Open letter to Art Bishop (August 15, 2015)

Councilman Bishop,

At Tuesday night’s meeting (August 11, 2015), you prefaced your comments by saying to Marc Puckett,

Everything you’ve done here not only shows all the hard work that this Town does to maintain what we’re doing for the citizens, but the transparency.

You concluded your comments about Mr. Puckett’s presentation by saying,

This isn’t something that popped up six months ago. This isn’t something that popped up a year ago. This is something that this Town has been investing our citizens’ money — that we manage on behalf of the citizens of this community — since 2011. […] We’ve been doing this on their behalf almost five years.

I think for the average person, the juxtaposition of these statements might be a bit confusing.

You seem to be saying that the Town has been transparent by waiting five years to release information that informed citizens such as myself have been requesting for quite some time now.

This information should have been available all along, but Town representatives have been hiding it deliberately prior to this presentation. To give one gross example, there is no mention of any of these figures anywhere in the Town’s proposed budget for 2015-2016, which was released at the end of March.

To the extent that the Town did acknowledge the existence of this information, it was purposely misleading. In March of this year, Frank Robinson went on the record to say that the total expenditures on this project were less than half of $500,000 (that is, less than $250,000). In May, the Town posted on Facebook, What AVR says the town has spent on water study: $900,000 What we have actually spent: $325,000. We tell the truth. The webpage advancing this falsehood still exists at the Town’s AVH2Ours website.

And yet, the Ranchos Acquisition Efforts Transparency Report appears to show that to date the Town has spent $1,184,173 out of a budgeted $3.2 million. That figure of almost $1.2 million seems a lot closer to what Ranchos and concerned citizens such as myself have been saying than what the Town has been promising is the truth in promoting its chimera of transparency. It is also in better alignment with documents produced by the Town pursuant to a public records request, which is how we knew that the lower figures were fiction, before the Town’s tacit admission that prior statements for public consumption were eyewash.

So now that we have a glimmer of an idea what the Town has spent, the next question is how have we the residents of Apple Valley benefitted? According to you:

This town has been expending almost $350,000 since 2011 of our town dollars on behalf of our citizens to reduce the rates asked for by the Ranchos Water Company. We have been very successful over the years. I wish I knew the amount of money that we’ve been already able to save our citizens by asking for the PUC to consider reductions in requested rate changes. I think it’s critical. […] I wish I knew that number of how much we’ve been able to effect the requests going to PUC, and I don’t.

To paraphrase, you’re saying is that you’re from the government and you’re here to help. What we citizens are saying is that we know you’re from the government, stop helping us, things were better before you involved yourself. You’re saying the Town government is the solution to our problem. We citizens are trying to tell you that the Town government is the problem.

I think we residents also wish we knew the cost/benefit ratio of what the Town does with our money, but like you, we don’t. Let me be the first to suggest that if you did know the number, you would be unlikely to utter it in open session at a Town Council meeting, because from all appearances, the Town’s efforts have not saved Town ratepayers a single penny.

From what I’ve been able to learn, the CPUC has all but ignored the churlish filings by the Town, in favor of recommendations from the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, which protects the residents of Apple Valley even when the Town doesn’t. In fact, I would suggest that one of the reasons the Town wants to seize Ranchos is to eliminate the nuisance presented by the CPUC and ORA in protecting ratepayers in Apple Valley, leaving us at the mercy of the Town Council and its financial wizards.

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

Postscript: There’s yet more to Mr. Bishop’s careful investment of the taxpayers money, about which you can read here.