The gang that couldn’t lie straight (October 17, 2015)

I don’t know if that title makes sense, but when dealing with the latest outrageous collection of lies and errors from the gang running the Town of Apple Valley, it is difficult to know where to start. In four short paragraphs and one attached spreadsheet, the Town once again amply demonstrates why it is not to be trusted, let alone given control of our water system.

Although my goal in writing this piece is to respond comprehensively to DIdn’t [sic] I already read that?, which appears on the Town’s website, I fear I will inadvertently fail to address some aspect of the Town’s buffoonery, because there is so darned much of it to keep track of.

Keep in mind that the Town’s publishes tripe such as this because it is important information that the public deserves to know, while simultaneously maintaining that no decision has been reached about whether or not to seize Ranchos, which makes it legally inappropriate to engage in any public fora where residents might hear both sides of the issue.

Well, let’s get started.

The ‘repetition’ issue

The Town’s first complaint seems to be that letters to the editor of the Daily Press opposing the insane jihad against Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company seem to repetitive. I submit that if they actually read and understood those letters, they would see less repetition. However, some repetition is needed because the Town keeps telling the same lies over and over and over (talk about repetition!), and the water hogs who support the Town (despite the fact that the Town has said it will not be lowering water rates for at least 30 years!) keep believing what they think the Town is really saying. As long as the Town keeps promoting the fight it started, they need to expect that principled opposition is going to keep calling them out on their errors, misrepresentations, goof-ups, omissions, and lies. The Town Council — or should we refer to them as the Council of People’s Commissars? — could halt this whole thing in the blink of an eye by ceasing its attacks on Ranchos, although to end the thing once and for all they should also sell whatever water rights the Town still has (from the purchase of the Apple Valley Country Club) to Ranchos, and get out of the water business completely.

water hog
The bill for an egregious water hog … 169 CCF.

The ‘numbers’ issue

The Town narrative is specific in speaking to the numbers of letters published by the Daily Press, pro and con the hostile takeover. The Town tries to be helpful by providing a link to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that supposedly serves as the basis for the statements in the narrative. Instead, it reveals that the members of the Town staff who put together the narrative and spreadsheet are woefully under-equipped to deal with numbers.

We’ve seen this innumeracy time and time again in water issues, budget matters, transparency reports, etc. If it comes from the Town, and there are numbers involved, you are assured of finding errors — sometimes lots of them. Number stuff can be boring, so I apologize in advance for having to slog through this, but it must be done.

  1. The first claim is that there have been 98 letters published by the Daily Press that were supportive of AVR. The spreadsheet says 79. For some incompetent people, that would be enough, but the Town staff goes further.
  2. If you examine the spreadsheet, you’ll notice that it doesn’t add up all the letters the Town says it found! That’s right, the figure that should represent the total is actually 80, not 79.
  3. The Town’s narrative says that 50 of these letters have been written by the same small group of people. There is no support for this on the supplied spreadsheet; it is an unverifiable claim.
  4. The Town’s narrative says that I (Greg Raven) am the most frequent letter writer with 16 published letters. The spreadsheet says 14.
  5. The Town’s narrative says that David Mueller wrote ten of the published letters. The spreadsheet says eight.
  6. While the Town’s narrative deals with letters to the editor, the spreadsheet refers to op-ed pieces, apparently conflating letters to the editor with op-ed articles.
  7. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, wrote an op-ed piece for the Daily Press wisely urging caution if the Town moved forward with eminent domain proceedings against Ranchos. The Town (and others; see the next item below) took tremendous affront, attacking Coupal and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association as being in league with sinister forces, and corrupt to boot. Yet, Coupal’s name does not appear on the list.
  8. For some reason, the Town’s spreadsheet ignores the Apple Valley Review. One of the Town’s biggest supporters is Pat Orr, who writes a column for the Apple Valley Review, and he often finds some way of sneaking in some snarky comment or the other against Ranchos, or against Ranchos supporters, or just plain in favor of the Town. Yet, he’s not counted among those writing op-eds in favor. At least the Review still gets the Town’s money for placing pro-takeover advertisements. By strange coincidence, the Apple Valley Review publishes no letters to the editor, so Orr’s many op-ed pieces go unopposed.
  9. One of the leading members of the anti-Town cabal is Tamara Alaniz of the Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability. Yet, she isn’t credited with writing any letters to the editor. The Town is silent on what fiendish machinations might account for this aberrant behavior on her part.
  10. By focusing on the letters and op-ed pieces in the Daily Press, the Town gets to pretend it has not been advertising heavily on everything from bus stops to newspapers to radio to TV (!). For most of us, bus stops, radio spots, and TV ads are too expensive, leaving a letter to the editor as the option of choice. This focus also allows the Town to ignore the outpouring of opposition at public meetings, which confirms suspicions that the Town never really listens anyway, once it has made up its mind. So much for local control.

By way of comparison, here are two counts prepared by Leane Lee, identified as an Enemy of the State by the Council of Commissars, based on items she has clipped from the Daily Press (sorry about that, Apple Valley Review) from January 12, 2015, to the present.

Authors supporting AVRWC in the Daily Press
First and Last: Qty:
Chris Schilling 2
Tony Penna 4
Eric Larsen 1
Jeff Kinnard 1
Kevin Phillips 1
Kaye Walraven 1
Michael Lent 2
Greg Raven 19
Leane Lee 11
Dave Mueller 9
Al Rice 9
Lee Bell 5
Austin Schneider 3
Lawrence McCarthy 3
Jesse Arias 2
Diana Carloni 3
Peter Allan 1
Tamara Alaniz 1
Joe Saltmeris 1
Joseph Danes 2
Ninfa Coronado 1
Tanner Liles 1
Michael Wubker 1
Hilary Clemons 1
Kathie Harbottle 1
Chuck Hanson 1
Pat Hanson 1
Jim Goodhope 1
Ann O'Neil 1
Gail Crestin-Bickers 1
Carlo Alor 1
Sabrina Moreno 1
Tom Marti 1
Bill Sorenson 1
Jane Robinson 1
Tom Lanyon 1
Richard Woodin 1
Olive Woodin 1
Jerry Vincent 1
Ron Kabalin 1
Richard Schappert 1
Gabriel Portillo 1
Ryan Richards 1
Phillip Gutierrez 1
Wilfred Crepeau 1
Jamie Post 1
Total: 107
Authors supporting TOAV in the Daily Press
First and Last: Qty:
Scott Nassif 1
Barb Stanton 1
Art Bishop 2
Frank Robinson 1
Pat Orr 6
Rick Piercy 1
Dave Christman 2
Charles Smith 1
Joe Stockman 1
Bryan Baker 1
Kenneth Houston 1
Lena Russell 1
Dale Hileman 1
A. Allan Coy 1
Sandra Dorman 1
Joe Siefke 1
Lance Arnt 1
Bob Eudaly 1
Edwin Durham 1
Richard Turnbull 1
John Olive 1
Royce Conner 1
Cheryl Conner 1
Alfreda Phillips 1
Total: 31

(See? I told you this part was going to be boring.)

Alert readers will note that Lee’s count includes neither the Jon Coupal op-ed, nor a Daily Press op-ed that suggested putting the Ranchos takeover to a vote.

Perhaps of more interest than whether this count (107/31) is more accurate than that count (80/25), is the fact that in each case, the numbers of submitters of letters and/or op-ed pieces are running roughly 3-to-1 against the Town, which leads us to our next point.

The ‘small group’ issue

The Town’s second complaint seems to be that there is but a small pool from which springs the opposition to the Town. This echoes ads run by the Town in the Daily Press (and possibly elsewhere).

The most obvious response is that the bulk of those pushing for the hostile takeover comes from four members of the Town council and the millionaires who serve on the staff. Add to that the few who have taken the Town’s side, thanks in large part to the hundreds of thousands of dollars the Town has spent trolling for allies among the worst of the worst water users in Apple Valley (see image above). Despite these two powerful motivators, the Town now tacitly acknowledges it simply doesn’t have a broad base of support for its position, which can only mean that it has misrepresented the results of the two (expensive) polls it has conducted regarding this issue. You get the picture.

In any event, whether you use the Town’s count or Lee’s count, it is clear that opposition to the Town’s takeover plans is more broadly based than is support for the Town. Maybe the Town already knows this.

How? We know from Ranchos that 75 percent of their customers do not pay a drought surcharge: They are water wise. We also know from Ranchos that 80 percent of the drought surcharges are paid by just 10 percent of their customers. That’s a pretty small group, if you ask me.

Maybe that’s why the Town has expressed zero interest in putting this matter up for a vote.

The ‘motive’ issue

The Town asks, Wonder why they [the opposition] write so often? Easy: Because the Town is relentless in mischaracterizing the facts and the issues, besides lacking the ability to perform simple math. There are still principled residents of Apple Valley who love this town too much to let these and other misstatements go unexamined and unchallenged.

The Town asks, Are they [the opposition] on the payroll at AVR? (Presumably they mean to ask which of these letter and/or op-ed writers is receiving money from Ranchos, Park Water, The Carlyle Group, Liberty Utilities, or any other affiliated entities.) Clearly, the Ranchos employees who write to the paper are on the payroll. None of the citizens I know is receiving money from Ranchos or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, sub-contractors, owners, holding companies, etc., including myself. I have met with persons working for Ranchos’ PR team, and I’m guessing they get paid, but they’re not getting letters to the editor published, or op-ed pieces, for that matter.

But of course, this is not a serious question. This is yet another attempt by the Town to demonize anyone who opposes the hostile takeover (or who, like Jon Coupal, fail to endorse it wholeheartedly), and sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt among the residents of Apple Valley. If you think I’m somehow still dodging the question, feel free to contact me and ask me whatever you want. Seriously. Unlike the Town, I have nothing to hide.

But what about those on the Town side? Just four of the staffers who are pushing the hostile takeover cost residents a cool million dollars a year, and that doesn’t count the council members themselves, or the high-priced team of attorneys, or the wildly expensive PR team, or any of the other recipients of Town largesse (at your expense, of course, but it’s only money, right?).

What’s really disturbing about this question, though, is not any of these issues, but rather the Town’s implication that Ranchos should do nothing to defend against savage attacks on itself, its current owners, its prospective owners, its employees, and even the way it does business. This totalitarian mindset is utterly un-American, as are the Town’s positions on free enterprise and profits. Ranchos is entirely within its rights to respond to the Town, and to pay others to do so on its behalf if it so chooses. If only the Town council members had sworn to uphold the Constitution (including the First Amendment) as part of their oaths of office. (What do you mean, They did?)

If you want to ask yourself something, ask what kind of town leader would destroy his own community through a corrosive and divisive campaign — such as that being underwritten by the Town of Apple Valley? Ask yourself what the character must be of someone who would do this to his own community? Ask yourself what would motivate a Town council to try to seize the oldest business in town, which has provided decades of superlative service to our community? Ask yourself what political system claims to have sole possession of the facts, and abrogates to itself the sole authority to dispense information, decrying any opposition?

If those questions seem abstract, ask yourself what you think the Town would be saying about me and my efforts, were I supporting the Town’s position instead of that of Ranchos?

The ‘supporters’ issue

In the final paragraph of the Town’s screed, we see the answer to the last question posed above. Those who support the Town Commissars are little angels, one and all. Can you believe someone actually served up that crock of fertilizer for public consumption? The whole crew should be voted out of office on general principles just for that one statement alone.

And who are these little angels? People who are tired of paying the high rates forced on them by AVR. This is of course untrue. Almost without exception, supporters of the Town’s hostile takeover each use massive amounts of water, and are seeing drought surcharges on their bills. No one is forcing them to use this much water, and unlike the Town, Ranchos is not only urging people to conserve, but also is offering them tools to help them do it. Forgive me for repeating something I’ve said before (more than once), because you’ll never hear this from the Town: If you see a drought surcharge on your bill, you are using a lot of water.

Most cynical about this claim, though, is the Town again focusing on high rates, even after it has said repeatedly that it will not be lowering rates in the event that it is successful in seizing Ranchos. If that isn’t the mark of a demagogue, I don’t know what is.

Summing up

Mark Twain once said, If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. The Town of Apple Valley often gives the impression that it doesn’t remember what it has said previously, so it just makes up whatever lie seems handy at the moment. We’re fast moving from misfeasance to malfeasance, and unfortunately this is not restricted to the water issue.

If we the residents of Apple Valley allow the Town Council to put us in debt to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars so it has some new numbers with which to practice its faulty math, heaven help us. We already know they are going to continue to lie to us until we rise up and stop them.

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