Readers comments 7-3-14
The “selective” 20-20 hindsight and tendency toward obfuscation of ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal individuals is a fascinating phenomena.
For example, Donna Lowe’s recent comments as spokesperson for the thinly-disguised Golden State Water public relations shill called CAWA (Claremont Affordable Water Advocates).
Ms. Lowe conveniently ignores the fact that Golden State Water (GSW) had an ongoing history, even during the economic recession, of gouging consumers with consistently excessive, and creative, cost increases. She overlooks the fact that GSW wasn’t listening to consumer complaints until the city and Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates publicly exposed the profiteering abuse that was taking place.
GSW got caught with its hand in the cookie jar and is desperately attempting to confuse the public and keep their cash cow. As part of this disorientation process, they appear to be cultivating naysayer politicos and civic-sounding facades.
When CAWA took out its full-page ad in a recent issue of the COURIER, I hopefully went to their website to read their material. I suggest informed Claremont citizens do the same. Unfortunately, much of the content is simply a rehash of GSW public relations dogma, and most of the so-called compromises have questionable or poorly-defined substance.
In the coming year, we’ll continue to be bombarded with slick PR extolling the virtues of Golden State Water and the imaginary conspiracy or folly of city government. GSW is hoping that by throwing out bucket after bucket of discordant allegations, you will throw your hands up in frustration and say, “Let’s just keep things the way they are.” Admittedly the issue is complex.
However, if you keep a couple of facts in mind, it will help evaluate what you are hearing. One, the city council has consistently demonstrated a desire to solve problems with workable agreements that are in the best interests of the people of Claremont. Two, the primary goal of Golden State Water is to generate profit and maintain control of Claremont’s precious water resources.
The will of the people
I have a conspiracy theory about CAWA (Claremont Affordable Water Advocates) and, admittedly, it is only a theory. While some attribute this organization as a last-minute concoction of Golden State Water to avert a take-over of its water system, I see another direct beneficiary of this group and its MOU with Golden State Water.
Our local leaders have wasted millions of our tax dollars studying a potential take-over of the water system, a solution they created while claiming to be only responding to the “will of the people.” How can they now gracefully escape from the corner they have painted themselves into without admitting that they are in well beyond their capabilities? Why would Golden State negotiate, and enter into a MOU, with a newly-formed citizen’s group instead of working out such a deal with the city?
My guess is that the city teamed up with Golden State to create CAWA—an organization that supports Golden State retaining its investment, while giving the city an opportunity to do a complete about-face on the take-over issue in response to the revised “will of the people.”
While I fully support Golden State’s 20-point commitment to CAWA and Claremont, that doesn’t make me any less suspicious about how the MOU came to be.
CAWA’s smoke and mirrors
I have received two mailers from an organization that calls itself Claremont Affordable Water Advocates (CAWA) and claims to have a “compromise agreement we negotiated directly with Golden State Water.” Five names appear on the fliers who apparently are the CAWA.
Who gave these five people the power to negotiate with anyone on my behalf? Not me!
What are the details of the full agreement? They claim in their fliers that I should “Read the full agreement at ClaremontWater.org.” The problem is, the full agreement does not appear on their website. What does appear are the claims that are in the fliers, none of which commits Golden State Water to anything.
There are some interesting highlighted points that we might all like to see implemented: lower water bills, local control, commitment to conservation and alternatives to the WRAM. But the details of how to achieve the goals are non-existent except to “work with” GSW.
This group appears to me to have all of the markings of yet another distraction by GSW saying we and the city should do nothing until we look at another show of smoke and mirrors. I’m not buying it. The city should proceed as it has indicated to purchase the water system.
Parker G. Emerson
An outstanding teacher
As I have been retired from Claremont High School for several years, I have no personal knowledge of the events leading to the suspension of teacher David Lukkarila.
However, as a colleague and fellow member of the social science department, I have known David Lukkarila as a dedicated, creative, responsible and innovative teacher. I was his department chair at CHS for several years, so I believe I can speak to his abilities in the classroom.
He was respected by parents, students, and staff alike, and always performed in an outstanding and professional way.
Finally, I know of no better recommendation for any teacher than to say that I would personally feel fortunate if my own children were in his classroom and had him as their teacher. Claremont High School is a better school because David Lukkarila has been an integral part of it.
Lowell G. Rice
Bicycle safety starts and ends with common sense
Claremont, with over 30 linear miles of bicycle infrastructure, is a haven for cycling enthusiasts. Cycling safety classes is a great idea for the young and uninitiated, as I’m sure Sam Pedroza would attest to.
Tom Shelly stated in the article on June 27 that most accidents are avoidable, if you use basic skills. He went on to say on a narrow rural road a cyclist should take control of the lane and force the cars to slow down.
Remember the words “common sense” in the title of this article? If you are a parent of someone taking a safety class from an individual suggesting you take control of the road from a car or truck, I suggest you look around for another class. First of all, cyclists are required to stay as far right as possible when going slower than traffic speed, but should also ride single-file for safety, especially in heavy traffic and on narrow roads. That is the law!
I agree that more often than not, motorists are going to avoid you, but telling riders to be assertive of your position on the road and you will be okay is not something I would like to be held responsible for telling students of a safety course, and I would never counsel my own child to adopt that mindset. It doesn’t sound like a common sense decision.
For example, in the article an 11-year-old was planning to ride his bike to school at the same time the motorists are late to work—texting, dropping off their own kids, applying makeup, etc. And you are counseling the child to own the road? Cyclists may be successful being assertive with autos most of the time, but it only takes once for your son or daughter to be wrong. It may not be worthwhile being assertive!
While cycling may be a sport to you, the roads are designed to move people and commerce. I believe motorists want to be accommodating to the sport of cycling, but I’m not sure the assertive mindset is a common-sense posture for cyclists.
By the way, I know the city of Los Angeles used highway funds to put in thousands of miles of bike lanes, I suspect Claremont did the same. If motorists are paying for the roads they deserve respectful, not assertive cyclists.
No data, no deal
The memo of understanding between Golden State Water and Claremont Affordable Water Advocates (CAWA) is worthless.
The whole reason the community is up in arms is the high water rates and price gouging by Golden State. Evaluating this memo is simple: if you can’t figure out what impact it will have on your wallet, then what’s the point? Based on their 20 commitments, will you save $1000? $10? 10 cents? What will be the new rates? What are we agreeing to? It’s all a mystery. For me, no data, no deal. It would be more accurate to call this the memorandum of no understanding.
Contrary to the memo’s title, under the agreement our water quality or service may be compromised, we have no idea what our water rates will be, and the memo was signed off with far less public involvement than our city has provided.
It essentially promotes the status quo with some fluff sprinkled in. None of the commitments provides any guarantees over the long term. It provides no data showing the financial calculations and impact the agreement will have for Golden State and the residents of Claremont.
There is only one proposal (#5) that may financially impact Golden State. In fact, it is the only commitment with a number that could be used to calculate anything. That is Golden State’s commitment to limit their requested revenue requirements to 3 percent for 2016-2018. The fact is, however, that for 2014 and 2015 Golden State requested a 3 percent revenue increase without an MOU in place. This is hardly a sacrifice. They were sure to include a veiled threat that “circumstances could arise that would prevent Golden State Water from maintaining reliable quality water service at this revenue level.”
A real concession would be for them to limit their profits to 3 percent rather than their approved 10 percent rate of return, but instead they would rather guarantee their profits and provide us undrinkable water or ration our water! At least we know where they stand.
The real goal of this MOU is to sway voters and get the water bond measure to fail. For Golden State, this memo is a small price to pay to get out of eminent domain litigation. The agreement is only for three years. After that, with no threat of eminent domain litigation, it is a sure bet that Golden State will decline to renew and be back to requesting 30 percent rate increases every three years.
Eminent domain is the only option that allows us to control our destiny, and the threat of eminent domain is the only leverage we have to even get Golden State to the bargaining table, so there is no reason to back off.
I will be voting “yes” on the water bond measure. It gives us the most options and shows we are absolutely serious about something being done to ensure long-term control over rates and real local control. f this MOU is the best Golden State is willing to offer, then the only viable option is owning our water. If that means eminent domain litigation, then so be it.
Water system options?
Let’s begin with the assumption that just about everyone in Claremont would like to pay less for water than what we’re currently paying. What’s under discussion then is the means to achieve that. Therefore, I read with considerable interest Donna Lowe’s letter on June 20 and the subsequent article on June 27.
Ms. Lowe says that her group, Claremont Affordable Water Advocates (CAWA), has negotiated an agreement with Golden State Water. What is not at all clear is how any agreement with an ad hoc group of Claremont residents (CAWA) could be in any way legally binding on Golden State. But, let’s play along and look at a few things in their “agreement,” as described by Ms. Lowe.
“Rate increases capped through 2022.”?While a rate cap sounds good on a superficial level, 2022 is only eight years away, at which time the cap would expire and rates would continue their exorbitant increases. In addition, it would perpetuate rates that are already, in the aggregate, roughly twice of neighboring cities.
“Helps ward off efforts to raise rates on imported water.” It’s entirely unclear how this could be done either practically, or legally.
Then there’s this from CAWA’s June 20 full-page ad:
“Lower water bills and [enhance] local control, without a $135 million water tax.” One thing is guaranteed, with Golden State anywhere in the picture, there will be no local control. The promised “lower water bills” would be only a temporary reprieve, and only if we trust Golden State to hold up its end of the bargain.
The “$135 million water tax” is also a bit misleading.
1. It is estimated that our present water rate structure could finance a purchase price of up to $80 million.
2. The $55 million to be authorized by the November ballot measure would be used only if needed to cover that part of a purchase price exceeding $80 million. Thereby, essentially authorizing a maximum purchase price of $135 million. 80 plus 55 equals 135.
3. It is not the same as the usual taxes where our money just disappears without a trace. This would actually go to buy something concrete, namely our local water system.
I do wish that Ms. Lowe would have attended some of the numerous public meetings that have been held over the last several years on water issues, and explained her ideas to all of us, in public. It seems a rather curious thing to be negotiating a secret, side agreement into which no one outside her group had any input.
But, let’s step back and look at the bigger picture. Issues and problems with Golden State’s water rates have been actively under discussion in Claremont for at least three or four years already. Had Golden State felt motivated to make any good-faith concessions on water rates, or rate increases, they’ve had more than enough time to do that honestly, up-front, in the open and publicly.
The fact that Golden State has offered nothing publicly indicates that they have no genuine desire to alter any part of their business operation and that they have every intention of continuing with their heretofore routine 20-plus percent rate increase requests.
The purchase of our local water system has been under discussion in Claremont since the 1940s. If a buy-out had been completed decades ago when the subject was raised, the system could already be paid for, and we would already be experiencing the full benefits of owning our own system, with real local control.
So, without further distractions such as this CAWA “agreement,” the time has come to put our water destiny in our own hands. It’s time for the city to purchase the water system.
Voting Rights Amendment Act
The League of Women Voters believes that the House of Representatives needs to take action now on HR 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. It is time for the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing and mark up this vital legislation.
HR 3899 is a bipartisan response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder. The legislation modernizes the coverage formula for preclearance to ensure it is based on recent acts of discrimination and provides narrow mechanisms to prevent discrimination in voting nationwide.
It is an unfortunate fact that discrimination in voting against racial, ethnic and language minorities continues in America. While incredible progress has been made, due largely but not exclusively to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we still need effective means to stop the discrimination that still exists.
HR 3899 has several key elements:
It updates preclearance to cover jurisdictions with a recent pattern of discrimination. This recognizes the progress achieved in many states while maintaining an essential protection for voters where discrimination has continued.
It provides greater transparency for changes in election laws across the nation that could be discriminatory. Public notice was an important element in the original VRA in preclearance states and it make good sense to extend it nationwide.
It provides narrow, carefully crafted tools to prevent discrimination before it occurs. For example, the bill provides a mechanism for concerned citizens or the Department of Justice to ask a court to temporarily stop a potentially discriminatory voting change so the court has time to fully examine it.
HR 3899 is an important step forward for our democracy, where the right to vote is not about politics or the outcome of elections. It is about equality and justice. The League of Women Voters urges you to contact your US Representative and ask that HR 3899 be moved through the committee process and on to final passage.
VP for Advocacy
LWV of the Claremont Area