The city of Morro Bay says that uncounted Proposition 218 protest votes would still not have been enough to change the outcome of the September 2018 vote to increase water and sewer rates.
On Jan. 17, the city released the results of the verification and tabulation of all written protests related to the water reclamation facility water and sewer rate hike on its website. According to the staff report, of the approximately 1,000 protests that were not counted by the city in 2018, 272 were new votes, 665 were duplicates, 70 were invalid, and 62 required further verification.
The city initially declined to count the approximately 1,000 protest votes because they were either undated or marked with a date that was prior to the public notice of the proposed rate increase—disqualifying them. Residents who opposed the city's water reclamation project threatened the city's refusal with legal action in October 2018.
Previously, the city counted 1,560 protest votes. The 272 newly validated, but still uncounted, protest votes were not enough to bring the total up to the 2,794 votes that would have been needed to prohibit the council from approving the rate hike.
City Mayor John Headding said the tallying process took place from Dec. 17 through 20, 2018, including only city staff. Two community members observed the count, one who was for and one who was against the water facility.
Headding opened the discussion to tally the uncounted protest votes, and the council moved to do so, even though the result would not change the council's decision. Although he was at first opposed to tallying up the lost protest votes, Headding said, he understood the community's need to know the numbers.
"I do feel that in talking to a broader contingency that I may have been somewhat jaded in thinking of the need of counting something that essentially doesn't count, but that it was important for community members who had expressed their voice in the form of a written protest," he said. Δ