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