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I was taken aback reading a recent editorial in one of the Peninsula’s newspapers, which attacked a group of local individuals whose words and actions are not shared by the writer. The First Amendment clearly protects the publishing of differing opinions. But to see an experienced journalist paint those who disagree with him as “stupid” seems to me to be a mistake.

This unprofessional language targeted the group of Peninsula water activists who, literally alone, are concerned about the past, present and continuing rising cost of water. It is for that reason – to remove that incredible burden on all ratepayers – that they commit their time, money and actions in an effort to replace Cal Am with a public agency.

While I am offended by the writer of the editorial and disagree with his views, I would never call him “stupid.” In my experience, such terms are used publicly under two conditions: (1) the user is angered because someone else has the temerity to state a position that doesn’t agree with the user’s views; or(2) the user doesn’t really know what’s going on,. A preferable way to express one’s response would be to at least try to research the underlying factors before drawing conclusions. In any case, the use of unnecessary name-calling is little or no help to facilitate readers’ understanding of who is right and who is wrong.

Water activists have opposed Cal Am, but not for their own special interests. Peninsula ratepayers have been hit, time and time again, with major rate increases to the point that local water costs are now the highest in the country.  These hikes, bordering on outrageous, have caused the activists, most of whom could actually afford such increases, to fervently commit themselves to do something about it.

There are people, including the editorialist, who support Cal Am and are angry at the activists’ efforts to replace it with a public agency. But nobody else is working to change a system that doesn’t protect vulnerable ratepayers on the Peninsula – not the state (the California Public Utilities Commission or state legislators), not local politicians (e.g., the mayors), and certainly not Cal Am. The onlygroup is fighting unfair costs are the water activists. Without them, water will continue to be beyond some persons’ abilities to even pay for it. The combination of the CPUC and Cal Am, all supported by the powers-that-be, is the status quo that has to be changed.

The CPUC has five members – all appointed by the Governor, Unlike many other states, California does not require any specific background or expertise. This results in political appointees who may not be equipped to ensure that the agency protects both the utilities and their ratepayers. It is akin to a president appointing a big donor who has zero diplomatic experience to be the ambassador to a major country.

Consider, too, that the Peninsula mayors have just sent a letter to the leader of one of the activist groups warning that continued opposition to Cal Am will cause serious economic impacts on the Peninsula. Interestingly, the mayors make no reference to the cost of water.

Overburdened ratepayers cannot continue to function in such an environment. All journalists writing about local water issues should get the facts first and not ignored the financial burden endured by the ratepayers.

Hood is a former executive director of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments. He divides his time between Carmel and Columbus, Ohio. The editorial he refers to was in the Carmel Pine Cone on Friday.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dan Miller April 23, 2017, 11:24 am

    Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars the Mayor’s Water Authority has cost the taxpayers of Pacific Grove alone in payments to keep their “authority” going.

  • STEPHEN MILLICH April 23, 2017, 11:25 am

    Although I agree that it is preferable to have public utilities owned by a public agency as is the case of nearly 90% of California municipalities I question the timing since slant drilling is the only one approved by the Coastal Commission. Therefore, until that proves workable or not, Cal Am is the only game in town. If slant drilling works Cal Am can still be acquired by eminent domain. If it doesn’t work it can be acquired by eminent domain for a lesser amount. Is direct ocean water desal preferable? It is to me but that is not an currently an option.

    • Dan Turner April 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

      The Coastal Commission isn’t God. We have to put pressure on it to get it to change its mind. There are a variety of reasons that this could be accomplished.

      • Dan Turner April 23, 2017, 4:26 pm

        Perhaps I should have said, “There are a variety of reasons that this should be accomplished and, also, a variety of ways that it could be accomplished.”

  • Jim Darling April 23, 2017, 11:31 am

    Don’t forget the Mayors answer to the Hospitality “Mafia.” The consumers will never get help from our mayors. MPW activists are our only hope.

  • harriet mitteldorf April 23, 2017, 11:41 am

    I am not a fan of CalAm and believe water is an abused natural resource better managed by a non-profit organization. It does, however in my view, deserve to be expensive in accordance with its long term value. That farmers abuse it with such abandon probably reflects their unfair low cost. With public ownership water price should be high enough to warrant respectful economy of use as well as proper maintenance of the delivery system to minimize leaks or any other wastage.

  • Jane Haines April 23, 2017, 1:15 pm

    Thank you for this article favoring civility in discussions about water issues. I know George Riley, PWN leader, and I know Bill Kampe, Chair of the Mayor’s Water Authority. My opinion of Riley is he’s a highly intelligent man who is reasonable, committed to the public good, and acts civilly. My opinion of Bill Kampe is the same. I wish they’d talk together, face to face, with only the two of them present, and pledge not to repeat what the other said during their conversation, except to the extent they could agree on a joint statement. I think such a conversation would likely be very much in the public’s best interest.

    • Dan Turner April 23, 2017, 1:47 pm

      Kampe may be swell fellow but he is in CalAm’s pocket. Why else would he be on their side, considering all the harm that CalAm is doing to everyone (except their commercial customers)?
      And it’s not as if the pain is over. This is just the beginning. During the Measure O campaign 3 years ago, we warned people that large rate increases were coming w/in the next few years – increases that would total 300% to 500%. Well, in March everyone’s bills increased 80-200% over February and that doesn’t include the increases between 2014 and March of this year. If, as a result of the efforts of Kempe and other of his ilk, we are defeated again, just you wait till you see the increases over the next 5 years. It may make our 300-500% estimates of 2014 seem like Golden Era of CalAm rates.

    • john moore April 23, 2017, 2:46 pm

      Of all the agencies in the area to “lead” the desal project, Only Cal-Am had such an egregious conflict of interest that it should not have been a candidate. As proven to date, the more costly the desal project and the longer that it is delayed, the more Cal-Am makes and stands to make in the future.

      IMO, it would be better to start all over on the desal project, with the “lead” by the Marina Water District because it is actually in the water business.

      The ugly but humorous point of Paul Miller’s editorial is that he claimed that all of the technical problems are now resolved, so why rock the boat. Wow, slant-well technology has no successful fore-runner and a technical guy at the Water Pollution District, the “lead” on the 3500 acre-ft. Ag waste recycle project, has just confirmed to WRAMP that the use of recycled AG waste to potable water has NEVER been attempted(but they believe it will work if there is sufficient dilution after they pour it into the Seaside basin). So both may fail, a risk we cannot afford.

      I’m more than a bit worried about the financial risk to the future of the Cal-Am geographical area because of the high level of incompetence of the players. That the mayor’s agree with Paul Miller and his editorial is truly a reason for freight, granted that they are all “swell” mayors. The financial condition of their respective entities, except for Carmel and Del Rey Oaks, does not say much for their financial or practical prowess.

      Having given my pessimistic views, as a 50 year licensed attorney, I warn, don’t believe that it cannot get worse. For example some of the potential sponsors of the Buy-out -Cal-Am group have suggested the Monterey Bay Water Management District as the agency to manage the Cal-Am business. Based on that districts performance to date, including its participation in the solution to our water mess, that would be just as bad as the current situation, which has no chance at all.

  • Bob Coble April 23, 2017, 1:26 pm

    I wish I could agree with Jane Haines assessment of the Chair of the Mayors’ Water Authority. However, I can’t due to the fact that he and all the other mayors have kowtowed to Cal Am, and have misled their own constituents about the water issue. If he and the other Peninsula mayors had been more concerned about their residents the water ownership issue would have been resolved some years ago.

    • Luke Coletti April 23, 2017, 2:43 pm

      I’m afraid I agree; Jane Haines’ assessment of Bill Kampe couldn’t further from the truth.

  • Jean April 23, 2017, 5:19 pm

    Some people refuse to face the fact that Cal-Am has failed to do its job, which includes effective strategic planning. Blaming those who are working for a well-managed water operation without the prospect of more failed projects and the highest water rates in the country is like blaming abolitionists for the collapsed Southern economy after 1863.

  • Luke Coletti April 23, 2017, 7:14 pm

    Article 43(c) of Pacific Grove’s Charter states:

    “No officer or employee of the City shall advertise the fact of his or her employment by the City in any public advertisement for a political candidate or ballot issue.”

    Did this stop Bill Kampe from using his office to lobby against Measure O? Nope, not at all. Im sure we can expect more of the same.