Diving into Measure W (October 25, 2016)

Once again, for purposes of clarity, I am personally a member of the founding team of H2O-Our Water Now, the support committee for Yes on Measure W. As such, I have talked to literally hundreds of folks about our water issue and while I am in no way impartial, I can give you both sides with a dollop of truth — as I see it.

Of course, by now, you should know this entire political he-said, she-said argument over dueling water measures started with the town’s move to file eminent domain against Liberty Utilities which many independent observers feel will eventually result in a court awarding the town the right to purchase the water company as has been the exact same case in Missoula, Montana. The move to eminent domain was made after several attempts to buy the system were rejected by the last two private owners of the water company and residents were clamoring for action on skyrocketing water rates and surcharges. Ultimately, this is a court decision and no vote on Measure W or Measure V will stop that process from moving on.

Rather than just depend on good will, better friendships and lawyers to save their company, Liberty Utilities crafted a unique plan to put a ballot initiative before Apple Valley voters to do as much as possible to restrain the town from having the borrowing power to get the funding to buy the water company.

This reasoning has all the sex appeal to the average voter of a dead carp. All political campaigns and good advertisements need what I call a good hook. The hook for Liberty was to use the natural I don’t trust the government to spend my money wisely argument to power a ballot initiative built on that suspicion that would force a future Town Council to hold a special election each time they wish to borrow money. Rather than get too specific about a large amount, the water company is expected to finally cost between $88 to $100 million (based on what Montana sold for) — Liberty decided on $10 million as the price point that stirred the most voter’s hearts. To reinforce the we don’t trust government aspect of the undertaking, a focus on transparency (audited reports) and accountability (public hearings) was built into the initiative wording.

So, the hook for Liberty and Measure V is Your right to vote on debt. Yes, I have been critical of at least one of the proponents who is the face of Measure V because they do not pay Liberty’s outrageous water rates. I will give them their due that they really have been convinced this is a right to vote issue. Knowing the full back-story of course, I disagree.

Measure W came into being because several of us — there are a grand total of five core members of H20 — felt that to run just a No campaign against the water company was a loser. You spend all your time on negative issues and never get to what good things will come out of town ownership of our water. We agreed up front that personal attacks were off limits. We literally begged the Council members we knew to keep it simple, and if possible, just make it a yes or no question on a proposed ballot initiative. The lawyers were restrained as much as possible and Measure W is the result.

Measure W established a series of audit markers and public hearings when the town wants to borrow in excess of $5 million for any project. Measure W does not require an expensive election each time the town wants to exceed that borrowing limit as does Measure V. We have tried to be very upfront that we believe, and the town has certified, that the current profits taken out of the water company by Liberty Utilities will pay the debt service on the required loan the town will take to buy the water company.

We have been assured water rates will be stabilized, if not immediately reduced and surcharges (many mandated on the private company by the state) will disappear. There are dozens of other issues about unfair fees, the possibility of future growth in North Apple Valley and on and on, but space is limited. Measure W exists because a foreign owned company has, in our opinion, bled us dry for several years and shows no signs of stopping. Liberty isn’t evil, they are in it to win it and keep their profits flowing. We are in it to keep the water flowing at affordable rates to existing and new businesses and homes that won’t come to Apple Valley under these circumstances.

You get to tell both sides which way you see our community moving.

Source: Pat Orr, Apple Valley Review, applevalley-review.com/diving-measure

Files related to Measure V