Davy “Doc” Wiser rode up, Pony Express style, to the entrance of Placerville City Hall on Thursday, May 15, to deliver a saddlebag of signatures for a petition for an initiative for the November ballot. The initiative, if approved, amends the city of Placerville General Plan to prohibit the city from constructing or utilizing any “roundabout,” “traffic circle” or other similar traffic features anywhere within the city limits without being first approved by popular vote.
The initiative, sponsored by Friends of Historic Hangtown, addresses a long-standing issue in the city regarding the placement of roundabouts as traffic intersections and stems from a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Cedar Ravine, Clay and Main Street. Much opposition to the roundabout from business owners and the general public has been expressed at City Council meetings in the past three years. A lawsuit against the proposed Clay Street/Cedar Ravine/Main Street Realignment and Clay Street Bridge Replacement was initiated by the Friends of Historic Hangtown with the result that the project was denied by the court until the city could provide an adequate Environmental Impact Report.
The city has been pursuing an EIR to proceed with the realignment project, with or without a roundabout as part of the project.
According to the Friends of Historic Hangtown press release: “The public was told at the last town meeting on this issue that we would be consulted with more public sessions to consider all options to the roundabout, but those promises were ignored as the council moved forward with a taxpayer-funded study that would be required to build a roundabout, making that town hall business look like just another public relations scheme to push through,” said Evelyn Veerkamp, one of the proponents of the initiative. “They created considerable mistrust.”
In the press release, Dave Price, one of the organizers of the petition, said, “Citizens repeatedly requested a vote to let the people decide on roundabouts and were completely ignored.”
As one of the group of petition supporters greeting the arrival of the petitions, downtown business owner Vicki Clark said, “You wouldn’t believe the amount of support against the roundabout we’ve heard out in front of the Cozmic Cafe from people in the county and even out of state.”
“So far, we have at least 700,” said Kirk Callum Smith, who is helping with the initiative. According to Smith, El Dorado County Registrar and Chief of Elections William Schultz said he had never seen an initiative drive completed so quickly.
The mail-back petition process used is a little different from the usual petition process, said Placerville City Clerk Susan Zito. “Usually the petition has lines underneath for signatures and the circulator signs each page. This way, each person is not only the signer, but also the circulator of the petition.”
“When signed, returned petitions were received that were missing addresses or other required information, the petitions were taken back to the signers so they could fill in that information, so we’re sure that the signatures will be valid,” said Kirk Smith.
In the presence of two of the three proponents of the petition, Veerkamp and Carolina Smith, City Clerk Zito, Financial Director Dave Warren and deputy City Clerk Lynne Goltz completed a facial review of the signatures, assuring that there are at least 533. Ten percent of the most recent list of registered voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election is the number of signatures required — in this case 533 out of 5,326.
“We have a consolidated election process with the county,” said Zito, “so when there are enough signatures I will box them all up and send them to the County Elections Department on the afternoon of May 15.”
“The Elections Department uses signature verification software to make sure the signatures are valid and the addresses are within city limits,” said Zito. “They have 30 days to do that, excluding holidays and weekends, so they need to have this done by June 26.”
The Elections Department notifies the city clerk if there is a sufficiency of valid signatures and the clerk then notifies the proponents of the initiative. If there are enough valid signatures, the initiative proceeds through the process to be put on the November ballot.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.