TOAV councilman weighs in on water (June 7, 2015)

Recently, the Town of Apple Valley held a special meeting to discuss the acquisition of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company. A wealth of information was shared which clearly supports the community’s ownership of its own water system. That has not stopped Ranchos Water from bending the facts, so allow me to set the record straight.

Water is a community asset. Ranchos Water Company claims the Town has more important priorities on which we should be focusing. I believe water is one of our highest priorities — a public asset that should be owned by the people, not an outside company or a foreign company.

Some have argued that big government should not be interfering with the private sector. I agree. However, this is not Sacramento, and this is not Washington D.C. This is our community, and the water situation in Apple Valley is not a free enterprise. It is a State of California government-approved monopoly of your water service; a monopoly that is benefiting worldwide investors, not the people of Apple Valley. In this situation, it is obvious that we, the people of Apple Valley, have become pawns to this international investment group.

As a customer of Ranchos Water Company, we have no other options. We must buy our water from them at whatever price they and the California Public Utilities Commission decide to set, with no say in anything they do.

In contrast to that, under community ownership, we will be required by law to bring rate proposals to you through a Proposition 218 process. You can also vote us in or out of office if you don’t like the decisions we make. You have no such leverage over a private company.

In light of the historical challenges California faces with regard to water, it belongs in the public domain. In fact, statewide and across the country, more than 80 percent of water providers are municipally owned.

The kind of private ownership we have in Apple Valley is the exception, not the rule, and we pay for that dearly in the form of excessive rates and surcharges.

In the four years since the Blue Ribbon Committee advised against acquisition in 2011, much has changed. In that time, Ranchos Water has implemented rate increases totaling 19 percent and has requested another 31 percent increase on top of that.

That doesn’t even include surcharges that have raised the real costs of water service beyond reason. Ranchos continues to use the Blue Ribbon Committee as an argument, even in light of former committee members who speak publicly in favor of acquisition.

This underscores the disconnect between its corporate owners and our community. It has been said to me if Ranchos Water wants to continue to revisit the past, then bring back the rates of 2011. The Town has not overspent to pursue acquisition. Ranchos’ latest claim is that we have spent over $900,000 of taxpayer money.

This is simply not true. In fact, we have spent about a third of that amount on this case. What the company doesn’t point out is we have been forced to spend another $282,000 in legal fees simply fighting their excessive rate-increase requests, which points to another important difference between community ownership and their private business operation: We are transparent about what we spend.

The acquisition of Apple Valley Ranchos Water is a prudent move. It’s the right move for all of us. Tell our friends at Apple Valley Ranchos they need to negotiate with the town, not just with foreign corporations.

I want to thank all who attended the recent special meeting and encourage all of you to support this important, necessary effort.

Source: Art Bishop, Apple Valley Town Councilman, Press Dispatch