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Wed, Nov. 13

Taxpayer Protection Initiative goes to voters

PRESCOTT - An initiative that proponents see as a way to protect taxpayers but that opponents view as a no-growth stance is now in the hands of the voters.

The Taxpayer Protection Initiative (Proposition 401) is among the issues on the City of Prescott's general election ballot that recently went out in the mail.

If successful, the initiative would require any city projects with a value of $40 million or more to go to a vote of the public.

Organizers of the initiative maintain that the public should have more say in large projects such as the 30-mile water pipeline that would be a part of the $170 million Big Chino Water Ranch.

"Proposition 401 simply will allow the people to vote on those large projects that will affect our city's future," said Brad DeVries chairman of the committee behind the initiative.

In the publicity pamphlet that the city mailed to voters concerning the election, DeVries and the committee's treasurer John Danforth added that residents previously had a vote in such matters, because large projects traditionally required a voter-approved bond issue.

But, "With new methods of financing, a council can enter into a binding contract with major, long-term implications," stated the argument in favor of the initiative.

On the other hand, opponents of the proposition maintain that the initiative has more to do with stopping growth than it does about giving the voters a say.

"The initiative is not about protecting the taxpayers at all," states the argument against the proposition by Steve Conrad and Scott Helfenstine, executive director and treasurer, respectively, of the Central Arizona Partnership. "It is clearly an attempt to inhibit the construction of the Big Chino Water Ranch pipeline."

The argument against the measure adds: "The Taxpayer Protection Initiative is an anti-growth measure that will result in amending our City Charter by not allowing our elected officials the ability to vote on whether to approve or disapprove large city projects."

Candidates seeking three seats on the Prescott City Council are virtually split on the initiative. While three of the candidates say they are firmly against it, two others express support, and write-in candidate Paul Katan said he is undecided.

The candidates' views on the initiative include:

• Michael Allen Peters: "Yes, presently I do support the Taxpayer Protection Initiative. The need for this initiative is symptomatic of the fact that Prescott citizens do not have confidence in the judgment of current city staff, council and mayor to make decisions regarding the approval of major projects requiring increased public debt. Perhaps with a more responsive city government, this type of initiative would not be needed."

• Robert Luzius: "Yes, I do (support the initiative)," he said. Referring to his views against the Big Chino Water Ranch, he said: "There is not an acceptable mitigation plan in place. I do not want to be the council member who killed the Verde River during my watch. It has been proven that extensive pumping from the Big Chino could have an adverse effect on the continuous flow of the Upper Verde River."

• Tammy Linn: "No. This type of decision is why you elect competent, honest and fiscally responsible city leaders and staff."

• Paul Katan: "I have not decided how I will vote for this initiative. However, if it passes and I am elected, I am prepared to work within its constraints and ensure broad public understanding for such projects."

• John Hanna: "No. I believe our elected officials are voted into office to make the best decisions for the greater good of the community and, if they are not making the decisions that the majority of citizens are wanting, they need to be voted out of office. Also, we need to take into consideration that every time we place an issue before the public to be voted on, it costs taxpayers a considerable amount of money."

• Steve Blair: "No. That's what your council is for. We should not need a test or oversight, if the people you elect are doing their job. Stop with the no-growth direction. This Protection Initiative isn't fooling people. These same kinds of initiatives are what has handcuffed California."

Along with Proposition 401, voters also will decide Proposition 400, the Alternative Expenditure Limitation, which would extend the Home Rule Option for four more years, allowing the city to set a budget tailored to the community rather than one regulated by the formula the Arizona State Legislature enacted in 1980.

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