Reasons for joining the fight (September 1, 2015)

My name is Greg Raven, and I’m a resident of Apple Valley. I hope you’ll allow me to read from my notes here, as I really don’t enjoy public speaking, so I’m apt to digress and get carried away if I extemporize.

First off, thanks, Tamara, for putting this all together for us. I know she had plenty of things going on in her life before this issue came up, so I’m grateful for everything she does to promote our viewpoint, and try to preserve the American way of life.

Second, thanks to each of you for coming out to learn more about this matter. I know what an imposition it can be.

When I decided to get involved in opposing the Town of Apple Valley’s hostile takeover of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, I didn’t know anybody, nor any of the background. I’d sit at home in the morning and fulminate about what the Town was doing on general principles, write letters to the editor, post things on Facebook and Twitter, and just try to get the word out to people about what I saw was going on. Then I met Tamara. Let me tell you, if I knew everything about the water situation up here that she knows, I think my head would explode. Although she and I agree that we must oppose the Town just on ideological grounds, she also knows where all the bodies are buried, and who buried them, so she’s a tremendous resource for all of us. I felt very honored that she asked me to join her citizens’ group, and I’ve already learned a lot from her.

Like I said, I got involved because I know that government never does anything as well as the private sector, which made me suspicious from the start. What really got me motivated, though, was the Town’s approach to this. I soon realized that virtually everything the Town said about what it was doing, or what it said about what Ranchos was doing, or what it said about what it was going to do in the future, involved some form of falsehood. I quickly also realized that instead of providing positive leadership, the Town was fomenting hatred toward Ranchos, and trying to instill fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the residents of Apple Valley. In other words, this is not a good-faith proposition. The Town wants Ranchos and is willing and ready to do anything in its power to seize control of it.

There’s a famous saying that In war, truth is the first casualty. So when I saw the way the Town was dealing with the water issue in Apple Valley, I knew they had declared war on Ranchos, regardless of its pious claims to be merely studying the possibility of making an offer to purchase Ranchos. For one thing, Ranchos was not and is not for sale.

If you’re new to this issue, your first question is likely to be, What the heck is going on?

The answer is simple: This isn’t about water; this is about money.

In 1988 when the Town incorporated, it could have purchased the water company for $2.5 million. It didn’t because the water system needed a lot of work. Well guess what? Apple Valley Ranchos was willing to make that investment and do that work.

In 2006, the Town commissioned a study on taking over Ranchos. The report came back that it would take $97 million to buy Ranchos, plus whatever upgrades and repairs were needed. The Town declined because it was too much money. Well guess what? Apple Valley Ranchos was willing to make that investment and do that work.

Five years later in 2011, the Town commissioned yet another study on taking over Ranchos. This time, the price tag was $121 million plus ups and extras. The Town declined because it was too much money. Well guess what? Apple Valley Ranchos was willing to make that investment and do that work.

This year, the Town dispensed with the study and had an outside firm spit-ball a value for buying Ranchos — which, remember, is not for sale. That valuation came out to $45 million, although there was an $80 million dollar error in its calculations. A local retiree caught one of the errors, so the Town upped its valuation to $50 million, which somehow was less than half of the previous valuation, and about one-third of the actual value of Ranchos.

But what the Town says Ranchos is worth doesn’t matter, for two reasons. First, the final value — if a court condemns Ranchos through eminent domain — will be set by the court. Second, the Town doesn’t care how much that valuation is, as long as it can get a loan, because it’s not going to be paying the debt on the loan, you and I as residents of Apple Valley are on the hook for that. What the Town gets out of it is the income. So, we get the debt, they get the money. It’s a sweet deal … for them.

Even better for them, if the system needs upgrades or repairs, they can just raise taxes, or raise rates, or get another loan, so we again get stuck with the paying more, and they get the income. And remember, government never does anything as efficiently as the private sector. If it turns out the Town is inefficient, wasteful, or just corrupt, we residents still get to pay, and they still get the income.

That’s why, even though the Town wants everyone to be all riled up about water rates, it’s not going to be lowering rates if it takes over Ranchos. That’s because this isn’t about water; it’s about money.

This becomes abundantly obvious when you read the Town’s own documents. It doesn’t know what it’s buying. It doesn’t know what it’s going to pay. It doesn’t know where the money is coming from. It doesn’t know how it’s going to run the system. It doesn’t even know who is going to run the system. Yet it’s willing to gamble our entire water system and way of life on the chance that it might get more money.

Let’s be clear: If the Town can seize Ranchos to get income, on whatever pretext, every other profitable business in Apple Valley is in danger. If you have a business in Apple Valley or know someone who does, think about what you would do if the Town decided to spend your tax dollars to disparage that business and demonize those employees, en route ultimately to seizing that business for its own selfish purposes.

The old joke is that in a bacon-and-egg breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. If you live in Apple Valley, you are more than just involved. The Town has committed you, and if it is successful, it will be getting its pound of flesh from you.

I know Tamara is going to talk more about this in a minute, but I would urge each of you to try to contact as many people as you can to help us oppose the Town’s actions. It’s great if you want to attend a Town Council meeting and address the council members, but it’s also great if you talk with your neighbors about it. If you use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, post your opposition there. Council members have e-mail addresses, and even though they almost never respond, you can express yourself to them that way. The Victorville Daily Press has even been known to run letters to the editor opposing the Town, so that’s another avenue. If we’re going to stop this thing, we need you to join the fight.

And if at any time you have questions about the process or the facts, you can reach out to Tamara or me. The Citizens for Government Accountability has a great website with the latest news, and I have my own separate website with a lot of the historical documents and some commentary that’s not fit for publication in the newspaper, so we have a lot of resources that are at your disposal 24/7.

With that, I’d like to thank you for your attention, and turn it back over to Tamara for some closing remarks before we get to the question-and-answer period.

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