VIEWPOINT: Time to acquire the water system
Former Claremont council members express support
The issue of whether Claremont should establish a municipal water system has been discussed, studied and evaluated for more than 20 years. Today, we former Claremont council members stand in support of the residents calling for the acquisition of the Claremont water system, and ask the community to support the water revenue bond on the November 4 ballot.
As an investor-owned company, Golden State Water (GSW) has historically paid its stockholders dividends and offset water system infrastructure taxes on the backs of Claremont ratepayers. In short, Claremont’s water has been monetized for profit.
The result has been skyrocketing rates—much higher than our municipal neighbors—with absolutely no local accountability.
The time has come to secure rate fairness and guarantee that every decision made regarding water rates in Claremont is made locally and in full view of the public.
Given past practices by GSW, it is clear they have failed to respond to the community’s rate concerns and have instead blatantly leveraged our water as a money-making enterprise.
In 2011, Claremont residents began actively fighting GSW’s increases. Hundreds of community members, led by Hal Hargrave and Randy Scott, banded together to create Claremont Outrage—a group whose sole purpose is to combat water rate hikes. Since then, city and PUC hearings to gather testimony about exorbitant water bills have been known to attract more than 700 residents.
But even with this community-wide outrage, GSW has continued to raise rates. In 2013, GSW got the PUC to approve a 16 percent rate increase. And, even as the community is discussing acquisition as a last resort, GSW is looking for additional increases.
A “yes” vote on the water revenue bond, which will be on the November 4 ballot, will provide a financing mechanism for the acquisition of the water system, allowing it to be locally owned.
The city’s expert team has determined that the system’s existing revenue can support a purchase price up to $80 million. While the city is battling to keep the purchase cost low, the ballot measure would ask voters to approve $55 million to be used only if a judge determines that the purchase price exceeds $80 million.
Will this acquisition immediately drop water rates? Probably not. Like any bond measure, the purchase cost is an investment that must be covered. But by establishing a municipal water system, our water will be entirely owned by the community, with decisions about rates made under the public scrutiny of open meetings, and without GSW’s dividend or WRAM fees.
It should also be noted that the city has developed a cooperative agreement with the city of La Verne, an established municipal water purveyor, which is posted on the city’s website. If the water bond passes, this agreement would lay the groundwork for a service implementation plan that will ensure the transition from GSW to a Claremont municipal system is seamless.
Having had the privilege to serve the residents of Claremont, we understand firsthand the many issues that are involved with the acquisition of Claremont’s water system. We are clear: owning our own water system will not only benefit today’s residents, but also future generations.
Indeed the time has come for Claremont to acquire the water system.
Richard Newton Diann Ring
Karen Rosenthal Suzan Smith
Sandy Baldonado Paul Held
Ellen Taylor Peter Yao
Claremont mayors, retired
Frank Hungerford Gene Block
Claremont councilmembers, retired