Water issue splits Town Council candidates during forums (October 21, 2018)

APPLE VALLEY — Of the 12 Town Council candidates, five oppose the eminent domain lawsuit against Liberty Utilities, four are in favor and three are have not taken stand on the issue.

Of the three candidates who are undecided, Angela Valles and Roger La Plante said they would evaluate information on the case that could result in public ownership of the company’s water system. Courtney Amanda Hernandez said she wanted to see the issue resolved in civil court even though she was a bit critical of the town’s acquisition effort.

Incumbents Curt Emick and Scott Nassif said Apple Valley would benefit from acquiring the utility. Nassif said private ownership, and its costs, have affected whether residents stay in the town. Kari Leon and Xavier Ariza agreed. Leon said a majority of voters supported acquisition when they passed Measure F in 2017.

Janate Valenzuela said no legal precedent existed for such an undertaking in California. Richard Bunck said lawyers were the only winners. Bryen Wright suggested the town lied about lowered water rates. Michael Karen was opposed to all eminent domain takeovers, and Matthew Pautz said the effort would result in failure.

Guess what government control of the water (system) is, Pautz said. It’s socialism.

With the Nov. 6 election less than a month away, Apple Valley’s most crowded field of candidates since 2006 weighed in on water and other issues during two forums held at Solstice Senior Living on Wednesday and Thursday.

Roughly 60 residents attended both forums, which were streamed to thousands more via Facebook Live. Attendees also heard positions on homelessness, industrial growth in north Apple Valley, cannabis, by-district voting, crime, the Hilltop House and Measure N, among others.

On Measure N — the 1999 ballot initiative that will ensure larger residential lots in Apple Valley until it expires in 2020 — the consensus was it must go back to voters for a potential extension.

The town’s recent decision to borrow up to $10 million against future tax revenues also divided the candidates. Town officials say the line of credit will increase transparency, eliminate interfund borrowing and help rebuild diminished reserves. However, six challengers opposed the plan.

Valenzuela said it showed the town mismanaged its finances. Valles called borrowing such a large amount of money reckless and Bunck said it was done at the expense of taxpayers. Pautz said the town must decrease spending, while Wright said it was an unstable action and La Plante said he would push for a repeal of the decision if elected.

Ariza and Leon sided with Emick and Nassif, saying they would have voted for the line of credit. Karen also supported the borrowing because its common among public agencies, but he said he didn’t support spending that led to the decision.

Hernandez meanwhile, said she liked that it would increase transparency, but her support was cautious.

I would like to avoid it in the future, she said.

Both forums are archived in their entirety on the Daily Press’ Facebook page. Town Council candidate profiles and videos are available at www.VVDailyPress.com.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press