Reject the Encinitas "Stormwater Runoff Tax"
In the next few weeks, Encinitas property owners will be asked via mail-in ballot to reinstate the NPDES Storm Drain Tax, which was illegally collected as a fee for 15 months from April 2004 through June 2005. California courts have struck down such taxes masquerading as fees when collected without voter approval, because they violate the State Constitution under Proposition 218. The city stopped collecting the tax only after being sued by two citizen watchdogs and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Don’t be fooled by assertions of the Encinitas council and their lavish propaganda pamphlets, claiming that this tax is a Clean Water Regulatory Fee. It is a tax, period.
And the issue is not about clean water. It is about a greedy council and city management bent on empire building. If approved, this proposed new tax will squeeze more money out of you, so that your bloated city government can hire more people and so that city officials can pad their own salaries and lucrative pensions.
Before you cast your vote, I want to leave you with a few thoughts. The lawsuit by Donna Westbrook, Richard Nagy and the HJTA against the City of Encinitas on this issue was won for two important reasons:
(1) The "Clean Water Fee" is really a "Storm Water Runoff Tax." Being a tax it needs voter approval. Moreover, it requires a 2/3 approval, not a simple majority as proposed by council.
(2) The ill-conceived tax is imposed on water meters. There is no correlation between water meter ownership and storm runoff. The proposed tax punishes environmentally concerned citizens and rewards the real polluters who dump trash on large land parcels that may not even be serviced by water meters. Hence the tax is unfair, unlawful and unconstitutional.
For the city to bring this tax back to the voting public as a "fee" imposed on unrelated commodities is a criminal contempt of the law.
Voters also need to understand the following:
(1) The city’s "Clean Water Program," including maintenance of storm drains, as well as street cleanup and runoff control, has been funded from the General Fund for the last five years and needs no new taxes. The program will continue whether Proposition C is approved or not.
(2) The council spent over $110,000 on surveys and propaganda to convince people that the tax is good for them. They are also making it difficult for taxpayers to reclaim their share of over $1 million in illegally assessed and collected "fees." Taxpayers have to file individual claim forms and wait for the city to repay them.
When co-plaintiff Westbrook made a plea to the council for promptly reimbursing the
illegally collected tax to the property owners at the August 24, 2005 council hearing, she was rudely chastised by Deputy Mayor Christy Guerin.
In her customary, condescending tone, Ms. Guerin sternly chided this soft-spoken activist from her high pulpit, raised two fingers in the air, reminiscent of a certain obscene gesture, and pronounced: "We were challenged by TWO citizens. That's it, TWO!" Her implication was that the rest of the community was agreeable with the deceptive way in which the tax was collected.
She then continued pontificating on why she supported settling the lawsuit, adding, "The citizens weren't suing us with their OWN money ...that's the only reason. Otherwise I would have fought it."
If you are baffled by Ms. Guerin’s twisted logic, you are not alone. Why spend over
$110,000 to find out if the voters will support the tax, when she already knows that only two "malcontents" in the community oppose it?
If the city were truly interested in cleaning the storm water runoff, they should have spent the $110,000 for a better purpose – such as sampling the groundwater oozing out from under the city-owned Hall property into Rossini Creek, which enters the ocean at Cardiff Reef.
Tests performed over three years ago in the creek showed dangerously high concentrations of E-coli bacteria, petroleum products and metallic ions. Levels of arsenic were close to a million times above California EPA standards for drinking water. The outflow from the Hall site has not been tested since. Why is the city ignoring this dangerous health hazard?
My advice to Encinitas home owners: Reject Prop. C and insist on reimbursement of your share of the illegally collected "Clean Water Regulatory Fee." Don't let city bureaucrats brush you off. The lawsuit's settlement agreement entitles you to that money now, not when and if the voters reject reinstating the illegal tax.
Dietmar Rothe, Ph.D.
Research Scientist & Engineer
Author of "In Search of Truth and Freedom" (www.avilabooks.com)
Cosigner of Arguments against Prop. A
*Note- People like Donna Westbrook (whom I have never met) spend a lot time researching mind numbing, boring beaucratic red tape to find the truth about the shady shit that goes down in our town. Mayor Christy Guerin all other city players need to realize that behind every Westbrook are hundreds of concerned locals who don't have the time or the patience to sit through three hour long meetings or go down to the city hall and file request for obscure forms. We lean on out city watchdogs. I care about the town I grew up in and so do I all my friends, but we haven't been showing up to city council meetings and making our presence known. We all owe an apology to people like Donna for doing the dirty work for us. For my part, I will keep blogging.
USA! USA USA!
Jp St Pierre