Thirsty Work

By Alex Distefano

Posted June 13, 2013 in News

(WEB)newsIt ain’t over—Riverside’s new Measure A gets challenged . . . again

Even though Riverside’s Measure A was approved by voters on June 4, with around a two-thirds victory, that doesn’t mean all is said and done regarding the controversial initiative. The measure allows the city to continuing transferring 11.5 percent of its revenue from water utility services and pumping it into the general fund—something Riverside was doing for a century, wasn’t supposed to, got caught and called out on it and subsequently pushed through this measure to make such un-legit transfers legit, according to critics and measure opponents.

Now, a group of concerned Riverside residents without a formal name, who were opposed to Measure A are speaking out about plans to sue the city, and have even filed official complaints with the Fair Political Practices Committee and the Attorney General. The group, which runs the blog “Thirty Miles of Corruption,” also alleges that a slick, pricey batch of mailers send to residents—mailers that were essentially pro-Measure A literature in spirit if not letter—were misleading as well as ethically and legally questionable.

According to group member and Riverside resident Dvonne Pitruzzello, who used to work for the mayor’s office in 2003, the main argument against the measure is that it is illegal under Prop. 218, a 1996 statewide measure that requires local governments to secure voter approval for certain taxes, assessments, property-related fees and related fund transfers.

Pitruzzello said that Measure A came was prompted by a lawsuit filed by longtime Riverside residents Vivian and Javier Moreno. The couple sued to stop the city from funneling utility revenue into the general fund, since it violated Prop. 218.

“The city has been illegally taking this money from our water bills as a tax, and using it for the General Fund,” Pitruzzello tells the Weekly. “There, the money is free for them to use as they please. Riverside was breaking the law for 16 years.”

The group plans to challenge Measure A, and insists that a 4-page “informational” packet sent to voters before last week’s election was a distortion of the facts at best . . . and blatant lies at worst. The city claimed that if Measure A was not passed drastic cuts would be made to essential city services such as police and fire services.

According to The Press-Enterprise, the mailer cost $5,680 to print and $18,097 to mail, with all the funds coming from the General Fund.

“In timing, tone and style [the mailer] is a campaign piece, violating a California Supreme Court ruling,” columnist Dan Bernstein wrote in the May 30 issue of The P-E.

Meanwhile, Pitruzzello says the battle against Measure A is on.

“It would be nice ultimately if the attorney general over turned the measure,” she says. “Voters wouldn’t have voted for it they labeled it as what it really is, a general fund tax. No matter what, voters can’t vote for something that violates the law and they did in this case, so we’ll fight it as long as we have to.”

This week, Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey told the Weekly through a city spokesperson, “The most recent vote demonstrates that voters see the revenue transfer for what it is: an important contribution to Riverside’s overall quality of life.”

The “Yes on Measure A Riverside” Facebook page summed up one pro-Measure A position this way: “Bottom line, the city needs the money and we need the services that this money pays for.”

Let’s see how this plays out.

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