Water group enlists canvassers to collect signatures
As the November 4 election moves closer on the calendar, Claremont residents are thirsty for information on the water revenue bond measure and it appears Golden State Water Company is offering the first drink from the fountain.
The city of Claremont contends it can support $80 million in bonds to go toward the purchase of the water system based solely on money collected from residents water bills. A bond measure for an additional $55 million, should the city need it, was filed by city officials and will appear on the November ballot.
In response, Claremont Affordable Water Advocates (CAWA) member Donna Lowe filed a notice of intent to circulate a petition for a separate measure calling for voter approval on not just the additional $55 million in bonds, but the initial $80 million.
On Friday, July 11, the same day Ms. Lowe filed her notice with the city clerk, men and women brandishing clipboards began their door-to-door pilgrimage, seeking signatures from registered Claremont voters in support of the initiative
“I learned a long time ago not to sign anything until I know the full ramifications,” says Scott, a 10-year Claremont resident who requested anonymity. “What I do know is that the water coming out of my tap smells like dirt.”
Scott and his wife Tina were both home Tuesday morning when a canvasser knocked on the couple’s door. Although polite, the canvasser wasn’t forthcoming in identifying himself, and nowhere on the petition presented did it state ta connection with Golden State Water.
“They really should disclose who they are, they should let us know. I’d never heard of ‘Let Claremont Vote’ and he certainly didn’t say anything about being affiliated with Golden State Water,” Scott said.
According to documents filed with the city clerk, “Let Claremont Vote on the $80 million—a partnership sponsored by Golden State Water Company with residents and ratepayers to save money and ensure local control” became an active committee in Claremont on July 9 and maintains a campaign bank account in downtown Los Angeles.
Denise Krueger, the senior vice president of regulated utilities at GSWC, is listed as the committee’s principal officer with Ms. Lowe as a state measure proponent.
Also listed as treasurer of this committee is Thomas W. Hiltachk, managing partner at Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, a Sacramento law firm specializing in campaign, election and administrative law, including a new court case relating to the city’s water ballot measure.
Attorneys from Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk firm filed a petition for a writ of mandate on July 3 against Claremont City Clerk Shelley Desautels, as well as Registrar of Voters for the County of Los Angeles Dean Logan, seeking to delete an alleged false statement made in the city’s argument in favor for the $55 million water system bond measure.
The argument in favor, which was signed and submitted by council members Opanyi Nasiali and Sam Pedroza, claims that Golden State Water rates have “more than doubled in the recent 5-year period.” The councilmembers are named as real parties in interest in the suit.
The petitioner in this case, 26-year-old Devin Beggs, believes the statement is false and claims in his suit that rates over the most recent 5-year period “have risen only between 60 percent and 70 percent.”
Mr. Beggs, a graphic designer from Modesto who recently attended California State University, Stanislaus, currently resides with his wife Catherine, a student at the Claremont Graduate University. Mr. Beggs did not return calls to the COURIER for an interview.
His attorney Brian Hildreth, a partner with Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, offered the following statement.
“Ultimately, this is about protecting the integrity of the election in the city of Claremont. The law is clear in its prohibition of including false statements in ballot arguments like the one submitted by the two city council members in this matter.“
In addition to Mr. Nasiali and Mr. Pedroza, Golden State Water Company is also listed as a real party in interest in the suit. A trial-setting conference has been set for October 14.
Councilman Nasiali remains steadfast in his quest for water independence for the city of Claremont and hopes residents will support the ballot measure, despite GSW’s attempted roadblock.
“I’m not surprised by this. It’s expected when you have an axe to grind,” he says. “This is one of several challenges we will encounter in the months ahead.”
As CAWA’s political canvassers continue through neighborhoods in an attempt to gather the 3,444 signatures required from registered voters in Claremont to move forward on the prepared initiative, there are a few things residents should know before they open the door.
These people are not solicitors; they are exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.
A person conducting a poll, survey or petition drive in regards to any political matter is considered a canvasser and is allowed to do so without a permit, unlike a solicitor. Solicitation includes requesting—either directly or indirectly—money, credit or contributions, or taking orders for the sale of goods, merchandise or services. Signature-gathering for petitions does not fall under this category.
For residents who participate in “Do Not Knock,” the program guidelines only applies to solicitors and does not apply in this situation.
Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper wants to remind residents that just because someone knocks on your door, it doesn’t mean you have to engage the visitor in conversation. In fact, you may be setting yourself up as a target for a future crime.
“We would encourage people to just tell them they are not interested and go away,” explains Chief Cooper. “There are a lot of scams going on right now. Some begin by doing business at a resident’s front door. There have been several distraction burglaries in La Verne and Glendora, where someone comes to the front door and distracts the homeowner while a second person burglarizes the home. Residents should be mindful of that. Opening your door gives thieves too much opportunity to look inside the door, come back later and burglarize.”
The November Water Bond Measure will be the topic of conversation at the Sustainability Dialog gathering to be held on Monday, July 21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Join members of the community and gain some water knowledge with a presentation on the issues, followed by a dialogue with the audience. The event is free and open to the community. Pomona College, Hahn Building, Room 101
420 N. Harvard Avenue, Claremont