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Stand-up Mayor: Flickinger helps save $7.5 millionEdit

Libertarian Mayor Pro Tem Bonnie Flickinger helped save taxpayers more than $7 million last month -- overcoming fierce opposition from Republican and Democratic city council members who didn't want residents to be allowed to vote on the fate of two city taxes.

Flickinger's victory left her facing a possible censure from the city council and a potential recall election from supporters of the higher taxes.

But her persistence also saved residents of Moreno Valley, CA, $7.5 million annually in reduced utility and business taxes. Town residents rejected both taxes by popular vote on June 4 by similar 52 percent to 48 percent margins. Both taxes will no longer be collected after this calendar year.

The drama began last year when Flickinger tried for five months to convince her Republican and Democratic colleagues on the city council to allow the city's voters to decide the fate of two town taxes -- a Utility Tax and a Business Gross Receipts Tax.

"I finally succeeded in February, but only after being forced to vote for a unanimous council resolution supporting the taxes," she said.

"The City Attorney advised the Council that four of the five council members would have to approve putting the taxes on the ballot," Flickinger explained. "Two of the council members steadfastly refused, stating publicly that they had been elected to make those decisions on behalf of their constituents. Finally, one of the holdouts relented, but only under the condition that I endorse the taxes."

That piece of political maneuvering left Flickinger in a quandary, she said.

"Should I violate the principle of honesty in government, or violate the principle of government by the people?" she said she asked herself. "If I had stayed true to my conscience and refused to vote for the resolution of support, I would have deprived the voters of the right to repeal the taxes. Struggling with my conscience, I decided on behalf of my constituents, and agreed to the unanimous resolution of support for the taxes." That put both taxes on the June ballot -- and left Flickinger planning her next move.

"I subsequently announced to my colleagues on the council that I was not going to campaign for or against the taxes, but would remain neutral and spend the campaign period correcting any misinformation that was disseminated by either side," she said.

"This position so angered the other council members that three of them spent almost an hour of a televised council meeting viciously tearing me down. Two of them threatened to censure me and remove me from all of my appointed positions, including the position of Mayor Pro Tem," she said.

The public response to these vitriolic attacks was tremendous, Flickinger said. "My phone rang more in the next two days than it had in the prior two months. All the calls were expressions of support and of anger at the brutal attacks [from] the other council members," she said.

That voter anger also translated into opposition to the taxes at the polls -- and voters rejected Republican and Democratic arguments that a "no" vote on the taxes would result in the layoff of police officers and firefighters. In the aftermath of the election, "I am now devising methods of balancing the city's budget without the repealed taxes," Flickinger said. "The three critical Council members are all up for re-election in November. [And] rumor has it that someone is planning to try to recall me from [the] city council after the November elections." Moreno Valley is the largest American city (pop. 136,000) ever to have a Libertarian mayor.

"Now, it is perhaps also the only American city where the taxpayers had the opportunity to repeal their own taxes, thanks to the Libertarian they elected to their city council," Flickinger proudly noted.

Source: LP News July, 1996

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