A referendum is underway to rollback the latest sewer rate increase and repeal the ordinance to make prior illegal increases legal. Our city council has seen fit to ignore the overwhelming outrage by the citizens they're supposed to represent, so it's only fitting that the people have the final word on the matter. This is democracy in action, not some arbitrary comeuppance from the unwashed masses.

While the protest was unable to come up with the number needed to kill the rate hike, our government cheated usby about two weeksof the time we needed to collect the signatures. Going door-to-door is a lot of work, even in a town this small, for the few people working on the effort.

Prop 218 gives 45 days for the process. That's 45 days after notification of the property owners/rate payers. They notified the property owners within the properly allotted time frame, but the rate payers, who weren't notified until early October, were not given 45 days after their notification.

The council acted as though they were being fair and generous in their decision to include rate-payers in the protest votes. Actually Prop. 218 grants rate payers a voice: Article XIII D,(g) states, andquot;Property ownershipandquot; shall be deemed to include tenancies of real property where tenants are directly liable to pay the assessment, fee, or charge in question.andquot; So when Prop. 218 speaks of property owners, it includes rate payers who are responsible for the bill.

Adding this group as an afterthought and not allowing the 45 days after their inclusion hurt the signature collection effort. On the last day of collecting signatures, many people still did not know anything about the sewer rate hike. These included rate payers who should have gotten their notification by mail. I can understand a small number not seeing the notice amidst the junk mail, but this was no small number. And for every person who would've voted andquot;noandquot; but never got the chance, their vote automatically defaulted to andquot;yes.andquot;

So when the council says that people had their chance to speak out against the rate hike, which many did to no avail, there were countless numbers who did not have the chance. Had we been given 45 days after the rate-payers were notified, there's little doubt there would've been more than enough to stop the rate hike.

So the fight for our rights is hardly over. The referendums making their way around town are our second chance to make things right and for our city council to start treating us like we matter. No one is trying to andquot;hurt the cityandquot; as has been referenced by our leadership. We are the city.

Ernie Cox

Crescent City