Grover Beach should remain a general law city
May 28, 2014
OPINION By WALT FRENCH
As a taxpayer who has lived in Grover Beach for 20 years, and a fiscal conservative, I am disturbed by the movement to convert our city to a new “charter” form of government.
Since our city was founded, it has operated perfectly well as a “general law” city. That mean that we’ve been governed by provisions laid out in the state constitution that prevent deficit spending and caps pay for politicians – among many other examples – that work to protect taxpayers from the risks of out-of-control spending.
Charter advocates claim that a move toward this form of government will save us money, but all of the facts prove otherwise.
The process of holding an election to change the charter is a huge expense on its own, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars campaigns and special interests on both sides will spend – flooding our mailboxes and making unwanted dinner time phone calls to convince us how to vote. We voted on this before.
Lawsuits pitting the city against the state as the lawyers wrangle over what constitutes a ‘municipal affair.’ This could go on for years, consuming finite resources that could be spent to create jobs or repair our streets.
Because the proposed charter could allow deficit spending, the city might spend beyond our means, increasing the likelihood that we could end up like Vallejo, Vernon and Bell – charter cities whose elected leaders spent them into a hole – in some cases leading to bankruptcy.
Now, consider the fact that even if our elected representatives acted responsibly and stood up to the special interests, those out of town special interests could still gather signatures and put bad ideas on the ballot – hoping that if they spend enough money, they can convince us to give them our tax dollars. If they were successful, we could end up spending millions of dollars that we don’t have, or be saddled with a bad development because voters can become so confused by the propaganda that they vote for something they didn’t want.
A recent report by the Los Angeles Civil Grand Jury showed that charter cities are far more likely to be in dangerous financial situations than general law cities. In their study, they found that among the 22 charter cities studied, only 5 had balanced budgets, in the ’09-’10 fiscal year.
They further note that these charter cities were far more likely to make risky investments, and many lacked a competitive bidding process for taxpayer funded projects.
Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach have functioned just fine for more than a century. The elected officials who came before our current crop were able to build our area into a great place to live and raise a family. There is no reason the current council can’t do the same with our existing laws.
I encourage you to research this issue and its pitfalls and join me in opposition to this risky, unnecessary and expensive direction.
Walt French has lived in Grover Beach for 20 years and is the Business Manager of the Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local #403.