy group to sell the idea of a new tax. Very interesting given the fact that one has sprung up right here in Encinitas, although I’m not sure that they all live and vote in our City.
3) This is the one that personally offends me the most. The City council had a meeting right here in this room on November 30, 2005 where they led us to believe that community input and Council debate would have some effect as to the decision to proceed with a public vote. Several people spoke in opposition to the idea and there was a support of the new tax that spoke as well. How is it that the Council voted to proceed at approximately 7:30 PM on Wednesday the 30th and voters received a letter and well crafted flyer less than 36 hours later? The picture of beaches and surfers were well chosen and quite appropriate in this marketing piece, but again the timing is most interesting. What marketing and mailing firm can pull together photos, draft and edit text, get approval from the client, fold, sort and mail a piece like this in less than 24 hours? Common sense would tell anyone that this process would take a minimum of 5 days and that the Council had given the authority to proceed several days before the November 30th meeting. Your decision had been made before you arrived here. That marketing piece that actually indicates that the clean water program has not yet been implemented, a lie, was approved and ready to be mailed days ahead of the meeting because you had made your minds up days before. That insults me and should insult everyone that believes in fair and open government!
Whether what someone here at the City did to fool the voters can be deemed illegal is for a lawyer to decide. The City attorney has said that “public funds (eg postage, mailers, and staff time) may not be expended to assist or defeat the passage of a measure submitted to the voters by the City Council”. I submit that, at a minimum, what has been done to raise our taxes is just plain wrong. I will work to educate your constituents as to the events that I have discussed and will encourage every voter in the City to demand a fair playing field in this and future elections. I would also encourage the Council to remember that you work for us, not against us.
My mother taught me that if I was going to point out a problem that I should be prepared to offer a solution, so here it is; Look your constitutes in the eye and tell them that this is not an environmental issue, it’s an economic issue. Then tell them that by voting no on this water meter tax the water quality will remain the same and that they will save $600 and be entitled to an immediate refund of close to $75. Let your constituents know that the City has the money to continue to comply with Federal and State mandated Clean Water programs. That is what I would do. “
Last night the Council also gave the City attorney a big raise. The City keeps loosing big lawsuits so I take this to mean that the City attorney is giving the Council good advise and they ignore it, the Council is too dense to identify bad service, or they want to keep the current attorney happy because a new attorney might go after the Council and expose them.
The Council also gave a juicy benefits increase to figherfighers and a raise to the City Manager.