The contentious Contra Costa countywide clean water initiative has failed by nearly 19,000 votes. Property owners rejected the per-parcel fee by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin, which would have raised $14 million a year for water pollution prevention programs.
In a snippy press release, Clean Water Program Director Don Freitas blames the loss on the media, the voters in 1996, the California Constitution and the sun coming up. (Okay, I made up the last one.) Nowhere, it seems, does Freitas point the finger at himself.
Check out what Freitas put out a few minutes ago:
The purpose of this email is to inform you of the final election results for the “2012 Community Clean Water Initiative”. Contrary to recent press articles, Monday, May 7th has always been designated as the deadline to receive this information. Passage of the Initiative required fifty percent (50%) plus one of those casting a vote which included all property owners in Contra Costa County. The results are as follows:
Mailed Ballots – 339,586
Received Valid Ballots – 100,768
“Yes” Ballots – 40,924
“No” Ballots – 59,844
Invalid Ballots – 1,355
Based on the aforementioned results, the Initiative failed by approximately a 60% to a 40% margin. As was stated many times during this process, the defeat of the Initiative does NOT negate the need for all twenty-one affected jurisdictions in Contra Costa County from the regulatory mandates of the Federal Clean Water Act and California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act. Each entity needs to immediately determine how the necessary funding will now be generated in order to implement the regulatory mandates or be found to be in noncompliance and subject to fines which could run into the thousands or millions of dollars.
The election results can and will be interpreted in many ways, but suffice it to say, the methodology outlined in the voter approved 1996 Proposition 218 ( California Constitution XIII ) had great challenges even though the Program followed its provisions religiously. Courts in California have said the legal nexus between urban runoff and property is valid, but the requirements of Proposition 218 became suspect in the voter’s mind and the press. It’s very easy for the press to condemn actions of local government; but rarely if ever, do they suggest valid alternatives. The election result has worsened local government’s ability to finance Federal and/or State mandates when it is done with no local financing. If the general fund becomes the only alternative to finance the regulatory mandates than the public debate will be simplified between “clean water vs. hiring police officers and other vital community services.”
Donald P. Freitas
Contra Costa Clean Water Program
255 Glacier Drive
Martinez, CA 94553-4825