Residents may decide water war (May 11, 2016)

More than 5,000 signatures collected for initiative that would require vote on public debt

APPLE VALLEY — More than 5,000 signatures in support of a petition that would allow residents to vote on public debt were turned into the town clerk Tuesday.

Informally dubbed the Right to Vote on Debt Act, the initiative would amend the Apple Valley municipal code to add a requirement that voters approve by a majority vote any public debt over $10 million that provides funds for the acquisition of an enterprise.

That public debt is in reference to bonds the town would likely use to fund its acquisition by eminent domain of the water system owned by Liberty Utilities, Apple Valley, according to a previous Daily Press report.

Town residents Chuck and Pat Hanson — who proposed the initiative that’s financially backed by Liberty — expressed gratitude at Town Hall before they handed over the 5,359 signatures to the town clerk.

I got thinking about it this morning, Pat Hanson told the Daily Press, and my first thought was that I am honored. I have lived in the state of California for over 70 years and never thought I would be in a position to put an issue on a ballot that would influence me, the people that I live with, and the town I live in.

Chuck Hanson, however, said the Town Council should have never put the Apple Valley couple in a position to start an initiative.

Anybody that comes to the meetings (and) reads the paper will know that the (residents) are against (acquisition), he said, and these clowns are forcing it (on) us … They’re not listening to us, and they’re smart enough to know if they have an election it wouldn’t get the results they wanted. That’s why they don’t want an election.

A recent Daily Press poll of 840 readers found that nearly 54 percent of respondents were not in support of the town acquiring Liberty’s water system. A little more than 37 percent of respondents were in support of acquisition, while almost 9 percent were undecided. It was an unscientific poll.

Pat Hanson said those numbers are similar to what she’s seen among town residents, and she felt relief when she learned the signature-gathering process resulted in the collection of more than the 3,172 requirement.

From the very first time that the issue ever came up in the Town Council, there was always in our minds a need to question it … We do not want the town to take over the water company, Pat Hanson said.

Town spokeswoman Kathie Martin said via email that San Bernardino County officials will perform the verification process of the gathered signatures. The process is allowed 30 working days, and must be completed by June 21.

If there are enough verified signatures, the petition will then be certified to the Town Council at the June 28 regular meeting, according to Martin.

The Council has three options (at that point), Martin said. Adopt the ordinance outright, submit it to voters at the next regular election (or) order an Elections Code 9212 report to assess the impact of the initiative measure. If they go this route, the report must be presented within the next 30 calendar days, after which they would have options A and B.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press