Thinking forwardly, or foolishly?
A proposed city charter amendment has been proposed as the [Right to] Know and Vote initiative. This will be put to voters at the June 2014 special election. This issue is important to every citizen in the city of Signal Hill. Traditionally, only a fraction of those people vote. It is crucial that this pattern not be followed in deciding the Know and Vote initiative’s fate.
I attended the City Council meeting and heard the independent consultant’s summary of his extensive survey, done without city staff guidance, reporting his conclusions as to how it would affect the city. I have also reviewed this information, which is available on the Signal Hill city website, along with supporting documentation. The Signal Tribune has also published considerable information on this issue. The following are my personal impressions about this Charter change.
There will be continual impact on every one of us by requirement for a special election for every possible change in taxes, assessments and fees. According to my understanding, the increase would require 66 percent of voter approval. Note: All these revenue streams would “sunset” in 10 years, requiring complete resubmission for a new voter approval. Each election would cost approximately $75,000, as well as an estimated $18,000 for additional election procedures to be in place. These additional costs would accrue from the need for an increase in City staff to meet the need in the Finance Department and the City Manager’s office to properly interpret and plan to forecast and implement city budgets. If passed, every department, Public Safety, Public Works, Community Services and Development would be impacted by the inability to function at current high levels of quality, if there are changes in the local/state/national economy.
Incentives traditionally offered for new development would be on hold, pending an election and approval. This city does not survive on property-tax revenue; it is the 66 percent of sales-tax revenue that is the backbone of Signal Hill’s economy. Future business ventures could be impacted by delay in the City’s ability to offer traditional incentives until another election would occur. Competing cities might possibly take advantage of this to increase their efforts to lure this growth to their city.
No other city in the state of California has similar requirements for voter approval for administering revenue sources and methods. Would this way of running our currently very fiscally responsible city make Signal Hill become known as incredibly forward-thinking, or incredibly foolish?
[Ed. note– Cunningham is a Parks and Recreation commissioner for the City of Signal Hill.]