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Measure W offers higher costs, no relief

by Danny Holznecht
For those of us who read the pages of the COURIER each week, we know that water has been a hot topic in Claremont for many years. I’ve stayed on the sidelines and, until now, have only shared my thoughts with family and close friends.
I’m writing this piece because Measure W, the $135 million bond measure on the November ballot, will cost Claremont families much more than we’re already paying today. Ask yourself, why would you place $135 million in debt on the community if it would result in higher water bills for all residents for decades?
 I’ve conducted my own research, including a thorough review of the city’s own impartial analysis, and that’s why I’m going to vote no.
 First, residents should know that Measure W, by the city’s own account, will not result in lower water bills. If you want to save money, you should most certainly vote no. Supporters initially said that taking over the water company would reduce water rates. Yet city leaders have candidly said that Measure W will not save any money for at least 17 years. The impartial analysis of Measure W says that water rates will immediately go up for all residents, regardless of how much water they use.
 Former Claremont McKenna College professor Rodney Smith, PhD, a local business owner and nationally-recognized expert on water economics, has done a comprehensive analysis of Measure W. He concluded Measure W will cost the average homeowner $1,217 per year. That is the equivalent of a $101.42 charge on every resident’s monthly water bill on top of what you are paying right now. If your bill is currently $100 per month, under Measure W it will be $201.42 per month. For my family, that’s an expense we simply cannot afford.
 Additionally, not one penny in Measure W’s $135 million proposal can be used to maintain, repair or upgrade the water system. When we own the water system, we’ll be burdened with paying for every fix, big and small. Southern California’s water system is aging (Look what happened at UCLA) and the cost to replace old pipes and mains cannot be understated. Those costs will only be paid for in future water rate increases beyond Measure W’s water tax.
 Further, in the history of California, there has never been a successful eminent domain takeover of a private water company. This was illustrated a few years ago in Santa Cruz County in a community called Felton. The same kinds of interests, who are today promoting Measure W, convinced Felton residents to enact a 30-year property tax to take over the local water system. The promises weren’t kept.
The purchase price ended up being 250 percent more than was promised. Residents are now paying an annual $500 property tax for 30 years and monthly bills have increased by 71 percent over the last eight years. Thousands of residents objected to the most recent double-digit increases, but their concerns were ignored.
 When residents consider Measure W, the bottom line is that it will cost us a lot more money for a long period of time. We’ll be paying for water service, the level of which has not been detailed by takeover supporters. We’ll be paying millions to lawyers and consultants who will be part of a costly and divisive eminent domain court fight. And if that’s successful, we’ll be repaying $135 million in principal plus interest payments to bondholders. Measure W is a budget-buster for hardworking Claremont residents.
 As a community, I hope that voters review all the materials and look beyond the rhetoric. They’ll find that Measure W is a fatally-flawed plan that will obligate every household to $36,510 in debt repayments over the next 30 years. Again, that is an extra $101.42 every month in addition to your existing water bill.
 Ask yourselves, does Measure W offer the outcome that Claremont desires? Please consider the facts and vote no on the $135 million tax. Learn more at www.stopthewatertax.com.

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