Westminster recall clock starts ticking because of water rates

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 10/24/18

The recall petition process is underway in Westminster in an attempt to kick out the mayor and the five members of city council who voted to raise the water and sewer rates for 2019 and 2020. Mr. …

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Westminster recall clock starts ticking because of water rates


The recall petition process is underway in Westminster in an attempt to kick out the mayor and the five members of city council who voted to raise the water and sewer rates for 2019 and 2020. Mr. Bruce Baker, an anti-government conservative and an unsuccessful candidate for Westminster mayor currently seeking on the state legislature, has initiated the process to circulate petitions to garner the required valid signatures to cause a special election.

According to City Clerk Michelle Parker, Baker submitted the required petition formats for the recall of the named council members and mayor on Oct. 11.

Baker and his group have 60 days to gather the required number of signatures for both the mayor and members of city council once the city clerk approves the formats and Baker has submitted his affidavit on reasons for the recall effort.

It’s important to understand the “why”

While a lot of us Westminster residents are not jumping up and down for joy over the steep utility rate increases, at the same time we recognize that these increases are necessary to assure dependable, high quality water and wastewater systems to serve us in the future. More than $100 million in infrastructure replacements or improvements have been identified and are needed for our community. Such a large bond issue requires monthly utility rates which can produce the needed revenue to pay for the annual bond and interest payments.

Recall petition requirements spelled out

According to the Westminster City Charter, Baker’s group needs to gather signatures equal to 25 percent of the number of voters who voted for mayor in the 2017 election to place Mayor Herb Atchison on a recall ballot. According to the city clerk’s office, 5,009 VALID signatures are required. For city council members, the number required is 4,346.

As someone who has observed and participated in local government for more than 50 years, I can tell you that achieving the required valid signatures is not an easy task in 60 days. The only way to even come close would be for Baker and others to hire paid petition circulators.

While I can see Baker putting up some of the funds, I don’t see his cohorts chipping in much, if any, of the needed cash. There simply are not enough volunteers who would take the time to circulate six different petitions with a relative short time to do it. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

People just need to evaluate this effort factually and not emotionally. Do you want lower rates and a less than dependable utility system in the years to come or higher rates with continued dependability and quality service? Like everything else in life, there is no free lunch.

New boys and girls club unveiled

Congratulations are in order. Officials from Westminster Public Schools and the Boys and Girls Club of Denver recently held a formal grand opening to unveil the new club at the Hidden Lake High School. A nice variety of activities take place in classrooms as well as in the gymnasium.

They provide learning, fun and activities for the initial 150 students who are taking advantage of this wonderful after-school opportunity. The school district has decided to open the opportunity to students throughout the entire district. Congrats to both of the main partners along with the City of Westminster and Hyland Hills Park & Recreation District who provide support.

Tariffs are causing negative impacts in America

The effect of President Trump’s tariff war has started to show up and be felt by specific American business groups. Plus, it would appear that he has more tariffs in mind before any de-escalation might be coming.

With his “America First” approach on imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum along with a 10 percent tariff on more than $200 billion of imported goods, there have been consequences from China in particular.

China responded with tariffs of $60 billion on American goods, and American farmers who grow and sell soybeans have been especially hard hit. For the past decade, North American soybean production has exploded, driven by an intense demand from China according to the Washington Post.

Now, for example, North Dakota farmers find themselves in a real dilemma with 236 million bushels of “orphan soybeans.” China won’t buy them and they cannot find another market.

The federal government has announced up to $12 billion in relief with the feds paying half the acreage soybean farmers’ harvest. This is just one state where soybeans are grown. Think of the multiplier effect across other agricultural states and the additional federal indebtedness created. It could have been avoided.

Another example of tariff “casualties”

Another example of American “casualties” in the trade war is in the manufacturing arena. In Wisconsin, where manufacturing is in further decline, Johnson Level and Tool Company in suburban Milwaukee is feeling the impact of Chinese and other tariffs. The company is confronted with increased costs of $3.7 million -- which ironically includes tariffs on the levels they make in China which are being imported.

This company is a clear example of what many manufacturers are faced with. Do they increase their prices to cover the increased costs or move some of their manufacture ring facilities from China to a country where tariffs are not at play?

Finally, a big question for companies both large and small is how long the tariffs will be imposed. While Trump plays a high stakes trade war, American companies and farmers are suffering. How does this make sense?

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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