Residents of Fresno, CA, may have the chance to vote down rate hikes when they head to the ballot box this year.
"The petition drive to put Fresno's higher water rates to a vote of the people has succeeded," The Fresno Bee reported. The report cited a city official as saying 5,544 valid registered voters signed the petitions. The necessary number was 4,829.
But that doesn't settle the issue. The next step was for the city council to approve the sufficiency of the ballot decision. The city council did so at a July meeting, according to council documents. Still, that doesn't settle the issue, either.
The next task for the council "was deciding what to do next. The council could repeal the rates, set a date for the referendum or delay things a bit by conducting the study," the Fresno Bee reported in a later article.
The study was approved in a 6 to 1 vote. But the final outcome was anything but harmonious. Council Member Lee Brand had a heated debate with Doug Vagim, who organized the petition for the ballot measure.
"Brand was convinced that Vagim's claims during the Measure W petition drive were largely lies and misrepresentations. Brand peppered Vagim with questions, apparently trying to portray the Vagim camp to the media and internet viewers as mired in deceit," the report said.
Vagim did not stand by as Brand hurled these accusations.
"Vagim gave as good as he got. He occasionally sputtered answers. More often, he turned the tables and fired questions in Brand's direction. Brand sometimes found himself in the odd position of providing answers to an audience member even though he had the floor," the report said.
Relations between city council and the petition organizers were strained long before the meeting.
"City officials have been angry at Vagim for months. They think he's preying on ratepayers' pocketbook worries to stop City Hall from fixing a broken water system," the report said.
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Image credit: "Ballot box," FutUndBeidl © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/