Transparency (July 10, 2015)

Apple Valley Town council member Scott Nassif’s recent letter makes the curious claim that the Town is transparent (It’s about rate stabilization, Daily Press, July 9, 2015). This would be risible if it weren’t so patently and demonstrably false.

The Town has consistently hidden and obfuscated its expenditures related to its attacks on Ranchos over the years. Members of the public are forced to go, hat in hand, to Town Hall to request documents. This May, a local retiree had to file a petition with the court to get the Town to cough up public documents. For Nassif and other council members, the cover story is that [w]ith Town ownership of the Apple Valley water system, all records — including ratemaking details — are open to the public, bringing transparency and accountability, and transparency is job number 1. Meanwhile the Town attorney’s position is, The town intends to vigorously defend against the lawsuit, rather than simply turning over the documents. Who’s working for whom at Town Hall?

Lest you imagine that things have gotten better since May of this year, I invite you to look at the Environmental Impact Report commissioned by the Town regarding its proposed takeover of Ranchos. Although it was ready on June 24 (according to the cover sheet sign by an assistant town manager), and the period for public comment started on June 26 (op. cit.), with Town offices closed Friday the 3rd and Monday the 6th, the few members of the public who heard through the grapevine about the Report searched in vain on the Town’s website for a copy of the Report, or even notice of the meeting. In fact, the Report itself wasn’t available to the public by the close of business on July 7, the date of the meeting for public comment. At the meeting, there were two copies, each marked Do not remove on the cover.

At the meeting itself, a member of the audience repeatedly pressed Town representatives for assurances that future notifications regarding this important matter be broadcast well in advance, so that any interested party could inform himself and participate in the process. After several minutes of back-and-forth, the only commitment Town representatives were willing to make was that those at the meeting, who provided contact information, would be contacted. These representatives did, however, invite members of the audience to tell others who might be interested.

This may be what passes for transparency in the modern era, but it’s not actual transparency. And because we’re dealing with a project that involves hundreds of millions of dollars and effects the lives of virtually everyone in Apple Valley, let’s hope that the Town corrects this past bad behavior instead of perpetuating it as we go forward.

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