TOAV declares war on AVRWC (April 29, 2015)

Back on March 15th, I wrote that one might deduce that TOAV was at war with AVRWC because, In war, truth is the first casualty.

We no longer have to deduce anything: TOAV has declared war.

After a highly scripted special meeting last night (Tuesday, April 28th), three council members (Nassif, Stanton, and Bishop) voted to direct TOAV staff to continue efforts to buy AVRWC (Cusack abstaining; Emick not present). When Brian Ketcheson of Liberty Utilities attempted to remind TOAV that AVRWC was not for sale, they refused to let him be heard, and he was threatened with removal from the meeting.

Although the special meeting was billed as a discussion about what course TOAV should take in this matter, it was clear from the beginning that the decision had already been made — perhaps months ago — and that this meeting was just a fig leaf to conceal TOAV’s behind-the-scenes choreography. This gave the lie to TOAV claim that with them in charge of the water, citizens will be able to flex their power in the form of local control.

The first 90 minutes of the meeting saw TOAV representatives employing a combination tactic of repeating many of the same lies and half-truths about their hostile takeover as they have for months while applying layer after layer of detail apparently designed to cover the fact that they are ignoring or covering up as many salient facts as possible.

The next 90 minutes of the meeting were for public comment, and some used the allotted three minutes to ask questions. I counted 24 speakers, with eleven for the takeover, eleven against, and two with no real input. By in large, the foes of the takeover addressed the issue that the government should not be taking over a private company, as well as raising technical and fiscal issues that loom large. On the other hand, supporters of the takeover often cited a personal beef they had with AVRWC, which is not to say that AVRWC is perfect, or that the problems were not real. But input of this type is one of the logical fallacies, where one uses a specific instance to jump to a general conclusion. It also ignores the very real possibility that things could be much worse under TOAV.

The final hour saw answers from TOAV — a first in my experience — but here again, TOAV finessed the tough questions by ignoring them and dealing with other issues.

For me, the most astonishing moment of the evening was when Town attorney John Brown of BB&K confirmed that the self-appointed experts at TOAV believed that they could force the sale of 450 miles of water lines, all the other infrastructure, and 13,600 acre-feet of water for $45.54 million — and he did it with a straight face. This single utterance, in my opinion, disqualifies TOAV from any pretense of knowing what it is talking about when it comes to running a water utility. There were plenty of other jaw-dropping statements from TOAV, though, which I hope to get into as soon as the Town’s presentation is made available on-line.

This mendacity and deception were, unfortunately, part and parcel of the special meeting, which from inception was not (as billed) an invitation to discuss the issues, but rather a proclamation from on high that this is what TOAV is doing, regardless of citizen input to the contrary. How else do you explain the fact that TOAV did not release the information presented at this meeting ahead of time so that members of the community could examine it? It’s tough to formulate questions about subject matter you have yet to review, but of course, TOAV knows this. They can say they presented all the information, which is technically true, and they can say they allow community comment, which is also technically true. But it’s factually meaningless because they seem to have no intention of actually discussing the issues, which does not bode well for the type of service citizens will receive if ever community control comes to pass.

Greg Raven is Co-Chair of Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, and is concerned about quality of life issues.