Diving into shallow ‘W’ater (November 1, 2016)

Pat Orr acknowledges his bias and his role as one of the driving forces behind the Town’s Measure W, but he does not address why this ballot initiative came into being, or even what it contains (Diving into Measure W, Apple Valley Review, October 25, 2016). We, Apple Valley residents and supporters of our right to vote on debt, respond.

To start with, Measure W is not a water measure, period. Neither the Town’s Measure W nor the voter-initiated Measure V mention the word water in the law that is being changed; they have to do with the Town taking on debt for mega projects. Measure V would give voters a say on whether or not to take on these debts, pure and simple. No alternatives, no loopholes. Measure W is a restatement of existing law (Govt. Code sections 11120-23, 54514, 54354(d), 54354.5, 54384, 54420, 54428, 54430, 54514, and 54523). It establishes no new markers, no new requirements, no new safeguards. If the Town is already able and required to do everything in Measure W, why is it on the ballot?

The Citizens for Government Accountability point to it as just another example of why Measure V is necessary. The Town has engaged in unnecessary spending of taxpayer dollars to write a measure and publish campaign literature which has no impact on the required actions of the Town Council.

There is no part of either measure that stabilizes or lowers water rates. Orr writes, we have been assured water rates will be stabilized, if not immediately reduced. This is nothing more than an empty campaign promise, and the person who has assured them, was at the helm of Flint Water when their rates started skyrocketing.

The Town’s October 2016 newsletter says nothing about reducing rates. The Town has admitted during the Environmental Assessment that it will not change rates and will not reduce rates, as it needs every penny to pay debt service on the purchase of the water system.

Because Orr is unable to support his assertions of lower water rates, he has included a lot of confusing verbiage that is either incorrect, or has little (if anything) to do with these two ballot measures.

For example, Orr writes that several attempts to buy the system were rejected by the last two private owners of the water company. This is untrue. According to Town records, there has been only one offer to buy the water company, for $50,300,000 on June 26, 2015, and it was good for only 30 days. Considering that the water company at that time owned more than $68 million in water rights alone, this was more like an insult than it was a good-faith offer. From 1988 on, the Town has had multiple opportunities to purchase the water company, but each time failed to act.

Most recently, the Blue Ribbon Water Committee — of which Orr was a member — recommended in 2012 against the purchase because the price might have been as much as $200 million.

Orr tries to compare Apple Valley to the $88 million purchase price set for the water system in Missoula, but excludes mention of the $95 million in immediately needed repairs and upgrades. This brings the actual price to around $183 million. Our water system is in better shape so the purchase price should be higher. But consider adding at least $8 million per year in repairs and upgrades because that’s what Liberty Utilities is prohibited from spending since the Town filed the eminent domain action. Comparing Missoula to Apple Valley is comparing walnuts and grapefruit.

Orr further states that a costly election because of Measure V, would delay the town from commencing new projects. The truth is most town projects have financing planned long before diagrams hit the engineers’ desks. So any election (not timed to the regular election cycle) would be costly or cause delay solely from the Town’s lack of planning.

Lastly, Orr also makes a damaging implicit declaration against interest that the Town is actually controlled by its lawyers, as no one — not him, not the Town council members, not the Town staff — could restrain them when they drafted Measure W. To state the obvious, the Town’s attorneys represent the Town, not the citizens. The Town has spent in the neighborhood of $84,000 promoting this measure, which anywhere else would be considered improper if not illegal.

Thus we ask: Do you really trust the Town, which has blown through $30 million in reserves in five years to claim a balanced budget; which borrows money to pay bills; which hides documents and transactions from the public; which is so desperate for more money they have made its acquisition one of their eight key goals for the future, to incur millions in debt without your input and vote?

No, of course not. That is why accountability is necessary and the right to vote on debt is so important. That is why the Town Council and its small number of supporters are so frightened of voters actually being given the chance to control our own debt destiny. That is why the Town is trying to sink the potentially-effective voter-initiated Measure V with the toothless Measure W.

Reject Measure W and tell the lawyers, the Town council members, and the Town staff that they need to LISTEN to the people of Apple Valley, plain and simple. It may be a revolutionary idea, but its time has come.

Diana J. Carloni
Greg Raven
Citizens for Government Accountability
Apple Valley, CA

Source: Apple Valley Review

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