AV residents have facts, too, and context (August 9, 2015)

It’s great to get feedback from a council member on the Apple Valley water issue. Thanks to Mr. Nassif for responding (Separating fact from fiction in Apple Valley, Press Dispatch, August 9, 2015).

Mr. Nassif starts off wondering about the sources on which I base my interpretations. Sorry my sources are such a mystery. Too bad he didn’t simply ask me face-to-face when I was at his home on August 3rd, or at any of the Council meetings we’ve both attended, or the Legacy Trails Fundraiser, etc. For that matter, I’m not that difficult to find on the Internet, where I invite people to contact me, or he could simply have responded to one of my e-mails to him.

At any rate, I check the Town’s websites first. From there, I start fact-checking what the Town says. Through this process, I’m fortunate to have met other concerned citizens, who often are able to supply copies of relevant documents. For the sake of transparency, I post copies on one of my websites where everyone, including Mr. Nassif, is welcome to peruse them.

If this makes me misinformed, again, I apologize. I’m just a citizen, so I don’t get to see all the good stuff. If the Town wants a truly well informed opponent, it can engage the experts at Ranchos, but seeing as how the Town has turned down the Chamber of Commerce’s invite to share a forum with Ranchos to present arguments, I’m guessing this isn’t going to happen. So, Mr. Nassif, you are stuck with me.

Mr. Nassif also claims that the Town has made every effort to deal in good faith with Apple Valley Ranchos. This will certainly be news to the conscientious and hard-working people at Ranchos, as well as anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Town’s jihad against Ranchos. The lack of good faith in the Town’s dealings with Ranchos extends far and wide, including hundreds of thousands in spending that are hidden from the public, ads, a website, name-calling, radio spots, and Facebook postings urging people to engage in Orwellian hate sessions targeting Ranchos. Not one of these actions evinces a collegial spirit on the part of the Town. What is even worse is that the Town’s demonization of Ranchos is working, such that Ranchos employees are harassed and belittled in their daily lives, including when grocery shopping or dropping their kids off at school. For evidence of the Town’s bias against Ranchos, you need look no further than the poll the Town has posted on its AVH2Ours website:

AVH2Ours poll

You’ll note that there is no option to oppose the Town’s takeover attempt. I happen to be for local control, but I also happen to believe that we already have it. For the Town, local control is some weird code phrase that indicates domination of the water system by the Town Council or its designees, brooking no opposition from the residents.

Mr. Nassif juxtaposes water surcharges and the amount the Town pays to water James Woody Park as if they are somehow connected. The drought surcharges are mandated by the State (Jerry Brown), not Ranchos. Ranchos is not getting any additional revenues from the drought surcharges. All the money from those surcharges is being tracked and will either eliminate future surcharges or, if any money is left over, be refunded to customers.

As for the Town’s park water bills, let’s think for a minute. When Ranchos gives the Town a lower rate, other Ranchos ratepayers have to pick up the slack on their water bills. When the Town pays the going rate for water (as it should), then the expense is where it should be, under local control. For the most part, the money may be coming from the residents of Apple Valley, but it seems dishonest for the Town to shift even part of those expenses to a third party, as that hides the true beneficiary: The Town. The lower rates also may discouraging water conservation by the Town, which almost certainly is the town’s largest water consumer. You have to wonder as you drive around town if the extravagant planted roadway medians might have been designed another way if the Town had been more conscious of water and water costs.

Mr. Nassif then claims that the Town’s attacks on Ranchos are due to rate increase requests. If rate increases were reason to attack someone, then the Town Council would be living in a bunker somewhere, as the sewer fees they control have doubled since I moved here in December 2004, and that’s not counting the latest 11.5% increase as of July 1st. In any event, for the Town to embark on any course of action due to community outrage sounds dangerously close to mob rule to me, especially in light of the Town’s repeated statements that water rates will not go down under Town ownership.

However, if community outrage is a factor, I live in this community and I’m outraged by many things the Town Council does. When do I get my representation?

As for the Town reading the 2011 Blue Ribbon Water Committee (BRWC) Report and dropping all thoughts of taking over Ranchos until 2014, Mr. Nassif should refer to the numerous (and massive) billings from the Town’s legal representatives from January 2012 onward, for legal fees arising from going after Ranchos.

It’s also interesting that Mr. Nassif cites certain unnamed members of the BRWC as supporting the Town’s current actions, while omitting the little detail that the BRWC Report advised against the takeover. Many of the issues that served as the basis for that decision are as true now as they were in 2011.

Perhaps Mr. Nassif should have checked with fellow council member Barb Stanton, who in 2010 ran for her first term on the Town Council in part on the water issue:

WATER — Bills are out of control in the Apple Valley Ranchos Water district. What has the current council done to keep water bills in check? I will demand answers from the Council, Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, from the Public Utilities Commission and Mojave Water Agency. When will you be forced to stop watering your lawn or empty the pool? It’s happening now to your neighbors. What kind of Council would allow seniors and families to suffer these water rate increases?

Stop out of control water costs!

The BS Stops Here!

Barb Stanton for Apple Valley Town Council

We know Barb hasn’t changed her position because she was just quoted as saying:

Our pursuit of water acquisition is number one in my book.

Daily Press

Then Mr. Nassif resorts to profanity to make his point, using the p word: Profit. Ranchos has it, and wants to keep it, so therefore profit is bad, bad, bad. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this seems an odd accusation coming from someone who is a businessman himself with four (count ‘em, four) auto parts stores that apparently provide substantial profits for Mr. Nassif. It also seems odd that the Town wants to take that profit, give some of it to a bank, give some of it to another for-profit company to run the water company, and then funnel the rest into its own pockets, instead of cutting prices to ratepayers. Maybe that’s because I am misinformed. More to the point, though, is that while there is a profit aspect to some of Ranchos’ rate hike requests, there are also inflation, revenue, and capital investment aspects, too. Inflation we can’t do anything about. Regarding revenues, as water usage goes down, so do revenues, which would be disastrous to Ranchos (and us!) if there was not some mechanism for adjusting revenues to cover costs. Capital investments are just as important, lest our water system come to resemble that of the publicly-operated Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, or even that of Victorville, for that matter. But as part of its jihad, the Town now resorts to knee-jerk reactions to Ranchos, so if Ranchos wants it, it must be opposed, with no thought to the long-term consequences, or what is best for the residents of Apple Valley.

Mr. Nassif also brings up the fair market value of Ranchos (which is not for sale), as determined by an experienced, credentialed valuation expert. The Town’s expert apparently hired Assistant Town Manager Dennis Cron to do the physical inspection (which sounds inappropriate to poor little misinformed me), and then the Town’s attorney proceeded to blame Ranchos because Cron didn’t do a good job. Then, the Town’s expert made a $12 million math error in its report, which had to be brought to the Town’s attention by a local retiree. Apparently, Mr. Nassif trusts each of these parties, which is why I (and others) go to the trouble of fact-checking everything that comes from the Town.

Mr. Nassif spends more than half his commentary providing some of the history of the Apple Valley Water District, but missed the point I was trying to make. The Town claims to have expertise in running a water system. The last two water systems under its control have been disasters (AVWD and the Golf Course). Each and every one of us in Apple Valley should thank our lucky stars that we’ve had Ranchos running our water system these last 65 years and not the Town. When we turn on the tap, we get high quality water, not excuses … or attacks.

By the way, Mr. Nassif uses the word backbone to describe the AVWD system. Again, maybe it’s just my lack of information, but that makes it sound as if it was a speculative venture, especially considering how little industrial development there has been in the North Apple Valley Industrial Specific Plan (NAVISP) in the decades since the installation of that system, and the fact that even now it couldn’t support fire suppression demands if there were development out there (the Town fought Ranchos on that one, too).

If Mr. Nassif has time further to discuss these and other facts surrounding this topic, I invite him to contact me. Let’s go to lunch, councilman. I’ll even buy.

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

Published: Daily Press

See also: This exchange of e-mails among TOAV personnel and others.