Water is life (June 23, 2016)

Re: Citizens have the right to vote on water debt, by Chuck and Pat Hanson … Before private equity owners buy and sell our local water system like a sack of potatoes or obligate their ratepayers to tens of millions of dollars in long-term debt, ratepayers should have the right to vote on those plans.

Unfortunately, the private investors who own and operate Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company did not respect their ratepayers enough to ask for their consent before paying corporate officers, private lawyers, public relations firms and other consultants many tens of millions of dollars to buy and sell their private water company, not once, but twice.

Unfortunately, company officials refused to give ratepayers a choice; rather, they wanted to make those decisions and force ratepayers to pay for it, whether you support their plan or not.

Instead of standing by and allowing our children and grandchildren to be saddled with some of the highest water rates in the region, the Town of Apple Valley spent several years first offering to buy the water company and then exploring the feasibility of public ownership. Only after completing a full feasibility study and an Environmental Impact Report did Town officials exercise the Town’s power of eminent domain to acquire the company.

The initiative being proposed certainly does take a side with regards to water. It purports to take away from elected officials, accountable to the voters, the legal powers given to each and every other Town and City Council in California by existing state law. It purports to take those powers away from the very same local officials elected to office by the people and for the people. The ratepayers have no such right, as voters, to decide about the company’s borrowing and ratemaking, and company officials can make reckless decisions that could negatively impact water rates and the very financial stability and future of our Town for generations to come. Water is life.

The inability to purchase water at stable and reasonable rates because the local water supply is not publicly owned is a right enjoyed by millions of ratepayers in California who are served by publicly owned water systems. How will our children and grandchildren hold the company accountable when they go to the California Public Utility Commission again and again for rate increases after borrowing tens of millions of dollars at private interest rates in many instances double or triple the rates at which the Town can borrow?

Local ownership is the only way the people will have the right to vote for their locally elected officials, and hold those locally elected officials and Town officials accountable for how they intend to spend ratepayers’ money.

Bill McDaniel, Apple Valley

Source: Daily Press