Transparency is relevant in water eminent domain case (November 7, 2017)
As a former local elected official and planning commissioner, I look at the definition of the office to include as its first priority, “service to the public.” Under no circumstances is it appropriate for elected officials or government employees to degrade or demean taxpayers or to withhold information relative to how public funds are being spent.
Apple Valley residents were promised monthly and then quarterly “transparency reports” by the Apple Valley Town Council, detailing how our money was being spent and for what purposes. There has not been a single transparency report issued since fall of 2016, and when a Town spokesperson was asked to provide one by a Daily Press reporter, she dismissed the request stating that “the Transparency Reports are irrelevant.”
We the People would beg to disagree. In a community where we salute the flag and believe in citizens’ rights, nothing is more sacred than ensuring that taxpayers are respected and that our money is protected. We expect that our representatives will be honest with us and do what is right for the community.
Taxpayer funds are being used by the Town and its attorneys to promote an eminent domain takeover of the local water system from a professional provider that has consistently delivered the highest levels of quality and customer service. Using taxpayer dollars, they make promises and claim “we will do better.”
Degradation of a taxpaying utility and making false statements is bad enough. Withholding information and claiming that transparency is “irrelevant” is more representative of a government run amok, completely ignoring the call to public service.
There’s a big difference between a political campaign and a court proceeding, and that’s what Apple Valley politicians cannot seem to grasp. In court, promises mean nothing and only admissible evidence matters. The law is clear. A “desire” by the government to take over and operate a private enterprise, particularly when it is a utility, is not sufficient to win. The law says government cannot take over an enterprise just to provide the same service. Yet despite the law, the Town of Apple Valley seeks just that, as detailed in their own official documents:
“The Town is proposing only to acquire and operate the existing system, and is not proposing changes or expansion to the physical Apple Valley System or to the associated water rights nor is the Town proposing any changes to the manner of operation of the Apple Valley System or the exercise of the associated water rights.”
That objective is nearly identical to what Claremont’s plan was, and after all the evidence was presented and arguments were made, the plan failed. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin issued a decisive ruling that the eminent domain takeover was unwarranted. In a humbling surrender, the City of Claremont voted unanimously to abandon the appeal and end the lawsuit. The water company, to their credit, agreed, saving taxpayers nearly $6 million. The City terminated its relationship with the lawyers, the same lawyers as those of the Town.
The Town of Apple Valley knows this outcome is where they are headed, but they refuse to admit it, or cut our losses (the money they’re spending is our money), or work with Liberty Utilities. Instead, whether it is due to ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of both, the Town is doubling down. Instead of public service, transparency, and information about the actions of government, we the People of the Town of Apple Valley are told that the single most expensive undertaking of the Town, and exposure to loss, is “irrelevant.”
Diana J. Carloni, Apple Valley, CA
Published: Daily Press, November 6, 2017