CFGA calls for suspension of H2Ours ads (October 16, 2015)

Town says it has an obligation to keep residents informed

APPLE VALLEY — A local group opposed to the town’s proposed acquisition of the Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company sent a letter to Town Council members calling for the suspension of all AVH2Ours advertising while the town prepares an Environmental Impact Report on acquisition required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability Chairpersons Tamara Alaniz and Greg Raven drafted the letter to the Council after learning Town Manager Frank Robinson — on behalf of the town — turned down an invitation extended by Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rick Danzey to be a part of a community forum on the Town’s proposed acquisition of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, a statement regarding the letter said.

The town’s draft EIR, which focuses on potential environmental impacts of acquisition, is available for public review and comment until Nov. 2, and the AVCGA in its letter argues it’s unfair (for the town) to engage in one-sided advocacy of a decision that has not been made yet.

Robinson told the Daily Press the town has a legal obligation to ratepayers to keep them informed, especially when there are matters of controversy involved. He said the town will not take down the advertising based on that obligation.

I expect nothing less from Frank Robinson, Raven said in response. There’s a controversy in town because of the Council; it’s all the town’s doing.

Raven also called into question the town’s motives regarding providing information to ratepayers.

If it’s so important to inform people then why not do the Chamber of Commerce forum? he said.

The chamber claimed neutrality regarding the acquisition on Friday. Danzey told the Daily Press communication was the purpose of the forum.

The chamber’s intent was to provide a platform for both parties, at one time, to educate the businesses and community of Apple Valley regarding the issue, Danzey said via email. Apple Valley Ranchos accepted. The Town of Apple Valley declined. The Chamber believes that providing education to the community with both parties participating is vital to eliminate hearsay and rumors. With only one party participating we would no longer be in a neutral position and therefore the Chamber declines to host a one-party forum.

Danzey said there are no plans to host the forum at this time, but assured that the chamber’s Board of Directors would consider rescheduling if the town were to accept the invitation in the future.

The initial invite was directed to Mayor Larry Cusack and Mayor Pro Tem Barb Stanton, according to Robinson, who said the invitation was declined after the town conferred with legal counsel.

Stanton told the Daily Press she would not take part in any conversation with Ranchos officials on the grounds that those conversations might later be used in court.

What it does is put the council in a position of engaging in a debate, Robinson said, (and) engaging in a debate prior to voting (on the EIR) is not really appropriate.

In an email provided by the AVCGA, Robinson also told Danzey the town’s participation in the forum would not be fair.

Because the California State Constitution guarantees the (Ranchos Water) Company certain rights should the town choose to exercise its power of eminent domain, Robinson wrote, the town does not believe it would be fair to the company or legally appropriate for the town to participate in such a forum at this time.

Alaniz and Raven, however, argued that to decline participation in the public forum on the grounds that it would be unfair to Ranchos based on legalities involving the draft EIR process also means that AVH2Ours advertising should also be deemed unfair.

(The advertising) is unfair to Ranchos because it portrays them in a blatantly false light, Raven said. To portray them as being bad because they have profits is more than hypocritical, it’s anti-American. (The Council is) creating an extremely divisive community, and it’s unfair to the ratepayers because (the Council) keeps going on and on about how high the rates are, but they’re going to keep the rates the same after acquisition.

Still, Robinson disagreed.

One of the signators on that letter (Alaniz) is a former general manager of the 29 Palms Water District, Robinson said. She should know what we’re doing is appropriate.

The full letter can be found here.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press