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Defeat for Contra Costa Clean Water Measure

With 59 percent saying no, voters have rejected a mail-in ballot for a Contra Costa County parcel tax for clean water projects, the Contra Costa Clean Water Program announced today, Monday.

With a 59-percent no vote on a mail-in ballot, Contra Costa County voters roundly rejected a , the Contra Costa Clean Water program announced Monday.

Ballots for the "2012 Community Clean Water Initiative" were mailed to 339,586 property owners in the county in February and were due back April 6. Tabulation of the result was delayed because the ballots were counted by hand.

Voters returned 100,768 ballots, with 59,844 voting no (59 percent) and 40,924 voting yes (41 percent), according to Donald Freitas, program manager for the Contra Costa Clean Water Program, a consortium of the county's 19 cities plus the county government and the county flood-control district.

The ballot generated some public confusion and criticism since it was conducted under the infrequently used Proposition 218, which permits an election for a parcel fee to pass with a simple majority, instead of the two-thirds needed for a parcel tax. The election was sponsored, not by the county elections department, but by the clean water program.

The votes were tabulated by Carol Keane and Associates, CPA, of Walnut Creek. 

The measure would have added between $6 and $22 per year on the property tax bills of most parcels. The money would have been used to help local governments meet stricter standards for water run-off entering streams and the Bay.

The defeat of the measure means that local governments need to find other ways to fund measures to meet tightened water-quality standards, Freitas said in an emailed notice announcing the results.

"As was stated many times during this process, the defeat of the Initiative does NOT negate the need for all twenty-one affected jurisdictions in Contra Costa County (to meet) the regulatory mandates of the Federal Clean Water Act and California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act," he said. "Each entity needs to immediately determine how the necessary funding will now be generated in order to implement the regulatory mandates or be found to be in noncompliance and subject to fines which could run into the thousands or millions of dollars."

Freitas also criticized press coverage of the election and warned that the measure's defeat could jeopardize funding for other important local services like hiring police officers: 

"The election results can and will be interpreted in many ways, but suffice it to say, the methodology outlined in the voter approved 1996 Proposition 218 (California Constitution XIII) had great challenges even though the Program followed its provisions religiously. Courts in California have said the legal nexus between urban runoff and property is valid, but the requirements of Proposition 218 became suspect in the voter’s mind and the press. It’s very easy for the press to condemn actions of local government; but rarely if ever, do they suggest valid alternatives. The election result has worsened local government’s ability to finance Federal and/or State mandates when it is done with no local financing. If the general fund becomes the only alternative to finance the regulatory mandates than the public debate will be simplified between 'clean water vs. hiring police officers and other vital community services.'"

Mark Heffel May 08, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Good. Always the Marxist Libs with the threatening of less police officers, less fire fighters, and loss of teachers. When are they going to come with a new tactic? Im sorry foIkes we are broke and we need to cut back, in all areas! I say good that another tax was rejected. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope for this rotting state and a slap in the face to the Stalin like regulations being rammed down our throats by CARB and the EPA. All this wacked out evnironmental statist crap is biggest fraud known to man kind and is being forced upon by the so called "Masterminds" in Sacramento and DC because they know better then we the people. Just a big ruse to confiscate more of our private property and redistribute it as they see fit. They can take this tax and stick it!
terry May 08, 2012 at 03:59 AM
The clean water mandates have been written previously and continue to be paid for by property taxes, flood control fees, and other taxes.There are already federal laws under the Army Corp and the Fish & game notwithstanding local municipality laws that protects the discharge of contaminants in these streams. This was just an attempt to get someone to pay extra for a service that is already been included.
Kris Hunt May 08, 2012 at 05:14 AM
The budgets for the projects in this "plan" were highly speculatative and some of the things proposed were downright ridiculous and unachievable. It is nice to see the voters were not fooled.
Trish May 08, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Woo hoo! One less tax! Thank you, fellow voters!
Mark Heffel May 09, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Yeah agree just rediculous. Like forcing private property owners to not be able to have patios because concrete inhibits gorundwater. They want us to use pavers but anybody with half a brain knows pavers work best when put over concrete, bunch of idiots. Its all this One Bay Area crap whereby they want us huddled in tansit cities so they can control our lives and take our private property (your labor and money) all for the sake of the environment and redistribute it as the materminds in Sacto and DC see fit. Is your more dirty than 20 years ago? I think not.
Claire Voyance May 09, 2012 at 05:40 PM
It's good to know that the Board of Supervisors effectively and efficiently used my tax dollars to hire expensive consultants to work on this epic failure. Hopefully, the tax/fee/etc. measures to be proposed for more funding for obscenely overpaid firefighters will also FAIL (without also paying for consultants)! Just say NO to Obscenely Overpaid Firefighters!
Claire Voyance May 09, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Dear Donald Freitas (a.k.a. crybaby), More money will be available to hire more law enforcement officers (police, sheriff, other) if agencies reduce salaries, overtime, benefits, and, especially, REDUCE EMPLOYER PENSION CONTRIBUTIONS. (Also, take money from the budget of obscenely overpaid firefighters and place the money in the budget for law enforcement officers.) How many people recently showed up to take the police officer's exam in Oakland? (look it up) Agencies will still "Attract and Retain" officers despite such compensation reductions.

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