Sales tax hike for Atwater? No: We shouldn't foot the bill for council members' greed

By DENNY KARRMarch 2, 2013 

Prior to Atwater City Manager Greg Wellman leaving office, he prepared a detailed financial report outlining the current city finances, which at the time were in the red.

This report was prepared to inform the City Council and the future city manager of the financial crisis the city was facing. This report was prepared because of Wellman's dedication to the city and in hopes of paving the way to assist the future City Council and future city managers in finding solutions, resolve the crisis and get the city's finances in the black.

During the above transition stage and long before, the people began to see letters to the editor from our citizens indicating sincere concerns that the members of the Atwater City Council, as a whole, were collecting more than $100,000 per year in pay and extra benefits.

Let me remind you that these actions continued well into the city management of Kathy Kivley and beyond. Finally, the people made a good choice when voting for City Councilman Craig Mooneyham, who agreed not to take the same pay and benefits. We were all hoping that his message would reach his fellow council members and that they would do the right thing by giving up their pay and benefits.

But obviously, greed stood in the way.

The people continued to speak out at council meetings regarding council pay and benefits. The people continued to write letters to the editor.

For obvious reasons the Atwater City Council and mayor chose to ignore the public outcry. When it was too late and they had no other choice, they finally agreed to do the right thing and relinquish their pay and benefits. During a recent council meeting, there was a motion to support the total elimination of their benefits. That motion was supported by Councilmen Mooneyham and Larry Bergman and rejected by the other council members.

When I read that article, it sent a strong message to me and it should send the same message to you, that as soon as the city is whole again, the greedy City Council will once again demonstrate their selfishness and ask for their pay and benefits back.

Financially, where would we be today if the council had given up a portion of their pay and benefits six or seven years ago? Financially, where would we be if the city didn't pay $50,000 in a special election to elect Jeff Rivero, when it could have saved that money and allowed Lesa Rasmussen to hold the position until the next election? This would have saved the city $50,000.

And where would we be if we didn't have another special election expense in an attempt to pass Measure H?

We all pay too much in taxes. The city water and sewer rates are going up 150 percent. Now they want the people of Atwater to pay for mistakes that previous city managers may have made, and, most of all, they want the people to pay for the City Council's long-term greed.

Please join me in voting "no" on Measure H.

Karr is an Atwater resident.


On Tuesday's ballot

Atwater's Measure H: Half-cent sales tax increase, effective for 10 years

In the past:

Oakdale, 2011: Voters OK half-cent sales tax for three years

Ceres, 2007: Voters OK half-cent sales tax, no end date

Manteca, 2006: Voters OK half-cent sales tax

Merced, 2005: Voters approve half-cent sales tax for safety

Los Banos, 2004: Voters approve half-cent sales tax for safety

In the future:

Mayors of Modesto and Stockton have talked about putting sales tax increases on the November ballot

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