Apple Valley water debate rages on (September 21, 2016)

Town’s attempted takeover of Liberty Utilities hot topic at candidates’ forum

Water, water and more water. The town’s attempted takeover of Liberty Utilities’ water system was the issue that kept coming up as the seven candidates for Apple Valley Town Council faced off in a 100-minute Daily Press forum on Facebook Live on Tuesday afternoon.

Incumbents Art Bishop and Larry Cusack defended their support of the takeover try, saying some residents are leaving and real estate agents have complained about slowing home sales. They both said the town’s future is at risk if Liberty follows the lead of Apple Valley Ranchos and continues to request double-digit rate increases from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Everywhere I go, walking neighborhoods, people want to know what we’re going to do with water rates, Cusack said. They can’t afford for them to go up 14 percent, as they have on average.

If we keep seeing rates going where they have the last 10 years, we’re going to have nothing but dirt (yards).

But not all of the challengers were buying those arguments.

They’re just biting off more than they can chew, said Tom Piper.

Nobody is talking about the elephant in the room, said challenger Jiles Smith. The town needs the revenue.

While Bishop and Cusack expressed support for Measure W, the Town Council’s alternative to Pat and Chuck Hanson’s Measure V that would force a vote on all projects of $10 million or more, including the water takeover, the challengers were solidly in the Hansons’ court.

I’m for V, said challenger Richard Bunck. The town and Liberty are having a war and the people don’t know who to trust. I don’t trust the town. It’s a good old-boy network. Let’s give the power to the people.

Smith, Piper, and Salvatore Ortiz-Lopez also expressed their support for Measure V. Only Bryen Wright said he was undecided.

I’m not opposed to taking over the water, I just want proof we can do it, with CalPERS (for the employees’ pensions), he said. Sewer (rates) increased by 11 percent (under the town’s oversight). What makes you think that won’t happen with water?

Transparency was another issue that sparked lively debate, primarily as it related to the town’s transparency reports on the water takeover. While Bishop and Cusack declared Apple Valley was extremely transparent, Smith countered the people of Apple Valley are screaming for transparency.

Transparency just means they are getting away with whatever they think is right, Ortiz-Lopez said. Transparency doesn’t mean integrity. We need people who treat taxpayers’ money as their own.

Medical marijuana produced a mixed of opinions, with many candidates agreeing it can be helpful to some but not wanting to see the crime and bad influence the drug can bring to communities as occurred in the High Desert before.

Finally, all the candidates weighed in on Measure A, the ballot measure that would increase property taxes for 20 years in order to better fund fire services.

Smith and Wright said they were neutral, Ortiz-Lopez said he was against any tax increases, Bunck wanted to see better use of economies of scale to hold costs down, while Piper, Bishop and Cusack said they support Measure A.

This is a gigantic issue before our town taking a two-thirds vote of the people, which is a very difficult thing to do, Bishop said. If we don’t vote for A now, we’re going to have to close another station and a half.

It’s crucial we get this measure passed, Cusack said.

Source: Daily Press

Files related to Measure V