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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Bob Dunning: Advisory vote would be meaningless

BobDunning2W

By
From page A2 | November 13, 2012 |

ADVICE, BUT NO CONSENT … if our esteemed City Council takes the advice tonight of both city staff and the city attorney and makes March’s water project ballot “advisory” only, count me out … in fact, cancel the election and save all of us the time, money and grief such a charade would cause … assurances that the council will follow the “will of the people,” even if the vote is advisory, are meaningless … if you plan to follow the “will of the people” anyway, then make the vote binding and eliminate all doubt in the minds of the electorate … one-issue ballots are already plagued by historically low voter turnout … making this one-issue ballot advisory as well will dramatically suppress voter enthusiasm and participation, especially on the “no” side …

I have no idea how I’ll vote on this measure … I’ll have to wait to see what the council comes up with tonight … at this point, I’m still open to persuasion from either side, but I do know that if I ultimately lean toward “no,” I’d have very little motivation to show up and cast what will basically be an irrelevant vote … what happens with an advisory vote is that a handful of council groupies show up to vote “yes,” the “no” campaign never gets off the ground and our five elected representatives will claim “the people have spoken” and move ahead with their plans …

Look at it this way, whatever language the council puts on the ballot will be the result of months of internal study and debate and will no doubt be the product of a 5-0 vote … in light of that, don’t think for a minute that your advisory vote to the contrary will convince a unanimous council to suddenly reverse course … it simply won’t happen … even if a “no” vote somehow carries the day by, say, 51 to 49 percent, the council can simply say, “We understand there is some concern in the community and we hear it loud and clear, but we’ve studied this issue long and hard and we feel the best course for the city is to move ahead with the project.” …

An advisory vote allows the council to thumb its nose at the intelligence of the electorate … imagine if all our Measure J votes were merely advisory, it would take away all the teeth that much-heralded measure possesses … an advisory vote says “you may advise us, peasants, but we will be free to do as we please, because we, after all, are the experts.” …

The council wants the public to “trust” it to make the right decision … that’s backward … the council needs to trust the wisdom of the fine and knowledgeable citizens of this community … a binding ballot measure is the only way to go …

SPEAKING OF WISDOM … as Water Advisory Committee member Matt Williams notes, an “advisory” vote “will kill off virtually all public engagement and dialogue on virtually all the key issues we have been wrestling so hard with at the WAC meetings. In spite of all the attention the WAC has focused on the issues, there are still huge portions of the community that are in the dark on what the implications are regardless of what direction we go. This community needs to thoroughly discuss both the implications of a ‘yes’ vote and the implications of a ‘no’ vote. What will be the immediate next steps the council will take if it passes, and what they will do if it fails. Anything less is a huge community mistake.” … well said, my friend, well said …

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH … completely unsolicited, our beloved and hard-working mayor, Joe Krovoza, sent the Above-Pictured Columnist a short and direct email that stated without equivocation: “I support a binding vote in March on water. Period.” … in that regard, Mr. Mayor, I support you … good luck convincing your council colleagues of the wisdom of your position …

NO RATES ON BALLOT … contrary to the expectations of much of the electorate, there will be no actual water rates proposed on the March ballot … many folks, in fact, assumed the March vote would be strictly about rates … in other words, are you willing to pay X-number of dollars per month to support the Davis-Woodland Joint Water Project? … that proposal will not be on the ballot, advisory or otherwise …

In fact, since the Water Advisory Committee was unable to come up with even a proposed rate “structure,” it’s unclear what the council will put on the ballot in terms of rates … whatever it is, it’s likely to be very general in its wording and subject to much interpretation … which is too bad … after all, the very reason this whole project was so controversial in the first place is the astronomical cost that comes with it …until and unless we all know exactly how this will affect our household budget, it will be nearly impossible to cast a meaningful vote …

EVEN MORE ON RATES … for my money, any rate structure that doesn’t take into account household size is dead on arrival … each citizen in our town should have the right to a basic amount of water for everyday needs before moving into a punitive “tier,” where the cost of the same gallon of water spikes dramatically … higher tiers should be reserved for those who clearly waste water … large families, or those who have taken in mom and dad or uncle Charlie in their later years, should not be punished … the current system does exactly that …

SPEAKING OF BANKRUPT PROPOSALS … another proposed rate structure making the rounds bases future rates on each consumer’s past consumption … which is ludicrous … maybe you just ripped out the front lawn in favor of a rock garden so you can save water, but you’re still stuck in a punitive tier because of your past consumption … or maybe those three teenagers who stood in a warm shower for seemingly hours on end are now off to college and you’re using far less water than you used to … forget it, your current and future rates will be based on past consumption when those kids were still living at home … there’s no time like the present … water rates should be based on present use and nothing more …

DELAY THE VOTE … the WAC’s inability to reach consensus on a water rate structure in time to put it on the ballot makes me wonder if once again we’re rushing to judgment on this project … instead of tossing something together tonight to meet the county’s deadline for printing a sample ballot, why not delay the vote a couple of months and give the WAC time to get it right? … as it is now, we’ll all know almost nothing about how much this project will cost us individually when we mark our ballots come March …

— Reach Bob Dunning at bdunning@davisenterprise.net

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