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HASSO HERING

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Initiative update: Albany accepts four

Written August 7th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Tom Cordier, when he spoke to the city council in April on another matter.

Tom Cordier, when he spoke to the city council in April on another matter.

Albany City Clerk Mary Dibble has rejected two initiatives and acepted four others proposed by North Albany resident Tom Cordier. But Cordier plans to file an amended version bundling the four into one and dropping the idea that got the other two rejected. That idea was to repeal all existing franchise fees and privilege taxes in six months unless voters renewed them.

“We’ll rewrite some language on existing fees/taxes,” Cordier told me in an email. “We disagree with the administrative decision to reject. Yes, the city has a right to administer contracts as to compliance with traffic, excavations, clean-up and notifications. When they contain fees, taxes to be paid by residents, voters have a right to object in a legislative way.”

On July 31 Cordier had filed six initiative proposals aiming to let voters decide on city utility franchise taxes or fees and on any similar taxes on other sales. Based on the advice of the city attorney, the clerk rejected two proposals which, if placed on the ballot and approved by voters, would have repealed all franchise taxes after six months unless voters renewed them.

“Both measures propose the cancellation of existing utility franchise contracts,” the clerk wrote to Cordier on Thursday. “Cancellation of a contract is an administrative decision other than a legislative matter.” Under the state constitution, the initiative process applies to legislation only.

Today, Dibble notified Cordier that his other four petitions comply with the constitutional requirements for initiatives and will be forwarded to the city attorney for the writing of ballot titles.¬†(I’m thinking he might hold up on that, given Cordier’s intention to file a substitute measure.) Once a ballot title is written, the sponsor will be free to gather signatures. To qualify for the ballot, a city initiatve needs the signatures of at least 15 percent of registered voters.

The measures accepted by the city clerk would require the voters’ approval of any new or increased utility franchise fee or similar sales tax. What prompted all this was that the city council voted to replace the 5 percent privilege tax imposed on Pacific Power with a 7 percent franchise fee.¬†Cordier objected and wanted the council to hold a public hearing, but the council went ahead without one.

No other franchise fee hikes are in the works. Which raises another question: If electric customers pay 7 percent of their bill for heat next winter, why should people heating with natural gas get by with paying 5 percent, as they do now? (hh)



4 responses to “Initiative update: Albany accepts four”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    I believe there is more to this story and it will probably come out soon.

    You ask a good question – “If electric customers pay 7 percent of their bill for heat next winter, why should people heating with natural gas get by with paying 5 percent, as they do now?”

    I believe the answer is one of scale. The 40.53% increase in the budget for the electric tax will generate about $940,000 of additional revenue to the General Fund in FY 2016. Of all the current local taxes/fees, the electric tax is the biggest.

    A similar 40% increase in the FY2016 budget for the natural gas tax would generate only about $263,000. In comparison to the electric tax, small potatoes.

    As long as we allow four councilors to make these increases without our approval, we should not be surprised when they impose their will on us. I wouldn’t be surprised if the city council answers your question with – no problem, a 40% increase to the natural gas tax will be in next year’s budget for the natural gas tax.

    Tom’s petition(s) send a clear message – voters should have the final say on local taxes/fees. A minimum of four councilors should not have this power. If a majority of the people are persuaded to pay more, I’m OK with the outcome. I trust the will of local voters more than I trust the will of four councilors with an insatiable appetite for more revenue.

    Your Albany – Your Money – Your Vote.

    • Bob Woods says:

      From The Shadle: “As long as we allow four councilors to make these increases without our approval, we should not be surprised when they impose their will on us.”

      He likes putting in “four” instead off “a majority of the council”. A majority can be 4, 5 or 6, and 6 means unanimous. The fees he talks about were in the budget and it was adopted unanimously. The follow up vote to put it into effect sooner that waiting another month or so was 5-1.

      You see, Gordon hates representative democracy. Wait, that’s not true.

      Gordon hates representative democracy when the representatives he voted for did not win election. In that case he’s willing to ditch the system so that he can try and get control another way.

      When you’re a kid its called being a “sore loser”.

      When you’re an adult, and you can’t seem to get your candidates elected because the majority of people voting for city council reject these folks from the fringe, you need to find some way to take control.

      No matter that it drives up the costs. No matter that it often seems to end up in court.

      Gee, I guess I was wrong again: He really is just a sore loser.

 

 
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