El Monte officials have called a town hall meeting tonight to solidify support for a utility tax in the face of strong opposition by an outside business interest.
The city’s $6-million utility user tax will expire in October, but Measure A on the March 4 ballot calls for retaining the tax, said Assistant City Administrator Matt Weintraub.
A coalition of citizens and the entire City Council support Measure A. But supporters said the meeting was necessary in light of the avalanche of fliers, placards and mailers sent by an Orange County firm that encourages residents to vote against the tax.
Rodeffer Investments, which owns a quarry near El Monte, has poured an estimated $50,000 into the campaign to fight Measure A, said Peter Murphy, senior communications director for the Kamber Group, a Los Angeles public affairs consulting firm hired by Rodeffer.
Phyllis Rodeffer “has watched how money is spent in El Monte, and she doesn’t like it,” Murphy said.
The fliers decry the tax as unnecessary and wasteful: “They want you to keep paying high taxes so they can continue to go on their junkets,” reads one mailer.
But Measure A supporters said it is a long-running legal battle with the city, and not civic responsibility, that has motivated the Newport Beach woman’s efforts.
El Monte and Rodeffer have filed suits against the other for more than a decade over the firm’s plan to fill its quarry with potentially hazardous materials. Rodeffer is appealing a $300,000 judgment against her.
Because the utility tax makes up 20% of the city’s budget, resident Dennis McDonald said he suspects Rodeffer wants to “bring the city of El Monte to its knees.” Without the utility tax, McDonald said, the city couldn’t afford to fight Rodeffer in court.
Murphy scoffed at that notion and criticized city officials for using taxpayers money to campaign in favor of the measure: “They’re not being neutral.”
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Grace Black Auditorium of the El Monte Community Center, 3130 Tyler Ave.