Readers comments 10-24-14
Time to get water-wise
California is running out of water. Everyone in the state, from the Governor on down is begging us to use less water. So why is the city of Claremont watering the grass in the median strip along Foothill Boulevard every day?
When one of the city council members was asked about this the reply was that people in the city wanted things to look nice. We have beautiful trees in the median strip. They would look nice with plain dirt or rock. It's time for the city to take water conservation seriously.
Controlling our future
I’m in favor of Measure W because I’m in favor of Claremonters owning the rights to Claremont water. As it is, Golden State owns the rights to the water it pumps from the ground in our area as well as the run-off and reclaimed water, too.
We live in the desert. We suffer from drought. Our yards and soon our lives are becoming increasingly thirsty. Yet, we have handed our canteen over to strangers who control what happens with the water and have tremendous influence over it’s cost. (See the Six Basins Watermaster site for more details: www.6bwm.com.)
Thinking ahead not to next year but to years later, what is in our best interest? Should we own what water is left in Claremont, or should it belong to a distant business—one that could be bought out by an even larger and more distant company?
It is time to take back our water now before it becomes even more expensive to do so in the future.
I enjoy the Golden State Water Company’s deprecating depiction of Wall Street bond sellers making their percentage for selling Claremont’s water bond.
Golden State Water Company is a subsidiary of American States Water Company. American States Water Company has monopolized 14 million peoples’ water supply for the profit of their management and shareholders. The mendacity of monopolizing peoples’ water is akin to the mendacity of slavery.
Vote yes on Claremont’s Measure W.
In a letter confessing confusion about the uncertainties involved in taking local control of our water system, Scott Grannis resorts to conservative principle: “I don’t like the idea of governments managing businesses, and I don’t like the idea of bureaucrats and politicians setting water rates.”
Unfortunately, this principle cannot apply here. Mr. Grannis fails to note that Golden State, like any water utility, can only be run as a monopoly. No competitor can exert market pressure on its rates, because only one set of pipes brings water to Claremont homes and businesses. For this reason, Mr. Grannis’ current water rates are set by the very “bureaucrats and politicians” he purports to distrust—specifically, the California Public Utilities Commission—because otherwise Golden State would have no ceiling to the rates it could demand.
In his free-market enthusiam, Mr. Grannis fails to realize that our current water system is no free market. So the question becomes, how does being a captive profit-source for Golden State benefit Claremont?
Scott Banks, Claremont
No on the water tax—to me that means Yes on W. The WRAM surcharge that Golden State can add to our bills to make up for any conservation efforts we undertake either to save money or precious water, now that’s a tax.
We pay that money not for any services rendered or goods received (it is above and beyond the monthly service charge), and it guarantees that Golden State makes enough profit to pay big executive salaries and mount big advertising campaigns that obfuscate facts—now that’s a tax.
Buying our water system so our elected representatives can make decisions on the care of our water, especially at this time of drought when we realize we can’t take easy water for granted, isn’t a tax, it’s an investment.
I lived in the Santa Cruz mountains from 1971 to 2010, during the time that about 75 percent of the citizens of Felton passed a bond issue to remove control of their water from private hands and become a public utility, with elected directors and transparent business practices.
Contrary to recent claims from Golden State, Felton water users are paying less now after almost a decade than they would be paying if the proposed price increases to ensure stockholder profits had gone into effect. Yes, water rates have risen, but the system was in poor repair. The neighboring SLV Water District that is part of the same watershed and publicly, not privately run, now oversees the southern part of the water system, probably similar to the role La Verne would play here.
I hope my fellow Claremont water users will join me in voting Yes on W.
CAWA’s ‘facts’ wrong again
For some reason, our neighbors at CAWA just can’t seem to get their facts straight, this time (yet again) in connection with what actually happened in Felton, California [“Measure W will increase your bill,” COURIER, October 17].
As you recall, the residents of Felton bought their water system in 2007; in their case from the private company California American Water (CalAm).
When Felton FLOW volunteers first organized in 2002 to promote purchasing their water system, they estimated, and publicized, that the total purchase cost would be between $8 and $12 million. The final purchase cost was right around $10 million—exactly in the range they publicized to every local resident, in the very beginning. CAWA’s “250 percent more” is absolute baloney, and Felton FLOW has the initial door hanger to prove it!
Due to Felton's unique funding arrangements, residents there are paying $466 per year on their property tax to fund the purchase, while their water rates went down significantly by joining the local public water agency. Not CAWA’s “extra $500.” Please, CAWA, a little accuracy! (As an aside, the purchase does, after all, have to be paid for.)
Due in part to neglected maintenance under CalAm’s private ownership, water rates have increased in the seven years since the takeover. Yet, despite all that—the $466 annual tax and about 70 percent increase in rates—Felton’s water users are still paying less today for their water than they would be paying if they had not bought their water system. Current rates are still below CalAm’s approved rates in 2008. With the average user still saving over $300 per year. Not CAWA’s extra $1,217 per year.
Now, if only CAWA could finally get their facts straight. Yes, CAWA, facts, not scare-mongering!
Geoff Hamill and Jeff Hammill
I felt like I should write this note to the COURIER as there has been some confusion about a recent letter posted by a similar namesake in the community, which has happened several times in the past. I have been both applauded and criticized since by several Claremont citizens regarding a letter that I did not author.
In the October 19 issue of the COURIER, Jeff Hammill, a local attorney and recent chairman of the Claremont Planning Commission, wrote a letter expressing his opinion on Measure W and that he will vote no on the measure.
I want to make sure all the readers know that that was not a statement by me. I have great respect for Mr. Hammill’s opinions and thank him for his eight-year service to the community on the planning commission.
The current drought issues and escalating water rates are a great concern and an incredible distress to many Claremont residents. There has been much rhetoric and propaganda at all levels that has become increasingly transparent.
I encourage everyone to become intimately familiar with Measure W and make an educated vote on November 4; I know that I will.
Claremont Real Estate Broker
Are we rubes?
Does Golden State Water think we are rubes? Their mailer this week(one of a flurry) warns us that, if Claremont buys GSW’s water distribution system, we will become the prisoners of Wall Street’s and its rapacious band of robber barons. And yet this same company carries enough Wall Street debt in bonds to finance a fleet of aircraft carriers(see the balance sheet of Golden State’s mother ship, American Water, traded as AWK on the NYSE and headquartered in placid New Jersey.)
Now, how is it okay for AWK to use the debt markets, but not Claremont? Or maybe it’s this: a last minute ad blitz rigged for rubes who cannot read a balance sheet?
The classrooms where Claremont students learn has air conditioning purchased through the bond market. It’s pretty clear how bond markets work, just as it is clear that last-minute campaigns can be artful in deceit. I asked myself if GWS/AWK did not mistake us for Fresno, but then I read how those good folks own their water distribution system.
Of greater concern than bond markets is the use by GSW/AWK of management stock options. The execs at American Water, like most, get rich by keeping up the price of their stock and then cashing out. Case in point, “Jeffrey Sterba was president and CEO of American Water Works Company, Inc. from August 2010 to May 2014. In 2012, Sterba’s annual salary was $732,695. He also received $1,874,990 in stock awards and options, as well as $1,180,030 in other compensation, resulting in total compensation of $3,787,715.”(sourcewatch.org)
Sourcewatch also notes that AWK is facing a prairie fire of lawsuits and rebelling municipalities. What will this company do if it gets judgments against it and has to scramble to keep up the price of management stock options? They have only one source of cash, we ratepayers, us.
So you gotta ask yourself a question. Before they give up their shot at personal wealth, will the management squeeze the ratepayers or not?
Good for our future
As we consider the water bond, I remind you of three compelling reasons to vote yes on Measure W.
First, your five elected Claremont City Council members (right, left and center) voted unanimously to seek the water revenue bond and have worked hard to promote a full discussion on the merits. If they all agreed this is good for our city, you can be assured it is good for the future.
Second, the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area strongly supports the city’s effort to buy the water system. Note their use of words, “strongly supports.” The league is highly respected and has done its homework. Their reputation for fairness is first-class, and their strong support is a good sign that your yes vote on Measure W is appropriate and in the best interests of our community.
Third, well over a thousand of your Claremont friends have publicly endorsed a yes vote on Measure W through Claremont FLOW. We have seen dozens of public forums, years of fact-finding, independent economic analysis and rate comparisons. Despite some hyperbole from Golden State, we know the time has come for us to acquire the Claremont water system.
I encourage you to join me in voting yes on Measure W.
Let’s not repeat past mistakes
I recently heard the argument made by Claremont Affordable Water Advocates (CAWA) regarding their concern over what will happen if we acquire the water system and then conserve water.
With regards to acquiring the water system, whether or not we conserve water is really irrelevant. Any impact on revenues due to future water conservation would apply to whoever owns the system. Are they under some delusional assumption that Golden State would not raise rates if we conserve water, besides hitting us with WRAM charges?
In the 2011 rate case, Golden State requested a 21 percent rate increase. The number-one reason they gave was “reduced sales” and said we had reduced our water usage by 13 percent. So because we used 13 percent less water they needed to increase rates by 21 percent.
What can we expect to get out of acquiring the water system?
Local control. That means we do what’s best for Claremont and we do it now. Under Golden State ownership, value decisions and priorities will always be made under the lens of regionalization and under the goal of maximizing profit. Is doing one thing for Claremont more important than doing this thing for Calipatria (our region 3 compatriot)? Will doing this for Claremont be more profitable than doing that for Calipatria? This is how Golden State frames every question. A few cases to highlight these points:
Today, Golden State doesn’t extract all the local groundwater they are allotted. In fact, they’ve completely filled their carry-over account and are essentially losing the rights to our local water. The result is they have to replace that with imported water at five times the cost, resulting in higher bills for us. Are there any repercussions for them? No. Is there anything you can do about it? Nothing whatsoever.
Golden State has two local wells that have been inoperable for the past 10 years. It took 10 years for us to put a man on the moon; there is no good excuse why it should take 10 years to repair a well. Supposedly, Golden State has an army of people to fix problems. Well, maybe something came up in Calipatria and they just didn’t get around to it.
Today, if the city were to try to implement a water reclamation project, they would be sued by Golden State because they believe only they have the right to supply recycled water. We know this because they are now threatening to sue the Colleges over a proposed water reclamation project. Wouldn’t it be better to work with the Colleges rather than against?
If we own the system, we can control the outcome of these issues and we can be like more than 75 percent of California and have publicly-owned water. Ultimately, these things would bring down the price of water and reduce our water bills.
There is a lot of debate over acquisition costs and the impact it will have on rates, but consider what you can expect staying with Golden State given their history of requesting sky-high rate increases: 21 percent in 2011 and 33 percent in 2009.
Ten years ago, the city considered water acquisition but stopped short. Apparently, this also occurred sometime in the 1990s and even decades before that but the city never went through with it, most likely for the same reasons we’re debating now.
Looking back on it, had we acquired the water system at any of those previous points in time, we would be far better off today. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past and continue to pass this burden on. Vote yes on Measure W.
Tired of self-serving ‘facts’
My name is Marilee Scaff. I’ve lived in Claremont since 1947. My children and grandchildren attended Claremont schools. I’ve served on the school board and taught at El Roble. Yes, I have a PhD from Claremont Graduate University. And I’ve studied and advocated for buying our Claremont water service for ten long years.
But I am tired of all the pussy-footing around Golden State’s irresponsible claims, self-serving “facts” and outright lies. Their officers refuse to order an appraisal by an accredited, certified appraiser to compare with the $55 million of the city’s official appraisal.
Then Golden?State publishes a hypothetical “cost” of $222 million, a sly appraisal based on complete replacement of the whole water system! Their $1.9 million and $1.4 million per year executives lie low and contract with an extravagant PR firm in Sacramento to generate more than a million dollars of expensive ads and mailers to confuse the voters—all paid for by us as ratepayers.
Now, sweet-voiced “surveyors” in Pennsylvania call dozens of Claremonters, ostensibly to ask if they will vote, and do they know about Measure W, then move on with “pseudo facts” such as, “Dr. so-and-so who has a PhD in economics says it will cost you increased taxes of $1200 a year. Do you still favor paying $135 million, that the city asks for the water company?” Lies, lies. Doing this will bring no new taxes. The city has never expected to pay $135 million, has never said it will cost you $100 a month, and has transparently published its acquisition study. But Golden State Water eschews any effort at accuracy.
There is one clear message: opponents of Measure W are well-paid from only one source—Golden State Water. All those shills who promote their cause are financed by Golden State. They say they just don’t know where the money comes from. Well, we know. Golden State is loading their expense account, adding their PUC-approved 8.8 percent profit at our expense! We pay for all those false ads against our will.
We want no more of Golden State and its greed. We want a locally-owned water company, with rates set in plain view of our citizens, paying only for the cost of supplying Claremont water customers. We will be grateful to our neighbors in the city of La Verne, which has successfully run their own water company for a hundred years and kept their rates far lower than ours—for helping set up our company. We will willingly pay for revenue bonds, at present-day low interest rates. We will save more storm water and increase the yield of our aquifer. We’ll proudly tell our children, “Look what we did for you! We won your freedom from Golden State. You will now own your own water system.”
Literally more than a thousand responsible citizens have already signed up in support of this effort. The Chamber of Commerce, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, the Claremont COURIER, the League of Women Voters, Sustainable Claremont, the Interfaith Sustainability Council, Republicans, Democrats and people all between have signed up and posted signs and walked house-to-house to tell you, “Vote yes on Measure W. We can do this, fellow Claremonters. We can and will do it. Join the FLOW! Be proud of owning your own future.”