|I appreciated the article a few days ago about local leaders backing
the fight against utility fee increases and was pleased to see that
the city council members that voted to raise our utility rates would
have to answer to the people. But today I read in the Tribune that
the city of Mesa has rejected the petitions for the utility referendum.
The rejection comes after accepting 4,538 valid signatures last week.
On the advice of City Attorney Debbie Spinner, it appears that
all of the 4,538 Mesa citizens that signed the utility referendum
petitions are not entitled to lawfully challenge the vote of the
city council. Ms. Spinner maintains that the increase is an administrative
function not a legislative one. Establishing utilities rates has
all the earmarks of establishing law - - it effects the rights and
responsibilities of the people. Anyone can tell you that when you
set a fee you are establishing a law.
The Wennerstrom case that Ms. Spinner referred to dealt with the
spending of bond proceeds. (Bonds that had already passed) This
utility rate increase is a completely different issue. The question
is whether or not the city council (acting as a legislative body)
can establish rates and charges. One would have to go pretty far
to convolute the idea that establishing a charge for service is
a proprietary action and not making a law. It strains one’s
Does this mean that the five out-of-touch council members are
thwarting the will of the people? Are the rights of these folks
going to continue to be ignored with every yearly increase in utility
rates? Do the five council members that voted to increase Mesa’s
utility rates realize that the signatures gathered really represent
a much larger constituency than the actual 4,538 signers?
I circulated a petition on this issue that was filled within ten
minutes. I immediately realized that this was a major concern to
so many of my constituents and regretted that I didn’t have
time to obtain even more signatures. However, what good does expending
your energies to gather these signatures accomplish if they are
to no avail and fall on deaf ears?
I wonder just when and how do 4,538 Mesa citizens get any issue
heard. What does it take? What issue is coming up next that the
select few on our city council will ignore? People are eager to
be a part of the political process that affects their daily lives.
However, when their requests are totally ignored what kind of a
message does that send?
This is a time when everyone is touting being part of the political
process. Here we have a prime example of voters exercising their
constitutional rights about a hidden tax increase and their rights
are being impeded by a few.
What is the bottom line here? What would it hurt to give the citizens
of Mesa the opportunity to vote on this utility rate increase? As
an elected representative of the people from District 18 at the
Arizona State Legislature, I personally agree with Article 4, Part
1, Section 1, Paragraph (8) of our Arizona Constitution, where we
find that the people reserve the power to vote on all initiative
and referendums where the legislative body (i.e. the Mesa City Council)
has been empowered to legislate or vote.
How many other concealed tax increase will be deemed “administrative