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.