|(March 6, 2019, 11:15 a.m.) -- The Long Beach Water Commission has cancelled its scheduled March 7 public protest hearing on a roughly 6% Wayer Commission approved water rate increase -- while retaining that date as the deadline for submitting written protests -- after receiving a letter dated
The letter from attorney Eric Benink (of the San Diego lawfirm of Krause, Kalfayan, Benink & Slavens, addressed to the Water Commission, challenged the sufficiency of the March 7 hearing notice sent to LB property owners alleging it failed to comply with CA Constitution Article XII D, section 6, subdivision (a)(1) with regard to the water fees and charges.
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|The letter asked the Water Commission to decline to recommend that the City approve such rates by ordinance.
[Lawfirm Feb. 26 letter] We object on two grounds.
LB's Mayor-chosen/Council-approved Water Commission voted on Dec. 20, 2018 to approve a roughly 6% rate increase which was scheduled to become effective April 1, 2019 subject to the outcome of the now cancelled March 7, 2019 protest hearing. Water Dept. staff told the Water Commission in December that the rate increase reflected normal increases from its water supply and capital improvement projects including drilling new wells/building water storage facilities. Under Prop 218, a majority of LB water users can block such a rate increase only if a majority of ALL LB Water Dept. users citywide submit written protests or protest in person at a Prop 218 hearing that had been scheduled for March 7. That March 7 hearing is now cancelled with no new date currently set, although the March 7 deadline for submitting written protests remains.
It's not immediately clear if the water rate increase will take effect April 1, and if it doesn't, what FY19 City Hall budget/spending impacts that might have; LBREPORT.com will update this story as it develops.
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, the same legal team now challenging
The newer Measure M lawsuit's taxpayer-plaintiffs are the same individuals who challenged now-ended-pipeline fees: Long Beach resident Diana Lejins and County of Los Angeles resident Angela Kimball...and their legal team again includes former LB City Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske.
After settling the previous lawsuit by ending the pipeline fees and agreeing to certain consumer rebates, the City, with a unanimous Council voted action, put Measure M on the June 2016 ballot. Proponents of Measure M argued it wasn't a tax and would basically reinstate a long-standing City practice without which the City would likely have to make major cuts to services including police and fire.
Opponents (lacking a similarly well-resourced campaign) said Measure M is a tax and noted it would no longer rely on transferring surplus utility revenue to City Hall and would instead create a new system inviting utility rate increases to cover revenue transfers for City Hall spending. Within weeks of voters approving Measure M, LB's Water Commission approved a rate increase (offsetting the settled-lawsuit's rebated sums) that now funding a number of FY19 City Hall spending items.
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