Imagine that Amazon notified you that starting right now, every week they would send you merchandise and bill your credit card for it–even though you had not ordered any of the items and you didn’t want them. In reality, Amazon can’t get away with doing that because it’s illegal. But the same rules don’t apply in the wacky world of special districts.
Special districts–water districts and other small government agencies–can “annex” your city and charge your property tax bill for the services, even though your city didn’t request them. As a resident, you don’t get to vote. Your city council members don’t get to vote. Whether or not a city can be billed for such unwanted services is up to a special organization called a LAFCo, a local agency formation commission. Alameda’s LAFCo is here.
Alameda County has a special district for mosquito control, the Alameda Country Mosquito Abatement District (MAD). However, the county also provides mosquito control through its broader vector control program. For many years Albany has relied on the country vector control program. It has been one-stop-shopping for us, and the city has been happy with the services provided. We have no interest in being part of an additional mosquito control program, especially one that we’ll pay for with new parcel taxes (although the taxes are only $4.24 annually–at least for now).
In order to prevent annexation, the city has to fight back by requesting something called a protest hearing. I know this must sound bizarre, but special district rules are arcane. And in order to fight against this unwanted annexation of our city, I’m asking for your help. Here’s the official word from the city about how you can file your protest. You should be receiving a postcard with the same information, but just in case, here it is again:
NOTICE OF PROTEST HEARING
PROPOSED ANNEXATION OF THE CITY OF ALBANY BY THE MOSQUITO ABATEMENT DISTRICT
The Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District has applied to annex the City of Albany to become part of the Mosquito Abatement District (MAD). If this application is approved, Albany property owners will have to pay a new fee for services from MAD. The Albany City Council has submitted a letter opposed to this annexation.
Albany has for many years received mosquito abatement services, from Alameda County Vector Control, and these services are included in our overall package of services from Alameda County.
The MAD seeks to take control of Albany’s mosquito abatement by ‘annexing’ Albany and obligating Albany property owners with an additional fee.
The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) is the agency responsible for administering the protest hearing. LAFCo will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed annexation. The protest hearing will be held Wednesday, January 8, 2020 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m at the Alameda County Administration Building Board of Supervisors Chambers, 5th floor, 1221 Oak Street, Oakland.
We encourage you to please consider filing a protest.
How to File a Protest: To be considered valid, a protest must be written and filed by either a landowner or a registered voter, within the area included within the reorganization. Protests may either be mailed to the Alameda LAFCo at 1221 Oak Street, Room 555, Oakland, CA 94612 or delivered to the LAFCo Executive Officer at the protest hearing. Each protest must be signed and dated, must state whether it is made by a landowner or a registered voter, and must include the name and address of the protester and a street or parcel number identifying the location of the land. A registered voter’s protest must show the name and address appearing on the affidavit of registration. Disclosures related to expenditures made for political purposes related to the subject change of organization must comply with the Political Reform Act (California Government Code Section 81000 et. seq.). Only written protests that are received prior to the end of the hearing on January 8, 2020 will be accepted as timely.
For additional information, please contact Alameda LAFCO Executive Officer Rachel Jones at (510) 271-5142 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes, you understand correctly. In order to protest as a citizen, you have to write a letter with specific information and either mail it or bring it to the meeting. It makes you suspect these rules haven’t been updated since before the internet was invented. At least you are not required to travel to the meeting in a horse and buggy. For more on special district lunacy, see this episode of John Oliver’s HBO comedy show.
Please consider writing a letter and sending it early enough that it gets to the Alameda County Administration Building before January 8. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done. In your letter, you might want to stress that the issue is not the mosquito district’s competency–it’s their redundancy. Our little city doesn’t have the resources to pay twice for the same services. Although mailing a letter or bringing one with you to the meeting is a pain, it might be one of the most cost-effective letters you ever write.
Addendum: January 23, 2020. At the Alameda LAFCO meeting on Jan. 8, 2020 the board voted to force Albany to join the Mosquito Abatement District. It took me a few phone calls and emails to discover what the process was. It turns out, assuming we have about 10,000 registered voters or property owners, one-quarter of them would have either had to send a letter or attend the meeting in person. That’s 2,500 people. Less than 2,500 people and the annexation happens. Between 2,500 and 5,000 people, a vote is held. If more than 5,000 people show or send letters, the annexation would have been cancelled. LAFCO received a total of ninety one written protests–8 registered voters, 83 property owners. Many thanks to those of you who protested. This whole process is bizarre. It reminds me of something out of a movie I saw recently, the black comedy “The Death of Stalin.” The only bright note is that any increases in fees will be subject to a 2/3 majority vote of the whole county.