Valley Politics: Will They Just Watch it Burn?
by Christina Garavaglia-Branche
Aug 19, 2013 | 8293 views | 0 0 comments | 351 351 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Among the few things that we truly fear in the San Lorenzo Valley are mountain lions, flooding, earth quakes, and fires.  When a state entity institutes a program to help combat one of them, it should make sense that it would be whole-heartedly embraced.  However, that has not been the case for Cal Fire’s Fire Prevention “Fee” that was first levied upon Valley home-owners in 2012.  Come October 10th we will be paying our second round of fees.

What if a home-owner doesn’t pay the fee? How will the fee be enforced?  Will Cal Fire just watch that person’s property burn? There is a legitimate concern here, especially after an incident in Obion County, Tennessee where a similar fee has been instituted by the local fire agency. According to the local NBC affiliate news station WPSD 6, the home of Gene Cranick, a resident of Obion County who failed to pay the $75 fee, caught fire, and the fire department refused to do anything until the adjacent property (whose owner had paid the fee) caught fire.

There is some good news for the Valley though, after speaking with our Assemblyman, Mark Stone’s office (D-Monterey Bay), it was revealed that he opposes the fire fee. Stone’s reasoning is that “it [the fire fee] does not directly fund fire suppression” and that “it precludes our local governments from establishing their own fees that would better fit our firefighting needs.”

Valley residents are becoming apprehensive regarding the actual benefits of the fire fee, some residents who are questioning the legality of this fee are even filing an appeal (petition for redetermination) against it. 

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) has filed a class-action lawsuit against Cal Fire, arguing that it is not a fee, but a tax that was passed in violation of Prop 13. According to HJTA, the judge who is hearing the case has said that “should the case be decided in the plaintiff’s favor, only those taxpayers who filed a timely appeal with Cal Fire will receive a refund.” Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the due date on the bill.

Perhaps we should ask Cal Fire to post pictures on their website of all the brush they are supposedly clearing with the 70 million dollars so far raised by the “fee”.  

For more information on filing an appeal with Cal Fire, and to read about other political issues, or, to leave questions about politics or policies, check out my blog The State of This Union.
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