During a special meeting of the Mount ShastaCity Council on July 16, a ballot argument against the Mt. Shasta Water Rights Ordinance was approved, as were arguments in favor of making the city clerk and city treasurer appointed positions.
During a special meeting of the Mount Shasta?City Council Friday evening, a ballot argument against the Mt. Shasta Water Rights Ordinance was approved, as were arguments in favor of making the city clerk and city treasurer appointed positions.
The arguments will be included in the official Siskiyou County voter’s handbook, which is mailed out to all registered voters before the November 2 general election.
About 15 members of the community crowded into the back room at City Hall to attend the meeting and make public comments about the city’s stance on the three issues.
Appointive city positions
Former Mount Shasta councilor and mayor Marge Apperson spoke of her concerns regarding the appointment of a city clerk and treasurer, which, since 1930, have been elected positions.
Having these positions elected by the people is “vitally important,” Apperson said, because such officials are not subservient to the city council.
Elected officials must live within city limits, which allows them to “keep in touch with political whims,” she said. Those who are appointed could live outside the city.
According to the ballot arguments composed by city staff, the city clerk and treasurer positions require technical skills, experience and specialized knowledge. With the current elective process, the only qualifications that can be required of an elected city clerk or treasurer by law are residency and age.
To ensure efficiency and professionalism, the city supports moving toward an appointed clerk and treasurer who can be consolidated with the city’s existing staff.
If ballot measures B and C are approved by voters, they “would be giving up a great deal of power to the council,” Apperson said.
Mayor Michael Murray pointed out that the ballot measures were not brought forward by the city council, but rather by the suggestion of former city manager Kevin Plett.
Councilor Tim Stearns added that it’s the nature of the clerk and treasurer positions to remain independent, and that current deputy city clerk Sandy Studer has been carrying out the majority of the clerk’s position for the last few years.
Stearns moved to approve the argument for the measures. Councilor Ned Boss seconded the motion. Councilors Russ Porterfield and Murray voted aye. Councilor Sandra Spelliscy was not present.
Water rights ordinance
During public comments on Mt. Shasta Water Rights Ordinance, several proponents of the voter driven initiative said they believed the draft written by Stearns and Porterfield was “misleading, hyperbolic, incorrect and harsh.”
While the argument admits that members of the council may agree with the sentiment behind Measure A to restrict weather manipulation and water extraction, the city finds the proposed ordinance to “go so far beyond those two simple ideas that it would be unworkable.”
The argument also points out other areas of concern, including a potential to cost the city a great deal of money, a requirement to stop providing water service to current customers outside city limits, a responsibility of the city to test people who believe they may have been subjected to chemical trespasss and a restriction of private property rights.
Proponents said they disagree with these interpretations, and asked that the argument be toned down so that each individual voter could make the decision for themselves.
Molly Brown asked the council to be sure that each statement contained in the argument is accurate before signing it, and went through a number of sections which she believed were misleading.
“I can respect that you don’t support [the ordinance],” said Ami Marcus, “but I’m disappointed in the city council... I thought you agreed to remain neutral. It’s your duty to be responsible, and I’m asking you to reconsider [this argument] and be honorable, fair and honest.”
Angelina Cook said the situation “feels like a tragedy.”
“We’re sitting here fighting with the very people who represent us,” she said. “Here’s your opportunity to represent your constituents and it’s strange that you’re working against us instead of with us.”
Two Mount Shasta residents, Dan Dorsey and Tony Melo, said they wholeheartedly support the council’s stance.
Dorsey, who has stood to speak against the ordinance several times at various city council meetings, repeated that he and many other community members are committed to stopping the initiative.
Melo said in his opinion, the ordinance is “a violation of the US Constitution,” and said he cannot support it in any way.
Boss said he’s read the ordinance over many times, and agrees that it would be impossible for the city staff to enforce.
He added that while he hasn’t had a single phone call from constituents supporting the ordinance, he has had many from those who asked him to vote against it.
“In my interpretation of the ordinance, all these statements are correct and true.”
Porterfield added that even if PG&E wanted to conduct cloud seeding, they would first need to obtain a permit from the county. Through this process, an Environmental Impact Review would be required, which would be very costly and most likely discourage them to continue with the project, even without the ordinance in place.
“I feel that this argument is accurate,” Porterfield said.
Murray said that he agreed with most of the argument, but asked for a few pieces of it to be dropped, including the piece about the ordinance requireing the city to stop providing water outside city limits and lab testing of residents who believe they have been subject to chemical trespass.
After a short discussion, it was decided that a few lines of the argument should be stricken from the final draft, (including the piece about providing water outside city limits and lab testing for residents) which will be sent to City Clerk Colleen Setzer for distribution in the official voter handbook.
Councilors Tim Stearns, Russ Porterfield and Ned Boss all voted to adopt the revised argument. Mayor Murray voted no before the meeting was adjourned.