Fact-checking Barb Stanton (March 23, 2017)

At the March 9th Special Meeting of the Apple Valley Town Council, I got up during the public comments portion to oppose the proposed $150,000,000 ballot measure to fund the seizure of Liberty Utilities.

In part, I said:

So what is this really about? It can’t be about local control because our water system is already locally controlled. It can’t be about transparency because Liberty Utilities is far and away more transparent than the Town of Apple Valley. It can’t be about water rates because our water rates are comparable with other cities in this area. And Barb Stanton has already said that the rates won’t go down for 30 years after the town seizes the water system.

At that point, Barb Stanton, who can and does talk as much as she wants at Town Council meetings, interrupted my precious allotted three minutes to say, I never said that, Mr. Raven.

So who is correct: Barb Stanton or me?

I included this in my remarks because in 2015 the Daily Press paraphrased Barb as saying that the Town would be lowering rates only after retiring the bond (that is, the loan that would be necessary to purchase the water company).

Apple Valley Mayor Pro Tem Barb Stanton recently told the Daily Press she believes water rates will go down once the town pays off a bond that would be used for the purchase.

Assemblyman discusses benefits, pitfalls of water system acquisition, Matthew Cabe, Daily Press, October 8, 2015

In case you are wondering about the relationship between Stanton’s reference to a bond and my reference to 30 years, that comes from the Town’s special meeting on April 28th, 2015, where a slide titled Initial Financial Feasibility Analysis (Table 14), presents several bond scenarios, but each of them with a term of 30 years. So, when the Town talks about a bond, we have to assume that the topic of discussion is a typical 30-year bond — not some other mystery form of bond such as that confusingly bruited about by Mayor Scott Nassif and, apparently, Barb Stanton herself now. Just so you know, in October 2016 I requested copies of any documents bearing on this issue, and was sent the same April 2015 presentation, with no adjustments for system price, interest rates, etc.

So, I checked with the reporter. He consulted his notes and confirmed that Barb Stanton’s utterances had indeed been accurately represented back in October 2015.

Because I many times have referred to Barb’s statement as represented in the Daily Press, when speaking and writing about this topic, I next checked with Town Hall to see if Barb had at any time contacted either the Daily Press or the reporter with a correction. As expected, I was told Pursuant to Government Code §6253(c), we have determined that the Town of Apple Valley does not possess any records responsive to your request … meaning, no, she never had.

One interesting aspect of this is that Town’s non-denial denials center around the term of the bond, not avoiding discussion of when they might be lowering rates. In other words, they seem to have conceded that water rates will in fact not go down during the 30-year term of the bond. Keep in mind that Apple Valley could replace the original bond with a subsequent bond, which could extend the overall term over which the bond(s) had to be paid, which could subsequently push back that date on which rates might possibly be lowered (no promises, even at that advanced date — just empty promises). Of course, no matter what the term of the bond(s), it is virtually certain that no one currently on the Town Council will still be serving, let alone accountable for his actions.

So, when you hear Town representatives promising to stabilize or lower rates despite requesting a ballot measure asking for $150,000,000 at up to 12 percent interest, keep in mind that with a potential total price tag of more than half a billion dollars, they are acting as nothing more than snake-oil salesmen, telling you you are sick but can get better by giving them money for an illusory cure.

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

Update: Just in case the Town Council has been engaging in secret meetings in defiance of the Brown Act, I requested information about all bonds under consideration for the purchase of Liberty Utilities that were not 30-year bonds. The response from the Town Clerk was that there were no documents relating to any bonds of any other term. In other words, both Barb Stanton and Scott Nassif were at least attempting to obfuscate this matter, if not lying outright.