Guest Opinion: Serving the Citizens Who Elected Us

No one wants increased water rates but avoiding the problem is irresponsible

San Juan Capistrano Mayor Sam Allevato. Courtesy of the city of San Juan Capistrano

By Sam Allevato, San Juan Capistrano Mayor

By now you should have received your “Notice of Public Hearings on Proposed Water and Sewer Rate Changes,” which is required by Proposition 218.

This process has entailed months of research by our staff and our paid consultants, Raftelis Financial, in addition to several public water forums and joint City Council/Utilities Commission work sessions, where the public was invited to participate and to provide input.

The result is a very comprehensive study of the city’s cost to provide water and sewer service to our residents. For single-family residences, the sewer fee will be reduced by nearly 12 percent. Eighty-one percent of our residents will experience a reduction, no change or a maximum $5 per month increase in their water bills. Nine percent of our residents will see a modest $5 to $10 increase in their bills.

This new rate structure will eliminate the water fund deficit in two years, support modest capital improvements and build emergency and capital reserves to 50 percent of the recommended levels by 2020. It should be noted that our imported water provider, Metropolitan Water, will be increasing their water rates to cities by 5 percent yearly for the foreseeable future, and this increase is accounted for in this study.

Earlier this year, the City Council voted to initiate this study because one had not been done for nearly five years, and many factors—such as increased production by and improvements to the Groundwater Recovery Plant—have changed during this time.

It should be noted that Councilmen Roy Byrnes and Derek Reeve voted against even doing a study because they said it was being done only to raise rates. I am sure you would agree that it makes good business sense and is the responsible thing to do for a city to complete a rate study and establish fair and defensible rates, especially since the rate study done in 2009-2010 is being challenged in court.

Not only did Byrnes and Reeve not want a study done, they did not participate in the water rate structure design options and pricing objectives exercise and missed either joint City Council/Utilities Commission meetings and/or water forums for the public. These workshops were meant to gather the policy decision by your councilmembers and concerns from the public and include this information in the rate study.

Such factors as fairness to the public, affordability for essential use and equitability of resource allocation were rated the highest by the three councilmembers—myself, Larry Kramer and John Taylor—who did participate fully in every meeting and exercise.

I believe no one on the council wants to raise water rates. However, to stick your head in the sand and not acknowledge this precious resource is becoming more expensive, and to not fully participate in the planning for its reliable delivery, is a serious disservice to the public we serve.

Councilman Reeve’s “call to action” to fight City Hall over this rate study is misguided and disingenuous on his part. To first vote against doing a study at all, then to not fully participate in the process and now claim “foul” by the city he has sworn to support and defend, is irresponsible in my opinion.

Please join me in attending the two remaining public water forums on May 29 or June 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, in order to learn more about the water/sewer study and the extensive work and research that went into its preparation.

I am sure this rate study and rate structure is the responsible thing to do to provide safe and reliable drinking water and sewer service to all our San Juan residents.

Sam Allevato has lived in San Juan Capistrano for more than 37 years. He is currently serving his third term as mayor and was first appointed to the council in March 2004.

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One Response to “Guest Opinion: Serving the Citizens Who Elected Us”

  1. Joanna Clark
    May 25, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    Councilman Reeve just doesn’t get it. The United States is currently engulfed in one of the worst droughts in recent history, with more-than 30% of the country experiencing at least moderate drought as of last week’s data, and of the seven states suffering the worse, California is in the worst shape.

    According to 24/7 Wall St. and USA TODAY, “California has the nation’s worst drought problem with more than 76% of the state experiencing extreme drought . . . .” The entire state is experiencing severe drought, but that is not the end of it. More than 76-percent of the state is experiencing extreme drought conditions and more than 24-percent is experiencing exceptional drought conditions.

    Lakes Powell and Mead are on the verge of becoming dry lake beds. Hoover dam’s electrical generating plant is on the verge of shutting down, quite possibly before the end of this summer.

    The Governor, on the other hand, is pushing forward on expanding fracking throughout Kern County, despite numerous warnings of serious pollution, seismic activity generation, and excessive water consumption. A single well can consume up to 54,000,000 to 90,000,000 gallons of water. If the Governor allows an additional 1,000 wells to be drilled, water consumption to rise to 54,000,000,000 to 90,000,000,000 gallons. We can’t afford to waste that much water.

    The bottom line is that water is going to get more expensive. But, what the heck, people shouldn’t complain. Stand outside a Ralph’s or Von’s supermarket for an hour or two and what the numbers that come out with cases of bottled water. They are apparently willing to pay up to 900 times of the cost of an equivalent amount of tap water, so they shouldn’t complain if their tap water costs go up.

    We can take a small step towards protecting our water though the banning fracking throughout the state. Some cities and counties are already in the process of enacting their own bans.

    I have been writing the council for months try to get you all to pass a ban on fracking within the City limits. We don’t have to worry about fracking here, but if every city were to pass the following ban, Sacramento would have to rethink its plan to frack the state. And that could potentially save up to 90,000,000,000 gallons of our most precious resource – water.

    “It is hereby resolved that the people of (Name of City), California, have a right to clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. (Name of City)’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the city of (Name of City) conserves and maintains them for the benefit of all the people. Therefore, it is resolved that the technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used to recover oil and gas from shale formations, acidizing, as well as the use of injection wells for the storage of fracking waste water and fluids, are permanently banned within the city limits of (Name of City) and adjacent ocean.”

    Mayor, make this a priority. Send a message to Sacramento that we don’t want the oil and gas cartels to frack our water. And while you’re at it, rule out desalination. If people think water is expensive now, just wait until desal becomes our major water source.

    Desal is a high-volume polluter and energy user. With Hoover dam on the verge of shutting down (for lack of water), where are we going to get the energy to run a desal plant? Coal, gas, adding more CO2 and CH4 into the atmosphere. Besides, our oceans are dying, and when they die, we die. Remember the Permian-Triassic extinction 251 million years ago, when 96% of all life went extinct?

    Over population, deforestation, ocean acidification . . . we’re well on the road to killing ourselves, but, we can think, and we can find solutions, if we put our minds to it. We start by protecting our water and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

    How about covering our parking lots with solar panels? How about putting in recharging stations for NEVs and EVs? NEVs, would, of course, require lowering the speed limit to 35 mph or less on all city streets. If Lincoln and Rocklin can do it, why not San Juan Capistrano, as well? NEVs are fun to drive. And why not follow Lancaster and Sebastopol in mandating all new residential and business construction must include roof-top solar panels in their design? Lower our carbon footprint so that our grand children can have a future.

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