Readers comments 9-12-14
A competitive water market in Claremont?
Robert Traer’s letter in the September 5 edition of the COURIER got me thinking. Rather than purchasing the existing water system via eminent domain from Golden State Water, would it be possible to instead create a competitor to Golden State Water in the city of Claremont?
As a significant percentage of water consumed in this city (or any city, for that matter) is used for irrigation purposes, building a reclaimed water system to meet Claremont’s irrigation needs would go a long way towards controlling our own destiny in terms of the future cost and supply of water.
Aside from the environmental benefits of using our water resources more wisely, pursuing the installation and operation of a city-owned reclaimed water system would significantly reduce Golden State’s business in the city of Claremont over the longterm. As the company would be left to provide just the potable water needs of the city’s residents, the value of Golden State’s water system in Claremont would fall dramatically, and make it a less attractive asset for the company to continue operating. It might even motivate the company to want to sell the system voluntarily at some point.
I have no idea if this is even remotely possible given existing regulatory and/or contractual constraints, or what such an endeavor would cost, but it would be interesting to know if this is a potential alternative to an acquisition of the water system via eminent domain before the citizens of Claremont vote on the upcoming water bond measure.
Vote yes on Measure W
For the last 75 years, Claremont has had several opportunities to purchase the water system from Golden State Water Company. This has not happened. The time is now!
We cannot afford to wait any longer. Claremont’s water rates are considerably higher than that of surrounding cities, approximately $50 per month more than it would be under La Verne rates. Little, if any, improvements have been made to the water infrastructure. Water rates have continued to rise on a regular basis with little or no benefit to us. However, salaries of Golden State executives have escalated.
Citizens of Claremont believe that the water district exists for the people, not for profit to the water company executives and stockholders. This time is overdue for Claremont to purchase the water company. Please join us and vote “yes” on the Claremont water bond issue on the November ballot.
Jim and Mary Jane Merrill
Clarification from Ojai FLOW
We at Ojai FLOW recently became aware of Mr. Jim Belna’s letter to the COURIER from September 5. His assertions about why Ojai didn’t opt to use revenue bonds are misleading. It had nothing to do with timing or taxes, but was rather a simple matter of cost due to our unique circumstances.
Ojai FLOW’s original analysis did propose the use of revenue bonds (as Claremont is currently proposing) because it is a more equitable distribution of the bond costs; e.g., the city of Ojai and Ojai Unified School District would pay their fair share. That penciled-out analysis proved to the Casitas Municipal Water District that Ojai ratepayers could buy their local Golden State Water Company operations with the savings derived from using Casitas’ water rates. That’s why Casitas took on the issue for Ojai’s Golden State ratepayers.
Mr. Belna is correct about one thing, though not for the reasons he states. The Casitas Municipal Water District did decide to not use revenue bonds to finance its water system purchase. However, this does not indicate a problem with revenue bonds. Revenue bonds are an excellent financing tool, which is precisely why we originally intended to use them. However, because our bonds are not backed by a city, the use of Mello Roos bonds turned out to be more advantageous for Ojai rate payers.
Claremont’s circumstances are quite different. Since the city of Claremont would be backing your revenue bonds, we fully expect that they would be the most economical and the fairest financing method for all the ratepayers.
I’d also like to refute another point made by Mr. Belna in his letter. He said, “There is not a single example of a California city that has successfully consummated a hostile takeover of a water utility.” To the contrary, Felton, California, with the help of its San Lorenzo Water District, successfully bought out their for-profit water company a few years back. And in Ojai, 87 percent of the voting ratepayers voted last August in favor of buying out the Golden State Water Company’s operations in Ojai.
You might also be interested to learn that we have personally discussed water issues with Mr. Belna. His arguments (pun intended) don’t hold water. Our impression of those discussions is that he was not receptive to new facts that we brought forward. We believe he is, for reasons unknown to us, simply opposed to the city’s purchase of your water system.
Ojai’s ballot measure can be found on www.ojaiflow.com under the tab “Reference.” Look for Measure V.
Chair, Ojai FLOW
Steering Committee Member
Forms of communication
You know, I’ve heard a rumor about a method of communication that can be use to voice personal opinions about a subject directly to the source. It can be ignored or passed around as that source sees fit—saved or discarded—but not made a part of an historical record, perhaps. It also can be kept in confidence, if that is what the communicators are interested in. It’s called a letter or a postcard.
It’s personally written and sent to a specific place or person, who is not obliged to share it. As a matter of fact even if there is no expectation of passing the message on, the act of putting the message on paper may be its own purpose.
In the case of a newspaper, such “letters to the editor” are sent specifically to share. In the case of a company or a friend, these missives may not be meant to share. They may be personal—anyone remember that concept? Could you substitute the words “exclusive” or “private”?
There’s even a machine available to help the process—a privacy machine on both ends called a typewriter.
We’re done with Golden State
Golden State Water just sent out a notice about its current rate increase request, telling us that some customers will actually see a decrease in their water bills. They say an average residential customer with a 5/8-by-3/4” meter using 15ccf per month would see a monthly decrease in the princely sum of 72 cents during the first year.
Of course, since many residences have one-inch meters and the average use in Claremont is about 21ccf (from Golden State’s website), it doesn’t seem likely many people would benefit from this tiny decrease, which would in any case only be for one year.
And, of course, they are asking for increases on other charges and have added another rate tier (and lowered the usages where you pay a higher rate) so that their profits don’t go down.
So why, for the first time in many years, isn’t Golden State asking the CPUC to approve a double-digit increase in Claremont water rates? I suspect they hope this will make us believe that they are turning over a new leaf and listening to us, so there is no need for us to proceed with purchasing the water system. Sensible people, however, clearly see that if we don’t gain control of the water system now, it will once again and forever be “business as usual” with double-digit increase requests every three years.
Golden State Water Company, it is too little, too late. You’ve had plenty of chances to work with Claremont residents and refused them all. We’d like you gone.
Local chef at the Fair
Great article on the LA County Fair! Each year, I can’t wait for the sounds, fun and great smells of deep-fried goodness as they take over the fairgrounds. It’s something our family looks forwards to every year.
One thing that was left out of the article was one of our own community members. Chef Leslie of Claremont Chefs Academy will be offering free cooking demonstrations every day at the fair for the sixth year in a row. Be sure to stop by under the grandstands and see what she’s cooking up this year!
In November, Claremont will vote on Measure W to authorize the city to issue up to $135 million in water revenue bonds to acquire the local water system. The outcome will powerfully affect our future. Voters need to know the facts. Unfortunately, comments from Heather Williams (August 22, COURIER) mislead in several ways and readers may believe these are well-researched facts. They are not. For example:
“…the proceedings may last some years.” There is little water system precedent, but there is one. Felton, a California town of 6000, voted to fund eminent domain proceeding and acquisition of their water system. The water company settled before the case went to trial, in under three years from passage of the city’s bond.
“The city of Montclair, for example, tried to acquire its water system in the 1980s and failed.” That’s not so. Montclair has always been served by the Monte Vista Water District, a public agency with locally-elected directors. According to a person involved at the time, in the 1970s there was some interest on the city council for taking over the system, but not majority support and there was no action.
“Courts do not always agree there is an overriding public interest…” Where a water supply is at stake, it would be hard to conclude there is no public interest.
“Plaintiffs [here, that would be Golden State] get…what they estimate the property is worth and defendants pay…more than their highest estimation.” That may apply when peoples’ houses are condemned, but here the appraised value of $55 million is likely to powerfully influence the decision on the value of the system. (And Golden State is the defendant, not the plaintiff.)
“If the city allows, the system may cost $79 million…the jury may award $118.5 million…the new total, $143.5 million.” The appraised value is $55 million, not $79 million. An award of $118.5 million would not be expected.
“That’s $23,880 for each household to pay over the period of borrowing.” Even if the above extreme cost estimate were to apply, the savings on water bills that didn’t include GSW profits would cover most or all of the cost. This can be shown by comparison with water rates in neighboring cities. Why is this saving overlooked?
“Most importantly…the debt we incur…will constrain our ability to borrow for other things like schools…” According to experts in city finance, that is not so. These bonds will be paid with income from the water enterprise, a desirable low-risk investment for lenders. And the bond money cannot be used for other things.
“It would function like a huge new tax.” Again, savings are overlooked. Water bills that no longer include company profits will cover a debt payment of up to $80 million, according to conservative city estimates. Bond payments will take the place of current charges, not add to them.
“If all water users are assessed equally for that debt, the rates for the smallest and most careful water users would rise 200 percent or more.” Even if the entire $135 million in bonds were needed and the monthly bill had to increase by $28, as the city estimates, no bill would rise as much as 200 percent since the lowest meter charge alone is over $16. And, again, savings are not considered.
Both Heather Williams and Rodney Smith, PhDs with the Claremont Colleges, who hold professorial credentials in politics and economics, respectively, conclude in their publications that it would be foolish to buy the water system—but they don’t mention the well-known fact that water rates are lower in all our neighboring cities with municipal water systems, and these cities can be a model for Claremont. Why do they overlook facts, so obvious and important, that help make the case it does make sense to take over our water system?
At War with Peace
At War with Peace
This thunder of war is so loud, so deafening
And the melody of peace so tranquil and sweet
Could the noise be a plea for help or a submission of defeat?
War roars, rages and ravages
A need to be soothed by the balm of compassion and understanding
Guided with courage in the spirit of forgiveness
Let’s adorn the armour of faith and carry the shield of prayer
Go bravely where innocence is being mauled and fear explodes everywhere
Dear lord please silence the cries of pain with melodies of love
and hear our plea for the living water to douse the fire of hatred and mayhem
Let’s march forth with our heads held high and our egos surrendered to end the war with peace.
God bless America!