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Guest Opinion: Measure M is the most important vote since incorporation

By Bill Van Duker–
As we approach the election, I am reflecting back on the last 36 years in Citrus Heights.

In Citrus Heights in 1984, Montgomery Ward was where Lowe’s is, and Macy’s was located where Target is now. The Post Office was near Sylvan Corners, and there was nothing north of Fountain Square except fields.

In November 1984, a few business people and others met to explore the idea of forming a new city. Past attempts to incorporate had never materialized.

Why incorporate? Well, we were a “cash cow” for the county; we generated more in dollars than we received in services. Our supervisor represented other communities like Folsom, Orangevale, and Fair Oaks, with interests that sometimes conflicted with ours.

Our law enforcement was a joke. At times we had less than one Deputy Sheriff patrolling Citrus Heights at night. Further, we had no control over local land use decisions.

For those and other reasons, the Citrus Heights Incorporation Project (CHIP) was launched under the leadership of Chamber President Rich Wagner, CPA. The Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce endorsed the project, and stayed involved to the end.

In the next year (1985), CHIP went before the Sacramento County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) which allowed CHIP to develop the first financial feasibility study, to gather signatures (12,000) and to raise money for the election effort.

LAFCO endorsed cityhood and sent the measure to the Board of Supervisors to set the ballot date. We believed that we would be on the ballot in 1986, and be incorporated on Jan. 2, 1987, but the County Board of Supervisors refused to put the measure on the ballot, and the lawsuits began.

Those were bleak years – first the Superior Court in Sacramento, then the Third District Court of Appeals, then the California Supreme Court.
We prevailed at the California Supreme Court.

Sixty-seven cities in California filed Amicus briefs supporting our lawsuit. But the county appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court who declined to hear the appeal and sent the matter back to the California courts.

It’s a matter of trust
When Citrus Heights voters in 1996 faced the choice of whether to incorporate, they were facing a big risk with many unknowns. Where would City Hall be? Who would be our City Council? Who would provide law enforcement services?

Would we be better off as a city? Would the new City Council do the right thing?

The battle had gone on for 12 years. Would that effort and all that pain be wasted? On that election night in 1996, over 62% of the voters voted our new city into existence.

Now we are facing another important vote for our future: Measure M.

I have great confidence in our city leadership. Over the years the professional staff and our friends and neighbors whom we have elected to the City Council have demonstrated trust, vision, insight, and determination. By and large they have done a superb job.

The Community Center, the award-winning Police Department and its facility, City Hall, Auburn Boulevard revitalization, major reduction in crimes are just a few of the long list of accomplishments.

City leadership says we need Measure M to thrive, and I believe them.

For those of you who are on the fence regarding Measure M, I ask you to look at the track record of our city’s leadership. For 23 years we have “made do” without our property taxes. The first projection was that we would cross over into deficit spending in year 9. Then year 13. Actually it was around year 20 of Cityhood that it happened. Moving the crossover 11 years beyond the first projection is leadership of the best kind.

Since we will be receiving our property tax in 2023, some say “Let’s wait”. The property tax amount is about half of what we need each year to fix our roads. It will not cover roads and the 17 vacant positions in the Police Department, let alone the other needs that we have told the city that we want them to address.

For those of you who don’t like taxes, I understand. I don’t like them either. But to add an additional dollar to a $100 purchase to ensure the future of our city is something I will support. And I trust the City Council to do what they have said they will do with the money. Their track record speaks loudly for being excellent stewards of the money we have entrusted them with.

I am saddened by the intensity of the attacks on the backers of Measure M. We should be able to advocate diverse positions without resorting to attacks on the motives and character of those with whom one disagrees.

I am also dismayed by some of the very businesses who have benefited significantly from city assistance who have come out against Measure M.

This is the most important ballot measure facing Citrus Heights since the incorporation vote. We have the opportunity to soar going forward, or to slowly decline into one of those cities we read about too often. I know which choice works for me.

I urge you to continue the vision that brought us our city and vote “Yes” on Measure M.

Bill Van Duker is a local business owner and former chair of the Citrus Heights Incorporation Project for 6 years. He was also co-chair of the Measure R incorporation effort in 1996.

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