I am not against conservation; however, this entire process is wrong, unfair, undemocratic and should be illegal.
About 20 years ago, Oakley Water requested a 30-percent reduction due to a shortage. The public responded by conserving over the requested amount. Shortly after, the district sent notice praising our efforts and informed us of a 30-percent increase because they were selling us less water and revenue was down. They assured that when the shortage was over, the rates would revert back to the original amount. Those of us who lived in this area remember how that story ended.
Problem one: to date, the only notice about the hearing came on March 1 mixed in with junk mail. Was this a coincidence? Fifty percent of us thought it was junk mail and tossed it without looking; half of the people who did look at the notice threw up their hands with a “can’t fight the system” attitude and will do nothing. If the remaining 25 percent all vote “no,” the proposal will pass because those who didn’t know (tossed) or those that won’t vote (attitude) will give the district a 75-percent “yes” vote.
If the flyer was mailed with the bill, everyone would have seen it and the district would have saved the cost of the extra mailing. I’m sure they complied with the letter of the law, but not the intent or spirit of the law.
Problem two is the double standard. Per the flyer, those who wish to speak in favor of the increase do not need to identify themselves; just make their comment and sit down. To protest, you must submit your protest in writing, identify the property by address or parcel number and be signed by the owner or ratepayer to be valid.
Problem three is the vote. A “yes” vote should mean yes and a “no” vote should mean no. Those who abstain should not be counted either way. The district will count those who abstain as “yes” votes. It’s a good thing we don’t vote on propositions, bills or bond measures this way.
Problem four are the penalties. The district indicates the need for a 20-percent reduction from 2008; yet those who comply will be penalized. For example, in October of 2008, a customer used 30 units; in October of 2009, used 24 units. This person will pay $3.48 per unit over 15 units (50-percent penalty) while being in compliance.
Using the district numbers, of the 11,000 customers, 32 percent would not be affected; 4,950 customers (45 percent) using 30 units reducing to 24 units (20 percent) = $9 penalty; 2,530 customers (23 percent) using 50 units reducing to 40 units (20 percent) = $35 penalty, figuring to totals of 4.950 customers x $9 = $44,500 in penalties per month along with 2,530 customers x $35 = $88, 550 in penalties per month.
The example that was given on the flyer indicates summer months. For July, August and September, the district would receive $399,150 in penalties from customers; meet their 20-percent reduction goal and incur no additional charges from Contra Costa Water. Please understand that the numbers used here are district numbers and subject to questions.
Is this really about conservation or money? In my opinion, this process is manipulated from beginning to end starting with the notification, double standard, voting process and penalties for compliance.