Thursday, February 16, 2006

High Drama for Prop C



Steve Aceti's response to previous Dietmar Rother posting:


You Call This "Truth and Awareness?"

It's amazing to me that the same person who wrote a book entitled, "In Search of Truth and Awareness," could post a rant that pretends to sound authoritative about election law, municipal finance and other subjects of which he knows nothing about. His letters to local newspapers about beach erosion have always been off the mark and this most recent example of "if I sound knowledgeable, then maybe I am" is equally misguided.

It's clear from the veiled threats made at public hearings, in the press and, more explicitly in this blog, that Prop C has gotten caught in the cross-hairs of next fall's City Council election and the ETA's efforts to use this ballot measure and Prop A as a springboard for candidates it wants to run against the two incumbents up for reelection. Strip the politics away from Prop C and here's what's left:

(1) PROP C HAS WIDESPREAD SUPPORT

When the city first proposed charging a small fee to help subsidize its Clean Water Program, many coastal cities in CA were already charging a similar fee to help pay for unfunded mandates that were unexpectedly thrust upon local governments by state and federal regulators. The public supported a clean water fee when it was originally passed by the City Council and the lawsuit by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (which earns a profit by bringing such lawsuits) hasn't changed a thing. A large majority of the public still supports the clean water fee. Last December, the city sent notices to 22,000 voters about the Prop C public hearing, which included clear instructions on how to file a written protest to oppose the ballot measure. If a majority of voters had protested the fee, the city would not have been authorized to place Prop C on the ballot. The city received only 20 protests.

Despite what the ETA and its followers would have you believe, a large majority of Encinitas residents (64%) are satisfied with the job the city is doing across the board. The ETA represents a minority of thought in Encinitas.

(2) THE CLEAN WATER FEE IS NOT A TAX

The Clean Water Fee is not a tax and it only requires a simple majority to pass. That's in accordance with the settlement agreement reached by the city and the Jarvis group. If things were otherwise, the Jarvis " tax crusaders" would not have agreed to the election being held in this manner.

(3) THE ELECTION IS LEGAL

Mr. Rothe claims that "there is no correlation between water meter ownership and storm runoff," but he should talk to his neighbor and ETA founder Bob Bonde about why Bonde spoke in support of that method of collecting the fee when the proposal was before the City Council a couple of years ago. For Mr. Rothe to charge with a false air of authority that the city is in "criminal contempt of the law" for holding this election shows that he not only knows nothing about civil or criminal law but, even
worse, he hasn't read the settlement agreement by which this election is guided.

(4) DESPITE ALL THE HOOPLA, THE ISSUE IS A SIMPLE ONE

The only issue in this election is whether or not voters want to pay $5 per month to help subsidize the city's Clean Water Program. Poll support in the 64% range, and the fact that only 20 people out of a possible 22,000 voters filed written protests,
indicate they do. Prop C, like clean water ballot measures in Los Angeles, San Clemente, Santa Barbara and other coastal cities, will pass - as long as voters don't get distracted by the sideshow that attempts to link Prop C to this fall's City Council election.

Steven Aceti, JD
Co-Chair
Encinitas Citizens for a Clean Ocean
yesonpropc.org

Dietmar Rothe's rebuttal:

First, Steve Aceti does not seem to understand that my opposition to Prop C is not about the $5 or about clean water. It is about the conniving and the deceptive propaganda put forth by city management and council that obfuscate the real issues in an effort to circumvent the law.

Second, he refers to my "letters to local newspapers about beach erosion" being "off the mark" and "misguided." Where does he get this nonsense? I never wrote any letters to newspapers about beach erosion. Steve, please provide me with the reference texts that you allegedly base your comments on.

We all want unpolluted beaches, and we applaud Bay Keeper (which Mr. Aceti seems to be associated with) having sued the City of Encinitas, forcing it to clean up Cottonwood Creek that flows into Moonlight Beach. Money for purifying Cottonwood Creek water comes from the General Fund and ultimately from every taxpayer in the city, as it should be.

The so-called "Clean Water Regulatory Fee" is a tax, no matter how you look at it. The City has no shortage of tax revenues, as property tax and sales tax revenues have soared at a phenomenal rate over the last few years, much faster than Encinitas’ population growth. The city is just plain greedy asking for new taxes, so that it can cover up its fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement.

By converting traditional taxes to "fees," the city tries to circumvent laws like Prop 13 and Prop 218 that require a 2/3 majority vote by the taxpaying public. Moreover, fees can be raised anytime without consulting or even notifying the public. Such taxes, masquerading as fees must be struck down, as the HJTA succeeded in doing.

Remember the sewer tax? When the city illegally converted the sewer tax to a consumption fee, it set the stage for unlimited fee increases. Have you looked at your sewer tax lately? It has tripled over the last few years, with many residents paying over a thousand dollars per year. The city got away with this blatantly deceptive scheme only because nobody sued the scoundrels.

In this connection, please note the following: Water and sanitation districts are not regulated by State or Federal utility commissions and can raise their rates anytime they want. The city realized this a long time ago and appropriated the operating facilities in these districts, leasing them back to the districts and setting the stage for milking the water and sanitation districts. The districts then raise water and sewer rates to milk the homeowners in turn.

It is not generally known that the city has been playing that game for over a decade. You do not find this info on the city website. It is a well kept secret known to only a few insiders. Ask the City Manager, but don’t expect him to volunteer any city documents about this.

The city then conspired to go one more step by creating the Encinitas Public Financing Authority (EPFA), which now owns the districts’ operating facilities. The EPFA then issues Revenue Lease Bonds instead of General Obligation Bonds to finance the city’s pet projects, again in a scheme to circumvent a public vote by the taxpaying homeowners, who ultimately have to repay the debt with interest. The EPF Authority then extorts the money to repay the bondholders from the water and sanitation districts by demanding ever increasing lease money for operating the publicly owned facilities. The water and sanitation districts then stick it to the residents by raising water and sewer rates. Do you smell something really fishy here? It’s because it is.

An example are the $22.3 million Lease Revenue Bonds issued by the EPF Authority in 2001 to purchase the Hall property. Homeowners are now paying this debt down over 30 years, amounting to $45 million in principal and interest. Most of this money comes through the San Dieguito Water District, which is one of the principal agencies committed to the Authority under operating leases to repay the bonds. Now you know why your water rates and sewer rates are skyrocketing. The water and sanitation districts were flush with money and doing well before incorporation. Now they are constantly in the red struggling to keep up with their lease payments to keep the city tiger well fed.

16 comments:

  1. Aceti is grasping at seaweed. Rothe runs intellectual circles around him and he is too self absorbed to figure that out. Steve Aceti is a city shill that was dumb enough to let himself be recruited by a city consultant and the city manager to peddle a new and unwarranted tax. We should feel sorry for him because the city will ditch him like a fugly girlfriend when this issue goes down to defeat. Let's just hope he was compensated somehow to make up for the fact that his name will be mud when this is over.

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  2. GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT :Idiom
    1.
    derog.

    Someone whos behavior suggests an eagerness for something unpleasant.

    Somebody who appears to need or enjoy difficulty, discomfort, or stress.

    (13th century. Via old french)

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  3. Steve,
    I can't believe only 19 other residents besides myself returned that questionaire from the city.
    I clearly said I thought the general fund should pay, and can I have my 75 bucks back?

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  4. Steve Aceti doesn't deserve pity for his role in the city's taxpayers heist. Steve uses the title JD after his name which gives the impression that he is a licensed attorney.

    If Steve is so concerned about polluted water reaching the ocean, why isn't he speaking out against the poopy water used along the city streets? The city has reclaimed water lines all over the city that run the poopy water into the street and then into the storm drains.

    The new reclaimed water lines installed along Santa Fe Drive will spurt poopy water on the neighbors vegetation, on the Self-Realization pumpkin farm, and into the storm drains.

    Why isn't Steve complaining about the poopy water contamination caused
    by the city?

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  5. Holy Guacamole.

    Why not add the clean water fee onto our sewer bills. Most people seemed to not notice why their taxes went up hundreds of dollars. What is another $5 (plus future increases)?

    Steve did a lot of dancing in his response. Good dancing with some good points but if you look substance is awkwardly missing from his itemized response. Consider each of his points.

    1) A majority didn’t “protest.” That does not logically mean that most people are for this fee. As for 64% of respondents thinking the City is doing a fine job, what does that have to do with the fee. BTW please consider this interpretation- most respondents had no idea about the fee or the other boondoggles and misdeeds carried out by the City. Did the survey ask residents about their knowledge about the Hall property blunder, the Pasco Fiasco, or the Redevelopment Attack? I’ll bet most of the respondents don’t know who the City Manager is or can even name the Council Members.

    Where is the real evidence that this fee has widespread support? (or is understood by the public)

    2) Good point. Or at least it sounds good. Never the less, just tell us the difference between a fee and a tax and then show that the current measure meets the definition of fee and not a tax (instead of saying “it is not a tax because HJTA would have protested.”)

    3) Steve. This really comes across as spin. This is written to discredit the messengers instead of the issue. Where is the substance steve? Is he correct or wrong and why. Spell it out.

    I seem to recall Bob was actually against an even worse idea for dividing up the tax (or fee?). But I still don’t see why that matters at all. Wait, it doesn’t…

    4) Once again you are back at it. You add spin when you write, “help subsidize the city's Clean Water Program” [with this tax]. Steve, the emperor has no clothes. We all know that there is no reason that this shouldn’t be titled “City General Fund Augmentation Fee.”

    It helps subsidize the entire general fund. Right or wrong, and why Steve?

    Tell us again, what services is this fee going to bring the citizens if we vote this in? We think that the fee has no associated stipulations regarding additional services pertaining to clean water that we won’t get if we don’t adopt the fee. Yet you and the Council (Maggie shame on you) pitched this as a program for cleaning up the water.

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  6. Stop the city hall storm drains contamination with the poopy water in the city's reclaimed water lines.

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  7. meanspirits cannot break pure of heartFebruary 16, 2006 3:57 PM

    Steve Aceti, you said in your last post,

    "Since you, Westbrook, Rothe, Bonde, Rodewald et al. think City Hall is doing such a bad job, I assume none of you visit downtown (at least the part that was improved by the StreetScape plan), go to the beaches in town (which have sand and clean water due to the city's efforts), use the parks (that have safe, modern equipment and are well-maintained)or will use the services provided by the new library."

    You know what Steve, you are so full of it, runoff seems to be coming out of your very pores! The City has done what it is mandated to do, what would be done under the county, even if we had never incorporated. A lot of the positive stuff was either already in place, or initiated by our original General Plan, laid out by our founding City Council and Mayor, and community activists such as Bob Bonde.

    You, Mr. Aceti, seem to forget, the government is by and for the people. We, the people, with our tax dollars, are keeping our beaches clean. Some of us question how much extra sand is now being dumped on our beaches. Some of question "progress," because there is so much more traffic here now, housing is so horribly expensive.

    Yes, we appreciate the word free, as in free market. But you can't just have laissez faire, survival of the fittest, either. That is why utility commissions, government oversight have been set up to begin with. Otherwise we could go back to the Missions owning huge plots of land and holding the serfs, natives, in bondage. Toiling for the chosen few.

    We can't turn back time. The financial, business interests of this community have prospered, sometimes at the expense of some of the rest of us. The libraries have existed before Encinitas incorporated. Now our library has been demolished, with no new library construction completion in sight.

    Our beaches were here long before all the people got attracted, all the run off and pollution began to have greater and greater impact. We feel the majority of profits, unfortunately, have been made by speculators, the middlemen, profiting from rapid turn over, construction of homes. We know this is a great place to live, used to be much simpler, more peaceful, too.

    Truthfully, we liked the older city streets, the older business district downtown just fine. Part of the deal here was that the City was required to improve its sidewalks, curbs due to Federal law concerning Americans with Disabilities. So we try to be compassionate, understanding. We refuse to be gullible, fooled by the likes of you.

    And which way is it, Steve? First you say people are just politicizing the clean water issue as a springboard for candidacy, then you accuse of not wanting to govern. Whoever would run would have to deal with James Bond, Jerome Stocks, and Maggie, who in this case, hasn't been able to clear the fog from her head to see the inequities of the storm drain program, for looking through poopy water. We still have hopes that Maggie will see the light of reason. We hope her heart is where her mouth is.

    Yes, life is a balance. Give and take. But we won't give in, be remiss in not telling the truth, being honest with ourselves, our dear friends, community. We are not listening to you, Mr. Aceti. And we will keep standing up for equity, clean water and clean government.

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  8. The streetscape plan was a success! Downtown Enc is a great place to shop and eat. More tax revunue, therefore more money for city services and no need for new taxes. Tah dah!

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  9. Steve Aceti has brain drainFebruary 17, 2006 1:03 AM

    Yes, the streetscape was a success. But that success was due to business owners and taxpayers. Steve Aceti, because we say we are not happy with the way that Council is operating, the way they have too many closed sessions, does not mean that we don't like our city. We live here. We love our neighbors, our neighborhoods, and our community spirit.

    We don't appreciate being deceived. We have tried listening to you, but you don't answer our questions, just heap on the jive, twist the truth into political spin, giving yourself big wet kisses while you backhand us for caring, for sharing our concerns.

    We don't intend to "throw out the baby with the bath water," but we sure want to let the dirty water go down the drain. We need people on Council who will fight for the little guy, stand up for open, clean government, not get greedy for political power, or more money for vanity projects.

    We do want a library, clean water, a thriving business climate. We do realize the importance of balance and harmony. There will always be a few sour notes. You, Mr. Aceti, are out of tune, almost out of time.

    Vote No on C. Vote out Guerin, Dalager, so we can get some fresh perspective on Council. Don't tread on us! Steve Aceti, you would have been for the Redcoats, telling our founding father's, Betsy Ross, "don't be paranoid!"

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  10. Council boards up our heritageFebruary 17, 2006 1:42 AM

    Ok, to change the subject, a bit, I watched the very short Wednesday City Council Meeting on Cox 19 last night. It didn’t even last an hour. Just wish we could get some kind of balance with these meetings. The one before went until after 11:00! This Wednesday’s meeting looked empty; you couldn’t see any audience at all, from the camera’s eye view. I did see Gil Foerster make oral comments.

    I am disappointed that they are boarding up the Robert Hall house. I wonder about some of the conclusions that Council just came to, contrary to what staff had said. First of all, if something is preexisting, and you are not adding on, or remodeling more than 50% of it, then by City and County law, it is legal non-conforming, and one doesn’t have to bring it up to current code, as Glenn Sabine incorrectly proclaimed. Now, this could be different, here, if the City were to be the landlord. I don’t know everything, that’s for sure!

    But this time I was sympathetic with the older lady who said the Historical Society would be willing to rent it. Jerome Stocks just shot her down. Now why wouldn’t she know what the Historical Society Board had said? Could they operate there, at least temporarily, while their place near Quail Gardens is completed? Or why couldn't this building be refurbished as a temporary teen center, or even a satellite library?

    My understanding is that some adobe structures are maintained and considered safe. What about the Missions?

    I really didn’t like Christy Guerin’s take on this either, as usual. She just seems so determined to demolish the house so that the teen center can go in. That is a very long way down the road. I wish we could put some money into the home and perhaps use it as a teen center. And the pool is already there! Wouldn’t that be a great interim solution? Because the Hall Property project is going to take about twenty years to get done, if it ever does, in my opinion. Our current Council will be long gone, by then.

    On this particular issue, I thought Dan Dalager showed some courage, being the lone dissenter. He usually doesn’t do that. And Maggie Houlihan, all those years ago, lived in an apparently not-well maintained rental. She probably could not have afforded anything else. I am not advocating for substandard housing, but her prejudices about a ramshackle place she may have once lived in should not be a determining factor in this building having to be demolished, even if the siding is preserved, and some of the beams.

    I guess Robert Hall would not have wanted to continue to live there if he thought the roof might collapse. And the City would not have let him. The building has stood all these years without problem.

    I agree, it might have cost more for maintenance than staff suggested, but I wish we could have put money into it to make it feasible for public use. Council knows the minor or major use permit would not be a problem. They want to make this all seem so complicated, of course, blaming it on the Coastal Commission. The truth is Mayor Guerin wants to get it out of there so she can build another tacky monolith to her ego, another vanity project to expand her political base.

    As the nice volunteer from the Historical Society suggested, we do already have a teen and senior center over off of Balour, by Oak Crest Park. And she also said the volunteers would put their own time and work into doing the repairs. The City would have only supplied the materials. This was another wrongheaded decision by Council. Why would they want to let a lovely home, part of our heritage, be boarded up, go to waste.

    Vote Guerin out! And we can write to the Coastal Commission about this too. I'm going to.

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  11. Gerald Sodomka has a fantastic Community Commentary in todays Coast News!!

    What a perfect description of the city shill, Steve Aceti.

    Good work Gerald

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  12. in response to council boards up our heritage.
    - Two days before the council meeting I went to the Hall property to inspect the site. I
    did this because I wanted to believe that the city staff was correct in stating that 17,000. dollars would put the Hall House into a condition that would make it useable. I spent two hours at the site noting what would have to be done to make the house both safe and useable. Understand
    that I wanted find a way to justify using the house rather than demolishing the structure, if for no other reason then to preserve the trees surrounding the property.

    I can promise you that there is absolutely no way that 17,000 dollars is going to bring the
    property up to a condition that would make me feel secure in arguing for it’s preservation as a
    habitable dwelling. I know that Bob continued to live there after the sale but that doesn’t mean
    that the property is habitable as a rentable property or viable as an interim teen center or historical museum. It is an unreinforced abode structure and although it has persevered for many happy years for Bob Hall, most renovated abode structures are a pale shadow of their real character after retrofitting. Compounding the retrofitting is the fact that it was built in 1951 and although given an adobe appearance it does not have typical adobe type construction.

    As to the Historical Society renting the building and their volunteers repairing/renovating the
    building, the task just seemed too large for well intentioned members and certainly too expensive if the progress on the Quail Springs Rd site is any indicator. It has legal non-conforming status as
    a residence but it does not have that same status if we change the use to something other that
    residential. It must be brought up to currant standards as to seismic safety and Americans with
    disabilities. I gave a great deal of thought to numerous other auxiliary temporary uses for the
    home and adjacent out buildings from storage of library books to Visitor Center and just could
    not resolve the repair, fire and seismic concerns to my satisfaction.

    I am always concerned that as a city we don’t open cans of worms that drain our General Fund
    with no end in sight. I support fiscal responsibilty.

    Cristy Guerin was concerned about “changing horses in the middle of the stream,” always a
    slippery task at best. The city has waited patiently for the EIR to advance and I think there is some concern about not derailing the progress. Dan Dalager cast a dissenting vote but in all
    likelihood knew that the vote would be 4:1 before the meeting began. Dan is old school Encinitas on some issues and may actually feel this strongly about the Hall House property or he may feel that since he is up for re-election this fall this was a good place to oppose the demolition of
    “community character,” with the issue already decided upon. In a brief conversation after the
    council meeting Dan took the position that the council action would not preclude him from
    searching for an anonymous donor willing to put up a million dollars so that a museum could be
    placed in the Hall home. The action by the council gives Dan the time to do this if it is possible.

    The staff was directed that no damage should come to the house from the closing since it is
    uncertain what position the EIR will take on the historical significance of the structure.

    What is built in the park and the order in which they are built remains to be determined by the
    Council and staff dictated by available funding and community input at council meetings. Do I
    think the building should be demolished? If no benevolent donor is found, yes. Do I think that as many of the classic mature trees should be preserved as possible? Yes. Do I think that the large timber, the cabinetry, the siding should be recovered by whoever demolishes the house if at all possible? Yes. Do I believe the Coastal Commission will consider the value of this building? No, it is not within their scope of review.

    Hope this clarifies my feelings
    Gil Foerster

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  13. Good Stuff Coast NewsFebruary 17, 2006 1:40 PM

    Yes, Jerry! Fantastic Community Commentary, which I read this morning, in the Coast News. I just don't see Maggie as Alice, though. Maybe she would be the Queen of Diamonds.

    I believe that we, the citizens, taxpayers are like Alice, sometimes 10 feet tall, sometimes very small. Yes, auditions are coming up in no time. We need a new cast of characters. I want a new Cheshire Cat. And a new Hare, white rabbit. The Queen of Hearts has got to go.

    There were a couple of excellent letters to the editor supporting No on C, too. Hope everyone is willing to flip to the back to read the conclusion of the letters, the conclusion of Jerry's commentary. Hurrah, Coast News!

    Vote No on C. We can affect history!

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  14. Maggie Houlihan could better be Queen of Spades, digging in her garden, for potatoes?

    Gotta love those Irish roots.

    Maggie, get the dust, the mud outta your eyes. You can be for the environment and for a fair deal, as well.

    And remember, clowns are people too. We don't want you to be played for a fool!

    No on C, Maggie! It's not too late to show truth rules.

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  15. Heads up is right Maggie! Now is the time to make some huge points with the voters and admit that maybe you were sucked into this on false pretenses. Good politicians change their position when presented with the facts all the time. It will make no difference at this point as far as the outcome of the vote and the inevitible law suit, but you could stand apart as far as the council that will take heavy heat for this fiasco.

    Be different, make a difference. Stand for truth. Dont give David Meyer (Ecke) more fodder.

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  16. I do not see the need for this charge whether a fee or a tax and I oppose it. The city has not made a case for it and it's presentation of it as a voting issue is entirely suspect. I am also disturbed by the lack of civility in the discussion and hope for an objective discussion of verifiable facts.

    I would like to know, for example, how the extent of support or lack of support for Prop C was assessed as cited by Steve Asceti. I have yet to meet anyone in favor of Prop C but I don't claim that my contacts are a representative sample of the Encinitas pop. Also, maybe I missed it somewhere but I can't find any kind of fiscal analysis supporting the need for Prop C.

    Years ago, the City of Irving, Texas used aerial photography to compute hard surface area and make an assessment of runoff potential from propery to form an assessment. The city has the imagery and capability for doing this and, if any assessment is needed (and that has not been established to my satisfaction) then it should be done on a watershed basis using a more rational method the whether or not you have a water meter.

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