Fractured facts (November 2, 2015)

A press release in The Desert News Post from the Town of Apple Valley claims to reveal the facts about the Town’s hostile takeover bid for Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company (Facts supporting Town’s acquisition of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, April 8, 2015). Instead, these talking points are are disingenuous at best, which is typical for the Town.

The headline contains the word facts. The first paragraph contains the word facts. The second paragraph starts off with the word fact. The only sub-head in the article contains the word facts. One might say this article mentions facts more than it mentions facts.

The press release derides misinformation and mischaracterizations, ostensibly coming from Ranchos. In actuality, it is the Town that is divorced from reality, which is spreading lies and half-truths the way only demagogues can. Virtually everything that comes from the Town needs to be fact-checked. I challenge the Town to produce one false statement from Ranchos.

The press release mentions strong public support for the purchase. This is wrong and the Town knows it. The Town cites polls that it says support its position, but engages in all manner of subterfuge to avoid putting the matter to a vote, or even appearing alongside representatives of Ranchos to present its position. Clearly, the claimed support isn’t there.

The press release states that most local water systems are owned by the people, whatever that means. I suppose the Town wants you to believe that means that local water systems under the control of some government somewhere, are somehow being controlled by the people, not by the government that actually makes all decisions. In any event, this does not make it a good practice, let alone desirable. As any student of freedom will tell you, governments at every level these days are involved in many areas in which they have no business. Water delivery is one of them. Would the Town make the argument that because most governments are run by liars, who promote (or at least tolerate) waste, fraud, and corruption, we should have liars running Apple Valley and welcome waste, fraud, and corruption? I sincerely hope not.

The press release states that Ranchos needs approval only from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). In actuality, this approval comes after months-long processes, and Ranchos never gets what it asks for. The press release states the Town council will have the power to set water rates, apparently much like it has with our sewer rates, which have gone up more than our water rates. (Our sewer bill is much higher than our water bill, and our water bill has a cost break-down; no such luck with our sewer bill.) I hope everyone realizes that eliminating the CPUC in favor of the Town means that the same people requesting water rate increases will be the people deciding on water rate increases. How can that ever be a good thing?

The press release calls Ranchos a government-granted monopoly, as if Ranchos somehow colluded with some government somewhere to get this designation. In actuality, Ranchos is not a monopoly, although it has been granted a service area. Part of that monopoly status is a franchise tax fee of almost a quarter of a million dollars annually that Ranchos pays the Town of Apple Valley. I don’t hear any complaints about that!

The press release also repeats the half-truth that Ranchos has requested a 31.55 percent increase. So what? CPUC never grants Ranchos the full requested increase, which is important information to share.

The press release states that it is difficult to get a bottom-line number on what it will cost to buy Ranchos because Ranchos won’t turn over its financials. First, Ranchos is not for sale, so there is no reason for it to turn over anything. Second, pages and pages of Ranchos documentation are available online, including annual financial reports. Far from there being a lack of transparency on the part of Ranchos, there is almost too much information to absorb. Given the way the Town runs its finances, though, it’s not surprising it can’t figure out an accurate financial report. But if you want to talk about lack of transparency, then look no further than the way the Town runs its affairs.

The press release finishes up by assuring everyone that it will be easy to buy Ranchos. Really? Repeating a falsehood does not make it so. Regarding the proposed hostile takeover of AVRWC, TOAV doesn’t know what it’s buying, it doesn’t know what it’s going to cost, it doesn’t know where the money is coming from, doesn’t know what the money is going to cost, doesn’t know how to run a water utility, doesn’t know who is going to run the system, and has a history of failure where water systems are concerned. The Town has virtually promised that those sky high rates won’t go down until the bond is paid off (30 years hence), and the Draft EIR seems to indicate that should any work be needed on the system, the Town would obtain another bond (which does mean higher taxes). Therefore, there is no way the Town can guess what water will cost under its control — it’s all smoke and mirrors. So how will it be affordable? By taking those evil profits from Ranchos. This is the type of propaganda you would expect during a Communist takeover, as profits are a key component of free market capitalism, and thus, the American way of life. What the heck is the Town promoting here, anyway?

The a graphic image accompanying the press release repeats the Town’s standard-issue lies and half-truths.

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