Valley flood fee enacted despite protests
Article Launched:07/17/2007 04:02:04 PM PDT
Ross Valley property owners will be billed to pay for flood control
projects even though residents claim voting irregularities should
invalidate a mail-in election used to establish the fee.
In a controversial mail-in election in which the county disqualified 21
percent of those who voted, the flood control fee passed by just 65
County supervisors voted 3-0 to formally establish the fee, which will
cost the average property owner about $125 a year. Supervisor Susan
Adams was attending a conference in Washington, D.C.
Supervisor Charles McGlashan left his seat shortly before the vote was
taken, returning without comment after the vote. He could not be
reached for a comment following the meeting.
County officials say the fee will raise $40 million during the next 20
years for flood control projects in Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield,
Larkspur, Ross and San Anselmo. The Corte Madera Creek basin has
flooded 14 times in 50 years.
The county Department of Public Works sent mail-in ballots to 15,010
property owners throughout the Ross Valley. But some of those property
owners, including former San Anselmo police chief Bernard Del Santo,
said they never received ballots.
San Anselmo resident Louise Mathews is checking a list of property
owners supplied by the county assessor's office against a list of those
sent ballots, which she said was formerly posted on the Internet at
"I've gone through about 6,000 of the 20,000 parcels and found about
300 property owners who didn't know anything about this," Mathews told
supervisors Tuesday. "They never had a chance to vote."
While 8,059 voters sent back ballots, about 1,700 ballots or 21 percent
of those voting were invalidated because the ballots were not signed.
In a typical election, less than 1 percent of ballots are disqualified
- and ballots are not signed.
Critics contend that the signing requirement, specific to the mail-in
election, confused many voters, and that the unsigned ballots should be
counted. The unsigned ballots include the printed names of those who
"We request that the unsigned ballots be declared valid and counted,
and if not, that you do the election over, and have it run in the
office of elections, where it belongs," said Basia Crane, a member of
the Marin United Taxpayers Association.
Crane and other critics have maintained that the flood control "user
fee" is really a tax, and that supervisors chose to call it a fee -
which requires only a majority vote to pass - to avoid Proposition 13
requirements that call for a two-thirds majority to approve a tax.
"This proposed fee neither identifies a service to be provided nor
exists as a fixed amount," Crane said. "Therefore, in truth, it is a
taxÉ This should never have gone on the ballot."
One critic stopped short of saying she would file a lawsuit.
"I don't do lawsuits," Mathews said. "There are other avenues of making
sure the Board of Supervisors does right."
Contact Rob Rogers via e-mail at email@example.com