Measure U, the controversial proposal to roll back sewer rates to 2007 levels, was defeated soundly on Tuesday, with 55 percent of voters rejecting the measure.
"That was an excellent result. I'm very pleased that the voters saw the folly of that proposal," said Councilmember Mike Healy, who helped author the ballot arguments against Measure U.
The measure proposed to reduce residents' sewer rates to about $43 per month. Rates been undergoing scheduled increases since 2007, and are expected to reach $80 by 2011 to help pay for the Ellis Creek wastewater facility.
Opponents of the measure said that it would have had catastrophic fiscal effects on the city, including keeping it from repaying loans taken out to pay for the plant. Proponents of the measure, including Bryant Moynihan, who authored the similar Measure K in 2008, said that the fiscal effects of its passage would force the city to manage its finances more carefully.
Although his measure was defeated, Moynihan said that he thinks it had an effect.
"I think we were successful in sending a message to City Hall," he said. "Hopefully, they are listening and will stop misappropriating money."
Moynihan would not say whether he has specific plans to reintroduce a similar measure, but said that "if the message isn't received, we will send another message."
Opponents of Measure U had threatened to sue if it passed because of the contractual obligations that the city has to repay state loans needed for the Ellis Creek plant.
Measure T, an extension of the city's popular urban growth boundary, passed easily, with 64.5 percent of voters in favor. The approval means that the UGB —?a growth management strategy approved in 1998 — will expire in 2025, rather than 2018.
The extension will allow the growth boundary policy to match up with similar growth management strategies in the city's General Plan, which was approved in 2009. The UGB is designed to protect the small-town feel of the city, protect agricultural space and encourage urban infill development. Measure T garnered widespread support, including unanimous approval of the City Council, and no formal opposition throughout the campaign.
Measure W, a countywide effort to increase funding for transit and road repairs, failed by a margin of 57.7 percent to 42.3 percent.
The measure would have added a $10 charge to annual vehicle registration fees, generating about $5 million per year for road repairs, bike paths, bus systems, and school transit safety programs.
The funding would have been distributed among the various causes, with 12 percent for the Safe Routes to School program, 60 percent for bus systems in Petaluma and other cities and 23 percent for road maintenance and pothole repair.
Members of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, who voted against putting the measure on the ballot, felt that recession-weary voters would not approve any additional fees. Their concerns seem to have been accurate among voters.
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