City Says Tax Haters Have Run Amok

     FAIRFIELD, Calif. (CN) – A “renegade band” of tax-haters could cost a California city millions by refusing to pay “a single cent” to clean up carcinogenic groundwater despite a state order, the city says in court.
     The City of Dixon sued the Solano County Taxpayers’ Association and its president Gary Riddle on June 24 in Solano County Court.
     Dixon, pop. 19,000, is southwest of Sacramento. Its median household income of $65,124 in 2012 was 11 percent above the state median of $58,328, according to city-data.com.
     Dixon also sued its city clerk and the Solano County registrar of voters, seeking a court order removing the Taxpayers’ Association initiative measure from the ballot.
     “Such judicial intervention is reserved for the most extreme circumstances, which is precisely the situation before the court,” the city says. “A small, renegade band of Dixon residents refuses to pay a single cent for an expensive clean-up of the city’s ground water that was ordered by the State of California (the ‘State’). Ironically, these self-proclaimed taxpayer advocates (‘Real Parties in Interest’ or the ‘Taxpayers’) would force the City to pay tens of thousands of dollars in penalties to the state every week in perpetuity, in addition to wasting another $200,000 on a futile special election.”
     Upon receiving the state’s order to clean up the “chronic contamination of its groundwater,” Dixon held a Proposition 218 election to raise sewer rates for the cleanup, which voters approved.
     (Prop. 218, of 1996, known as the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, amended the state constitution to require a public vote before a local government could impose a new or increased assessment.)
     Dixon said that its Prop. 218 election “should have been the end of it. But the taxpayers, who lost the Proposition 218 vote fair and square, want another bite of the apple.”
     The city says a special election will cost it $200,000, and delaying the cleanup could cost it $10,000 in fines a day.
     In addition, the city says, the project already has begun, the state has it on a tight schedule, and public health and safety is threatened by, among other things, carcinogenic hexavalent chromium.
     Dixon seeks declaratory judgment that the association’s demand for a second initiative is unconstitutional and preempted by state law.
     It also seeks an injunction prohibiting the city and county from processing the second initiative for inclusion in at any special election.
     The city clerk and city manager were unavailable for comment last week, and the assistant city clerk declined to speak on the record.
     The registrar of voters, assistant registrar and taxpayers association did not respond to requests for comment.
     The city is represented by Steven Churchwell with Churchwell White, of Sacramento.

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