By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Petaluma voters Tuesday appeared to be rejecting Measure U, a sewer rate rollback measure.
With 13 of 20 precincts tallied, Measure U was failing, 55 percent to 45 percent.
Placed on the ballot by a citizens’ signature-gathering initiative, Measure U would reduce sewer rates to 2006 levels.
Opponents, including the entire city council, several retired city leaders and every candidate running for City Council, warned against what they call a simplistic, deceptive and irresponsible argument.
They warned that the city could go bankrupt if Measure U passes.
Supporters argued that the city has misspent, overspent and misappropriated ratepayer money. If it passes, any future wastewater rate increases would have to be approved by voters.
A Sonoma County judge in August banned supporters from using several arguments in ballot language that he determined to be false and misleading.
City sewer rates have increased annually over the past several years, mostly to pay for a new $160 million wastewater treatment facility that went online last year to replace the city’s outdated, inadequate plant.
Petaluma’s sewer rates, which average $63 a month, are in the middle of Sonoma County’s nine cities. In 2011, the rates are anticipated to be about $80 a month. A rollback to 2006 levels would cut bills to about $43.