“If it ain’t broke…”

I have read the Signal Hill Community First petition and tried to understand how having two-thirds of the city electorate vote to approve all new taxes, assessments, fees and bonds will improve the way the City currently conducts business and makes decisions. I don’t think a two-thirds vote of the electorate would have passed city improvements like our fabulous residential development, commercial development that generates tax funds to support the city, new parks for our kids and pets, new water reservoirs for the safety of all of us, a new police station to enhance the operations of what has become a top-rate police force and so many more achievements that occurred under the existing laws. Another questionable item about the proposed initiative is the fact that there would be a cost to the City of about $30,000 every time a vote is held. This would get very expensive and probably result in many developments and proposals not going forward.
As I understand the existing laws, local general and special taxes are already subject to elections. General taxes must be submitted for a vote and can be passed with a majority vote of the electorate. Special taxes, such as those proposed for the police station, must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the electorate. Assessments don’t require an election but do require a noticed public meeting where a majority protest blocks the assessment. Property-related fees such as water and trash require a public-hearing process similar to assessments, and certain fees require a majority vote of affected property owners. This system has been followed by our city successfully in the past years and has resulted in an excellent fiscal condition of our city when other cities are struggling.
The Signal Hill Community [First] initiative requires a two-thirds vote for all taxes, assessments and fees. The initiative appears to apply to all proposed taxes, assessments and fees including such innocuous fees as those for library cards and bike licenses. What the proposed initiative applies to is not clear and could result in a no-progress city.
A two-thirds vote is very hard to achieve for any proposal, and not many items that are important to running the city would be approved or developed if the initiative is adopted. The current system works for the city. The information and arguments provided by Community First don’t make me understand why the current system should be changed when so much good has been accomplished by the City following the existing rules. There is an old saying that is very appropriate for helping us conclude how to react to this initiative– if it isn’t broke, why fix it?

Gary Dudley
Signal Hill

Disclosure: Gary Dudley is a Signal Hill Parks & Recreation commissioner.

One thought on ““If it ain’t broke…”

  1. Let’s look at the significant facts omitted by Gary Dudley’s letter opposing the Taxpayer’s Right to Know and Vote Citizen’s Petition.

    Why? Because he asserts: “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

    1. The City is not in an Excellent Fiscal Condition.

    This is not my opinion. It is a fact established by the 2011-2012 Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury.

    You can read the report at: http://grandjury.co.la.ca.us/

    The Independent Grand Jury found:

    Table 1. Only Vernon, Lancaster, Cerritos & Compton had GREATER DROPS in net revenue than Signal Hill, which showed a drop of 21.3%.

    Table 2. Only Vernon, Lancaster, Palmdale and had GREATER DROPS in General Fund Revenues than Signal Hill, which showed a drop of 20%.

    It is these revenues that pay for municipal services. If you had a 20% drop on your paycheck, would you notice it?

    Table 3. Signal Hill’s net assets DROPPED by over three quarters of a million dollars. Only 9 other cities had larger drops in net assets.

    Table 4. Signal Hill’s General Fund Balance DROPPED by 11%. This places Signal Hill in the top 50% of cities with reductions in general fund balances.

    Table 5. Only Compton, Vernon, and Pomona, had worse Asset to Liability ratios than Signal Hill.

    Table 6. Only Compton had a worse ratio of Total Assets to Liabilities than Signal Hill.

    2. Staff Salaries/Pensions and New Taxes. As soon as the State revoked the City’s millions of dollars in Redevelopment Funds (February 2012) , the City Council enacted their own Economic Development Ordinance, (April 2012) giving themselves the power to raise new taxes, fees and assessment.

    Why? They needed to find a way to come up with cash to replace the lost revenues and assets. They could no longer rely on millions of dollars each year to subsidize their General Fund for salaries, pensions, legal fees, and general fund subsidies for lost developer fees.

    3. Part of the Problem. Mr. Dudley is a part of the Council’s management system. He is a decades-long appointee of the Council, rotating from one commission to another, because the Council will not appoint someone who does not “tow the line”.

    As a result of these short-term economic policies, State Redevelopment Funds were spent for developer’s profit guarantees, and City waiver of IMPACT FEES for street, lighting, sewer, and water improvements, shifting the cost to the City’s General Fund. Yes, the SAME GENERAL FUND that the Grand Jury shows lost 11% in value.

    In addition, the Council used State funds to provide rental and utility subsidies of Hundreds of Thousands of dollars for at least one NEW RESTAURANT (Delius) where Council Member’s could socialize and shmooze at taxpayer expense.

    Because the City engaged in NON-REVENUE PRODUCING HOUSING PROJECTS, they lost the ability to generate income needed to run the city in the future.

    The Council “assumed” Redevelopment would continue indefinitely, and they rewarded their attorneys and Staff with big salaries and huge retirement packages, and spent cash like there was not tomorrow. They counted on the State funding these expenses in the future. They were wrong.

    THAT IS WHY THE NEW ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ORDINANCE WAS ENACTED. The Council FINALLY recognized that with the decrease in City Sales Tax Revenues, that there was INSUFFICIENT CASH to cover the contracts they made with staff FOR SALARIES AND PENSIONS.

    So now the residents (whether they are property owners who pay property taxes, or tenants who look at rental increases) are looking at future increases in taxes, fees and assessment, JUST SO THE CITY CAN STAY AFLOAT ON its REQUIRED CONTRIBUTIONS TO PENSION PLANS, HEALTH PLANS AND CURRENT SALARIES.

    I have lived in the City since the mid-1980s, served on the City Council and Planning Commission in the early 1990’s before economic development was used to subsidize residential development, and worked with the current city attorney, and sat in Closed Sessions to discuss city business outside the public’s presence, reviewed budgets and audited financial reports, so I know what goes on behind closed doors.

    Mr. Dudley, it is broke. You are just too nearsighted to see it.

    It is NOW TIME for taxpayers to step in and decide for themselves if they are willing to pay for new taxes, fees and assessments proposed by ANY FUTURE City Council.

    Whether the money goes to supports salaries, pensions, a new library, a new restaurant, cleaning up contaminated soil to build a hotel, IT SHOULD BE UP TO THE PEOPLE WHO FOOT THE BILL TO DECIDE.

    Get the right to vote. Sign the Petition to ADD the Taxpayers Right to Know and Vote to the City’s Charter.

    Carol Churchill

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