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There is a good reason that local TV news seldom has anything to say about Monterey Peninsula water politics. It isn’t very visual and the sound bites tend to be a bit on the dry side.

The potential for something Action News-worthy looms, however, with the Coalition of Peninsula Businesses planning an event featuring a lawyer who specializes in combating public efforts to take over private water system. That session is set for Tuesday June 27 at the Monterey Plaza Hotel but is open only to coalition members – generally the hospitality and general commerce bigwigs of the rest of the business community.

The coalition isn’t expected to invite cameras, or the public, into the session. What creates the opportunity for some video is a low-key rally scheduled for outside the hotel at the same time. That event is being organized by Public Water Now, the group that is preparing to mount a Peninsula-wide ballot measure forcing a public takeover of California American Water.

The coalition’s speaker, attorney Joe Conner hails from Chattanooga, Tenn., and specializes in representing private water companies and other corporate interests facing takeover efforts. In scattered cases, he has managed to beat back municipilization efforts but the verbiage on his web site suggests his work mainly focuses on increasing the prices paid to the companies being acquired. He failed to stop a recent takeover effort in Missoula, Mont., but says he managed to have the offering price doubled. He tried and failed to thwart the community effort to acquire the Felton water system from California American Water Co. but he takes credit for increasing the cost to the customers.

Public Water Now’s George Riley asked the coalition if he or others were invited to the session with lawyer Conner. No invitation materialized.

Riley said, “We believe the public and the attendees will get a one-sided perspective if they only hear from the American Water Works gun-slinger.”

Stay tuned for details on the informational rally.

Corporate water systems now serve about 15 percent of households in the United States. Public Water Now plans a November 2018 ballot measure to reduce that percentage every so slightly.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dan Miller June 22, 2017, 8:01 pm

    Great accomplishment…doubling the price to the public. Since our water bills have recently doubled and soon will again guess it really doesn’t matter.

  • Jeanne Turner June 22, 2017, 8:23 pm

    Missoula told their story to PWN at the June 5th forum. If you weren’t there, it’s on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1u7ZLc2uAzo

  • Dan Turner June 22, 2017, 10:35 pm

    A low key rally? Maybe things will get out of hand. You never know.

  • john moore June 23, 2017, 9:20 am

    Citizens have been treated like food by both Cal Am and the local governmental agencies that have been involved in our water mess since the state CDO re the Carmel River. Cal Am was ok until the stupid Mayor’s group, the news media and the county utilized their collective stupidity to allow Cal Am to own the proposed desalination plant.

    The desal. project began in about 2008, and if built by Cal Am, will be so costly that chaos will result. The current reaction to this tragic project is to have the affected agencies buy out Cal Am and I agree with that proposal; but so far, the proposal by the O’Reilly group to choose the Monterey Bay Water Management District to serve as the purchaser and manager of the water franchise is just as tragic: it is responsible for the whole water mess. It was its’ sole purpose to assure that we were never victimized by Cal Am, or, any threat such as the CDO. It should be eliminated and its charter returned to the County Public Works dept.

    I doubt that there is enough mental energy to eliminate the Water District, so if the buy out is to go forward, I believe that The City of Monterey is best suited to take over Cal Am thru a buy out, but it would be taking on a real mess.

    The PUC has just notified all interested parties to a meeting to take a new look at the water project, it is like deciding to start over, but they will never admit that. In my fifty years as a lawyer, I have only observed one project processed with the incompetence of this project: a county in Ala. built a sewage treatment plant that resulted in monthly bills of over a thousand dollars a month. The county was forced into bankruptcy. With Cal Am as owner, the bankruptcy chip was taken off the table.

    • john moore June 23, 2017, 10:09 am

      I do have a legal point. According to the case law, Agencies like those within the Cal Am district have a “police power” right to protect their survival and ability to provide vital services(like water)by terminating contracts and franchises(like the Cal Am franchise). In my view, it is time for all of the Agencies within the Cal Am franchise area to band together and take over the Cal Am franchise by an emergency condemnation based on the police power.

      That still leaves the question of which agency should run the water franchise: my vote is a joint powers agency, composed of all agencies within the franchise area, that would contract the day to day management of the franchise to a private contractor, based on an RFQ and competitive bidding. The joint powers agency would own the company and of course it would be non-profit. In my view, the status quo is gravely dangerous to the safety of an affordable water supply for our citizens.

      • Dan Turner June 23, 2017, 1:27 pm

        I agree that the WMD is very unpopular, has not done what it was intended to do when it was established 40 years ago and that choosing it as the agency to take over water distribution makes it more difficult to get a majority to vote for getting rid of CalAm.
        Unfortunately, there is no other alternative. I agree that the City of Monterey can and should do it (get rid of CalAm) but they won’t. They just won’t. I’ve spoken to the mayor & some council people and they have told me to go have the WMD do it. Also, it seems that it is not possible for private citizens to set up a JPA to get rid of CalAm (and then be the distribution agency for our water) in advance of getting rid of CalAm. So, we’re stuck w/the WMD whether we like it or not.

        • john moore June 23, 2017, 5:50 pm

          I did not suggest that private citizens could or should set up a joint powers agency. I said that the cities served by Cal Am could and should form a joint power agency to own the project and suggested that it select a private company expert in managing water suppliers to run the project and report to the JPA.
          Saying that we are stuck with the Water Management District is not true under any circumstances. If nothing else, we could form a De-sal Management District, except then we would need to elect more incompetents like the mayors and the Water Management board.
          With my suggested JPA and buy out based on use of the emergency police powers, an election may be avoided.

          • Dan Turner June 24, 2017, 3:51 pm

            John, I agree w/you that the cities should do exactly what you say BUT THEY WON’T! What part of THEY WON’T! don’t you understand?

  • bill hood June 25, 2017, 6:25 am

    Mr. Moore – if you want to criticize George Riley, it might be a good idea if you learned to correctly spell his last name. Regards, Bill Huud – – – oh, make that Bill Hood

  • John Norman June 25, 2017, 11:02 am

    I remember the first go round a couple of years ago, when 12 out of 13 Monterey area mayors said “Now is not the time.” It turns out it was long overdue. I spoke with folks from PWN and learned that even if we had gotten caught up in a long, drawn out legal battle with Cal Am and our local water delivery system had been overvalued as a result, we would still have saved money by buying them out. This estimatation also included the worst case scenario of getting a bad interest rate on the bond revenue needed for the buyout. We are really being taken to the cleaners by Cal Am. Some of Measure O’s skeptics did not believe that water could get cheaper when supply was limited by drought conditions. My answer to that is that subsistence levels of consumption can be as cheap as you want them to be so long as you offset those prices by punitive prices at higher consumption levels. I hope that the people who drafted this measure made it crystal clear this time around that NONE of the buyout funding would come from an increase in property taxes. I think the ambiguous language in Measure O possibly killed it last time. Oh well, lets try again. Thank you to all of the activists that made this possible. It is much appreciated.