What Are We Doing?
Opposing the hostile take-over of Liberty Apple Valley
Dr. John Husing is unquestionably the preeminent economist in San Bernardino County. When he weighs in on an economic issue, elected officials, municipal managers, business leaders and academics take the time to study his learned conclusions.
Multiple municipalities throughout the Inland Empire and the Victor Valley — including the Town of Apple Valley —have engaged Dr. Husing to study and pass judgement on projects and programs over the past three decades, and made multi-million dollar decisions based largely on his assessments.
Dr. Husing recently released his findings on Apple Valley’s Measure F, which voters will consider in a Special Election on June 6th. His economic analysis concluded that if Measure F passes, government will increase your household’s water bills $500-$600 each year to repay $150 million in new debt.
In response, Town Manager Frank Robinson’s attack on Dr. Husing’s findings was disingenuous and nothing more than politicalspeak.
The Daily Press article stated, “Robinson was also suspicious of Husing’s use of both California Public Utilities Commission data and the conclusions of the 2011 Blue Ribbon Committee.” The Commission is a ratepayer watchdog, with a staff of water experts. The Blue Ribbon Committee was a product of the town’s own process, and the most thorough by far.
It’s clear that if Dr. Husing’s study and the Blue Ribbon Committee had supported Mr. Robinson’s agenda, he would have praised the data. But he and Finance Director Marc Puckett have no interest in transparency.
Here’s a simple fact: We have an impartial and accurate study of the cost to Apple Valley families if Measure F passes and the town’s lawyers continue their multi-million dollar eminent domain lawsuit. Robinson and Puckett don’t like the facts, so they attack Dr. Husing.
Here’s another important question: How many people actually think that a government with a history of mismanagement like the Town of Apple Valley can run a complex water system? Providing safe, reliable drinking water requires significant technical expertise and is not something you can simply “buy.”
Let’s assume the base figure of $150 million in new debt that the town has placed on the ballot. Add on a conservative estimate of the interest on the debt service for which the town’s taxpayers will be responsible, using the likely rate in the mid-range of Dr. Husing’s calculations, for an additional $222 million. That makes the total cost of the acquisition roughly $372 million! You’ll be paying hundreds of millions of dollars for a well functioning water system and giving it to a government with no past experience running such an enterprise. That same statement was made by the town’s own consultant several years ago.
If you’re like me, you’ve seen the condition of our roads and watched the Town cut services, deplete reserves and lay off employees. Acquiring the water utility would require them to expand their bureaucracy by 31 percent to the highest level in history. The town’s operating budget would have to be nearly doubled.
The personal bottom line cost for most households and local businesses would be an increase of $500-$600 per year, a 65 percent to 80 percent increase compared to current water bills. The full cost will range between $15,000 and $18,589 each over the life of the debt. And that’s just to pay to acquire the water system, not to run it. And not a penny of Measure F’s $150 million in debt goes to provide drinking water service.
When you consider how to vote on Election Day, please consider the concluding statement in Dr. Husing’s analysis: “A look at the possible water costs for each customer from a revenue bond given these circumstances shows a high probability for significant rate increases. Even if the $150 million Measure F bond level is sufficient, it could cost customers an extra $502 or $620 per year equal to $84 or $103 per bi-monthly bill. Voters should be hesitant to take such a risk.”
Dr. Husing was quoted as saying that the Town of Apple Valley lowering our rates is “not in the cards.” We simply should not be in favor of gambling on the hand that the town is dealing to us. Everyone needs to vote “NO” on Measure F.
I have never received any compensation from Liberty Utilities for my position in this matter. I love Apple Valley and I don’t want to see our residents burdened with an enormous debt.
Peter Allan is an Apple Valley resident who was a member of the Town Council from 2006 to 2010. He also is the former interim president of Victor Valley College.
Source: Daily Press