Readers comments 3-14-14
Golden State’s full mission
The article by John Neiuber was a fascinating look back. Reading the acknowledgements, I was pleased to learn Frank Wheeler’s scrapbooks are available online, and I was reminded again of Judy Wright’s passion for research about the town she loved.
“The Citizens Light and Power Company” is a great example of the kind of innocent optimism many Americans felt in the early 20th century. I’d like to know more—what led the citizens of Claremont to sell their water company in 1929?
But I found myself questioning the author’s edit of the American States Water Company’s mission statement toward the end of the article. I looked it up on the water company’s website while researching the current debate about Claremont acquiring its own water company. Here it is, in its entirety: “American States Water Company is committed to maximizing shareholder value through a combination of capital appreciation and cash dividends. Our mission will be accomplished by exceeding customer expectations, conserving resources, minimizing life-cycle costs, developing and empowering our workforce, and leveraging diversity among our employees and vendors to deliver superior financial performance for our shareholders.”
The mission statement is a bit wordy and uses jargon, but the goals Mr. Neiuber leaves out do address “people and the quality of life.” One can argue that goals other than “delivering a superior financial performance” are not being met by the company. One can also question the sincerity of those stated goals, but that would open up a whole different and negative discussion about both sides involved in this debate. Omitting those other goals, however, is cherry picking, and weakens the author’s argument in favor of the city owning its own water company again.
Will America survive Obama?
Every Friday a group of citizens gather at the corner of Arrow Highway and Indian Hill, carrying anti-war signs and flashing the old “Peace” sign to horn-honking motorists. Seven and eight years ago, many of their signs read “Bush Lied.”
Now when I pass, I always wonder why the signs do not now include “Obama Lied.” He did promise to get us out of “Bush’s War,” didn’t he? But then, every speech Obama makes is so filled with lies that perhaps they have come to simply overlook his sociopathic dishonesty.
These sign-carrying citizens, whose hearts are genuinely in the right place, may be oblivious to the dangerous dance the Obamamateur and his clowns are doing with the conniving and savvy leaders of countries that are sworn enemies of the free world and, particularly, America.
These patriotic citizens abhor war, and rightly so, but they do not seem to recognize that the foreign policies of the Peace Prize winner and his administration and the weakness they have shown to the world are certain to get us and our allies into a major conflict that very realistically could involve nuclear weapons.
The president’s Chicago community organizer skills fail to impress the leaders of foreign countries. This is particularly the case with the government of Iran, who continues to bamboozle Obama and John Kerry into believing they are going to stop the development of nuclear weapons.
It is certainly the case with Russia, where Vladimir Putin just grins and toys with Obama. The bold invasion of Ukraine is the latest example of how impotent Putin knows Obama is. The community organizer is no match for the ex-KGB officer. The boy in North Korea and the Chinese who own us taunt us. The most dangerous countries of the world build their military power while Obama dismantles ours.
Will the free world survive the remainder of Obama’s term without a major military incident? Will America elect a real leader in 2016, one who recognizes that the way to peace is to, once again, become the world’s superpower? How long will it take to un-do the damage done by this administration, both domestically and internationally, after Obama is gone? Is this even possible? I fear for the future of our children.
Don’t gamble on Claremont’s future
We are fast approaching the point of no return on Claremont’s plan to acquire the water system. At a public meeting on March 25, the city council will consider a “Resolution of Necessity” which, if passed, will trigger a six-month deadline to file an eminent domain lawsuit. We can no longer afford to deal in abstract generalities. It is time to look at the numbers.
By far, the most important one is the price Claremont will have to pay for the system. According to the city’s projections, at $55 million we can cover the financing costs and lower our water bills by 15 percent within five years. But at an $80 million price tag, it will take six years to start saving money; at $100 million, 18 years; and at $120 million, more than 30 years.
Even $55 million may not be good enough, as the city’s projections are based on some unrealistically optimistic assumptions—such as using a coverage ratio (a margin of safety for the repayment of debt) below the industry standard. That difference alone is sufficient to make the deal unprofitable at any price.
Unfortunately, the city has no ability to accurately predict, much less control, the factors that will determine the ultimate success of the acquisition. City staff candidly admits that an eminent domain jury may set the value of the system anywhere between $55 million and $200 million. As an example of how uncertain such verdicts can be, several years ago the Metropolitan Water District offered $7 million to buy a Riverside county farmer’s land for use as a reservoir; the jury awarded him $43 million.
As to the notion of “local control,” we will have less than you might think. The water supply—our local groundwater rights and outside purchases—will remain under the governance of regional agencies. La Verne will run the system for us. Claremont will have the right to set rates but, as a practical matter, hey will be predetermined by our contractual obligations to the operators, bondholders and water suppliers.
Finally, we should understand what will happen if the jury sets a price that is too high to make the deal profitable for anyone but the lawyers, which is certainly any price north of $80 million. At that point, the council will have to decide to either go ahead and buy the system anyway, or turn it down and write a multi-million-dollar check to cover Golden State’s expenses.
By now it should be obvious that this acquisition plan is quite literally a gamble, in the casino sense of the word. The city council intends to place a bet that a jury will select the lowest possible price. If we win that bet, our water rates will still be 40 percent higher than La Verne’s, according to the city’s own projections. If we lose, it will cost us several million dollars just to walk away from the table—and we will have to pass a special tax to do so, because we don’t have that kind of money in the bank.
However frustrated we may be by the high cost of water, the citizens of Claremont cannot afford to spend millions of dollars on a plan that will at best barely make a dent in the rates, and may well permanently increase them. The risks are too high, the rewards too low, and the cost of failure too catastrophic for any responsible city council to make that kind of wager. Let’s put this well-intentioned but badly-flawed scheme behind us, and move on to more sensible alternatives.
She was counted; many girls aren’t
My daughter was incredibly fortunate to be born in the United States. Growing up here meant a chance to pursue her ambitions for quality education and a good job. It is where she received a birth certificate—something I’ve recently come to appreciate as the first step in so many of these opportunities. Yet far too many girls around the world are not as lucky. In many countries girls are almost invisible—they don’t have birth certificates, or access to education and have little hope for the future.
Every year on March 8, people around the globe—from Claremont to Caracas—come together to celebrate the incredible achievements of girls and women and, most importantly, speak up for their rights regardless of where they’re from. This International Women’s Week, I want girls around the globe to be counted.
Millions of girls around the world today are being fundamentally overlooked in their communities because they are denied the opportunity to be registered at birth. For many, this is yet another barrier—on top of widespread challenges like child marriage, physical violence, human trafficking and limited educational and economic opportunities—preventing them from reaching their full potential.
Living in the year 2014 in a forward-thinking place like Claremont, it’s seemingly impossible to imagine not having a birth certificate, or all the things it allows: a drivers’ license; a voice in an election; the simple ability to get on a plane.
Yet that’s what millions of girls and women live with every single day. In many parts of the world, girls are growing up without any opportunity to obtain an education or a job, buy their own land or start their own businesses. They aren’t able to vote. They are literally invisible members of society.
Considering that approximately one person out of 12 worldwide is a girl or young woman between the ages of 10 and 24, the lack of documentation for one of the fastest-growing segments of the population in developing countries is truly a global issue. Here’s why: Girls’ and women’s health and welfare is fundamental to creating and maintaining strong economies and communities. So when a society handicaps girls at birth by failing to acknowledge their very existence, they are holding back entire nations from their potential.
For all these reasons, this International Women’s Week is an ideal time to urge our representative in congress, Judy Chu, to do something, and throw her support behind the Girls Count Act of 2013.
This new legislation aims to tackle the issue head-on. It encourages countries to enact laws that ensure girls and boys of all ages are full participants in society, including promoting birth certifications or some type of national identity card. It also urges the US government to work with partners like the United Nations, which can help countries facilitate data collection and even establish identification laws to ensure girls are active participants in the social, economic, legal and political sectors of their societies.
We can’t celebrate women without celebrating girls. This International Women’s Week, let’s make sure they count.
Mel Boynton, President
Pomona Valley United Nations
Association of the USA