Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: Sifting through Prop. 218 garbage

By From page A2 | August 18, 2013

I’ve heard people describe our increasingly popular “fee protest hearings” as an election, and if that’s truly the case, circle Sept. 24 on your calendar as the date of the next city of Davis election.

Will Joe Krovoza or Dandy Dan Wolk be on the ballot? Maybe Rochelle Swanson, Brett Lee or Lucas Frerichs? Well, not exactly. But one of their decisions will be.

No, it won’t be our fancy new water rates we’re “voting” on or our snazzy new surface water project or even the proposal to save the poor folks of East Davis from tooth decay by fluoridating every drop of water in the entire town. But we will be “voting,” as some people claim.

The issue this time is garbage, specifically the rates we are charged for the excellent curbside service provided to us each and every week by the good folks at Davis Waste Removal. The fees, however, are paid to the city, which has a contract with DWR.

Now, there apparently are some democratically oriented provisions to the voter-approved Proposition 218 that has been the law of the land in California for some years now. The fee “protest” provision is not among them.

According to the notice sent out to all ratepayers by the Public Works Department of the city of Davis, “Any property owner whose property is to be subject to the proposed increases to the solid waste service fees may submit a written protest to the proposed fee increases; provided, however, only one protest will be counted per identified parcel.”

In other words, if you and your dearly beloved differ or agree in your reaction to the proposed garbage fees, only one of you is allowed to protest. No exceptions.

But wait, there’s more.

“Any protest must: 1) state that the identified property owner is in opposition to the proposed fee increases; 2) provide the location of the identified parcel (by assessor’s parcel number or street address); and 3) include the name and signature of the property owner submitting the protest.”

Actual voting was never this hard. In fact, if you had to jump through this many hoops to vote in a general election, the U.S. Supreme Court would have invalidated this law long ago.

If you think we’re done with the rules and regulations and restrictions, we’re not.

“If the person submitting the written protest is the owner of record but was not shown on Yolo County’s last equalized assessment roll as the property owner, that person must provide written evidence that the person is the property owner.”

At this point, you’d have to be really, really, really upset with the new rates to even bother with any of this.

And just in case you were wondering if there’s a way to make filing a protest a little easier “Any protest submitted via email or other electronic means will not be accepted.”

Furthermore, in order for the protest to be valid, you’re asked to “Please identify on the front of the envelope for any protest, whether mailed or submitted in person to the City Clerk, Attn: Public Hearing on Rate Increases.”

And, what does Prop. 218 require you to do if you wish to vote “yes” on the new rates? Absolutely nothing. Indeed, you can do no more than sit in your Barcalounger watching “Sports Center” and still have a “yes” vote tallied in your name.

How that constitutes a fair fight has yet to be determined.

“The City Council will consider all written protests and hear and consider all oral arguments to the proposed rate increases and annual rate adjustments at the Public Hearing.”

“Consider all oral arguments?” The Davis City Council? Sure it will.

And the Tooth Fairy is going to leave 20 bucks under my pillow tonight, too.

— Entries to the Contest to Replace the Above-Pictured Columnist are due Tuesday, Sept. 3, at midnight. Entries may be about any subject and should be between 400 and 800 words in length. Entries, including daytime and evening phone numbers, a brief biography of the author, and a mug shot suitable for publication, can be emailed to [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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