OCSD misses election deadline
August 9, 2012
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
In January 2011, five Oceano residents, concerned about the Oceano Community Services District Board’s consideration of selling water to local developers or other cities, crafted an initiative petition. In less than a week they gathered 577 signatures for a proposed ballot measure. Verified signatures set the wheel in motion and the Board formally agreed to place the measure on the ballot for the upcoming November 6, 2012 general election.
The ballot measure requires that any details of a proposed sale, including its effects on Oceano, be presented in a report prepared by a registered water engineer and a certified public accountant. The report would be mailed to every registered voter in the district no later than 60 days before an election.
On May 9 in consideration of the upcoming election, the OCSD General Manager, Tom Geaslen corresponded with County Clerk Recorder, Julie Rodewald, asking her for the petition, its date and when to present arguments. That evening the OCSD Board adopted a schedule based on the strict time line of California Election Code Section 9310 and presented it to Rodewald. Keeping to the schedule, Rodewald sent the “Notice Calling for Submission of arguments for or against” to the respective parties who were eligible to present their arguments related to the measure with a reminder that they need be returned by June 15.
A June 12 email to Rodewald, Geaslen asked, “Anything I need to do?” Rodewald was unclear of the question and asked for clarification. Geaslen responds “Analysis from County Counsel is due 6/15. And I believe so are arguments?”
Rodewald confirmed saying “You only need to do something if the district is filing an argument.”
This correspondence was just days from the deadline. Geaslen had not taken the central question to his Board. Would the district file an argument? Would they oppose or support the measure? Would they agree with County Counsel? Are they prepared to challenge it? Do they intend to?
Both the citizens who spearheaded the initiative effort and the OCSD failed to respond by the June 15 deadline. Only the impartial analysis developed by County Counsel, Warren Jensen will be published in the voter information pamphlet (loaded on the OCSD website August 7, 2012).
Jensen’s analysis is critical of the measure, he points out the measure may be subject to legal challenge on one or more grounds, suggesting it “steps beyond the power of the electorate to enact because the legislature has delegated to community services district government boards the power to sell water. Additionally, because the matter of who or which entity the OCSD may contract to sell water is an administrative matter not within the initiative power of the voters.”
Nearly two weeks after the deadline for arguments had passed, Geaslen mentions the initiative to his board in oral report, saying he hadn’t “received anything from the county.” He wasn’t supposed to; it was he who was supposed to present the board’s arguments.
Unfortunately, the train has left the station, the board missed their opportunity to formulate a position and have it placed in the voter information pamphlet. Geaslen failed to agendize the question and/or make a timely recommendation to his Board. Without an argument presented for the public, the community is left to decide without hearing from their elected and appointed officials.
The only remedies I see at this late date is to agendize a public hearing on the matter, come to a comprehensive opinion, establish a budget and spend the money to publish their argument on their website and advertise in the local papers for the voters to fully understand how their representatives plan to address the initiative.
Julie Tacker is an advocate for transparency in government who lives in los Osos.