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Readers comments 11-3-17

Water debacle

Dear Editor:

Merrill Ring misrepresented my position on the water takeover when he claimed that money is all that counts for me. Over the years, as well as in my most recent letter, I raised a number of non-monetary issues that should have been addressed by the city prior to pursuing a takeover.

Mr. Ring cites the $10 million cost of this lost endeavor, which is hardly trivial, regardless of the final result—especially when viewed in light of our 36,000 population or the 6,116 voters that supported Measure W (the overwhelming 71 percent mandate that the city and others frequently tout). In my view, had the city won its appeal, the financial damage would have grown far worse.

Mr. Ring claims that lower rates were only a “peripheral matter,” yet it was the major factor in obtaining voter approval of Measure W, as the city claimed that existing water rates could support an acquisition price up to $80 million, while arguing that its $55 million offer to buy the water system was reasonable.

Had any non-monetary issues been raised, his claim might be more plausible but, in my 37 years in Claremont, Golden State has always provided safe and reliable water service, as well as good customer service. So what exactly does Mr. Ring think could have been achieved with gaining control over this “essential resource?”

The city has no expertise in running a water system, and could hardly be expected to properly manage a third party operator or the infrastructure. The city demanded more reliance on cheap local groundwater, yet never explained how that could be accomplished. The $55 million offer did not include the purchase of water rights, and the local groundwater is pumped from an adjudicated basin (i.e., the courts have limited how much water each pumper can legally withdraw). Sadly, our politicians postured themselves as consumer advocates but provided no evidence in support.

Control is only desirable when it is expected to lead to positive change. The public discussion should have focused on how the water system was to be operated if the city gained control, and how our water service would be made safer or more reliable than currently experienced. Unfortunately, for the take-over proponents, it was simply about politics and money.

I take no pleasure in the predictable outcome of this “debacle.” Had we been less emotional and more objective in our decision making, this all could have been avoided.

Dan Dell’Osa

Claremont

 

What happened?

Dear Editor:

I waited a couple of weeks for the news of the $5-plus million settlement of the eminent domain lawsuit attempt to take over the Golden State Water operations here in Claremont to settle in before commenting. 

I was hoping, it appears in vain, that the council would make some sort of enlightening statement.

According to some calculations the total bill to Claremont citizens for the takeover attempt is somewhere north of $11 million. For a small town like ours that’s real money. One’s mind wanders to think of on what positive things that money could have been spent.

If the concern was higher water rates, we would have been better off to hire a first-class lobbyist to press our case at the CPUC than to spend money on what turned out to be a virtual total legal loss. A half million or even a million dollars for competent representation at the CPUC would likely have gotten Claremont a better return than the ill-fated takeover attempt.

The terms of the settlement appear to rule out another attempt at takeover (or at least the need to pay Golden State for that opportunity is high enough to be quite a discouragement). I wonder if that implies the city will also have to refrain from protesting Golden State’s water rate increase requests at the CPUC?

On the other hand, as those in authority in Claremont point out, 71 percent of those voting on Measure W to finance the takeover were enthusiastically in favor of going to the mat. I’d argue that doesn’t excuse the council members’ unanimous vote for the resolution of necessity for the eminent domain lawsuit. 

Someplace between being righteously indignant over what apparently most Claremont voters saw as unjustifiably high water rates and the passion for “local control,” and whether the city had a solid basis for the legal eminent domain case was the council’s judgment.

On October 11, the COURIER reported Mayor Larry Schroeder’s comment on the matter was that “Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong and sometimes when you get in these situations where it’s a sterile environment like court, it’s not always as easy as it would seem at first hand.”

I’d say it’s less the “sterile environment” than the requirement in court that one prove one’s case that was Claremont’s problem. Before signing up for litigation, I would have hoped that one or more of the council members would have pressed harder than they did on whether there was a sound legal case for takeover.

For example, did the city council ask for a second legal opinion beyond that of Best, Best and Krieger? The people of Claremont (even those who voted in favor of Measure W) should want and certainly deserve a better accounting of why the council’s judgment was so far off base. 

Mayor Schroeder’s “Sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong” isn’t good enough. Perhaps the COURIER could write a reflection on the steps that led to city’s loss in the lawsuit.

Michael Hertel

Claremont

 

Coach Vince Lombardi, thank you!

Dear Editor:

In my final high school years, a young just-out-of-college coach led us to state football and basketball championships, before he moved on to even greater fame.

He taught me, indirectly, the necessity and art of hitchhiking. Our fall and winter practices often ended after darkness had descended.

We had no cars or parents to pick us up, gas rationing was in effect, and it took three different buses and much waiting to get me home. So I hitchhiked. I did some of that in the military and later during college years, but that was the conclusion of my hitchhiking career—or so I thought.

I am presently 90 years of age. Very recently a bus failed to stop at Pilgrim Place to take some of us elders shopping up on Foothill Boulevard.

Folks left but I suddenly felt a strange vibe—a spiritual or psychological sort of impulse. And suddenly my astonished right thumb was pointing toward Foothill! The very first car stopped and the driver welcomed me aboard!

He exclaimed he had never seen anyone hitchhiking on Berkeley Avenue. Nor had I. He told me about the pressures his son faced at CHS, preparing for college. I told him about my grandson in the Bay Area experiencing the very same kind of challenges. I was sorry to say “goodbye” to such a good neighbor. I hope to meet him, and the family, at the annual Pilgrim Place Festival.

After shopping I felt exhausted and concluded I could not walk home, even downhill. I put up my thumb, as before. The third car stopped. Now wasn’t that was a grand finale to my hitchhiking career!

Jim Lamb

Claremont

 

Manfred’s error

Dear Editor:

In the third game of this year’s World Series, Houston Astros player Yuli Gurriel hit a solo home run off Dodger pitcher Yu Darvish. After rounding the bases and celebrating with his team mates, Gurriel pulled the sides of his eyes mocking Darvish’s Japanese ancestry and mouthed the racist characterization of Darvish as “chinito.”

In response, Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred said an immediate suspension of Gurriel would have “hurt the other Astros players” in an unfair way in the middle of the World Series, so he delayed Gurriel’s five-game punishment until the start of the 2018 season. Manfred misses the larger point that the racist gesture made by Gurriel is not only about one act by a thoughtless player, but a defining moment (even a teaching moment?) for all of baseball, America and the world. Manfred’s job is not to make every moment fair for every baseball player or team, but to protect the game and the larger interests beyond today’s teams and today’s players. Is baseball going to tolerate racist gestures, racist comments and then finesse the punishment so it really isn’t a punishment? Apparently so.

Intent matters. Do something stupid to hurt baseball and more? Pay the penalty. In full. Now. Manfred let Gurriel off the hook.  Disgraceful.

Peter L. Coye

Claremont

 

Water debacle

Dear Editor:

Merrill Ring misrepresented my position on the water takeover when he claimed that money is all that counts for me. Over the years, as well as in my most recent letter, I raised a number of non-monetary issues that should have been addressed by the city prior to pursuing a takeover.

Mr. Ring cites the $10 million cost of this lost endeavor, which is hardly trivial, regardless of the final result—especially when viewed in light of our 36,000 population or the 6,116 voters that supported Measure W (the overwhelming 71 percent mandate that the city and others frequently tout). In my view, had the city won its appeal, the financial damage would have grown far worse.

Mr. Ring claims that lower rates were only a “peripheral matter,” yet it was the major factor in obtaining voter approval of Measure W, as the city claimed that existing water rates could support an acquisition price up to $80 million, while arguing that its $55 million offer to buy the water system was reasonable.

Had any non-monetary issues been raised, his claim might be more plausible but, in my 37 years in Claremont, Golden State has always provided safe and reliable water service, as well as good customer service. So what exactly does Mr. Ring think could have been achieved with gaining control over this “essential resource?”

The city has no expertise in running a water system, and could hardly be expected to properly manage a third party operator or the infrastructure. The city demanded more reliance on cheap local groundwater, yet never explained how that could be accomplished. The $55 million offer did not include the purchase of water rights, and the local groundwater is pumped from an adjudicated basin (i.e., the courts have limited how much water each pumper can legally withdraw). Sadly, our politicians postured themselves as consumer advocates but provided no evidence in support.

Control is only desirable when it is expected to lead to positive change. The public discussion should have focused on how the water system was to be operated if the city gained control, and how our water service would be made safer or more reliable than currently experienced. Unfortunately, for the take-over proponents, it was simply about politics and money.

I take no pleasure in the predictable outcome of this “debacle.” Had we been less emotional and more objective in our decision making, this all could have been avoided.

Dan Dell’Osa

Claremont

 

 

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