Get ready to rumble.
Public Water Now is kicking off its effort to take Cal Am Water public with a rally set for 1 p.m. Saturday Oct. 7 at Seaside’s Laguna Grande Park. Expect a news conference with Public Water Now founder George Riley and others along with a bit of entertainment, food trucks, etc.
The group is starting a petition drive to create a November 2018 ballot measure that would force a public takeover of the Peninsula’s water purveyor for reasons that include constantly rising water rates that have made the water here the most expensive in the United States.
Public Water Now attempted a similar measure in 2014 that was defeated by a blitz of deceptive advertising by Cal Am. There’s no reason to expect anything less this time around but organizers believe ratepayers have become fed up with Cal Am’s pricing and its propaganda.
Said Riley, “Skyrocketing water bills have people all over the Peninsula fed up with Cal Am. According to Food & Water Watch, we have the most expensive water in the country. Ratepayers have experienced a 68-percent increase in the cost of water over the last two years and there are more increases scheduled. It really bothers people that we’ve conserved water only to have Cal Am charge us $40 million for the water that we didn’t use to make up for lost profits.”
Riley said goal is to collect as many as 8,000 signatures, considerably more than the 6,200 needed to place the measure on the ballot.
The petition calls for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to adopt a policy of owning the water system and to acquire it if its determined to be “economically feasible.” The water management district would be required within nine months to initiate a plan to acquire and manage all the water facilities in the district boundaries. The result likely would be court hearings to establish the value of the system that Cal Am insists is not for sale.
The unpopularity of the water district, stemming from disagreement over its role, is certain to be used against the Public Water Now campaign, but the group is likely to emphasize that the agency is led by publicly elected board that voters can change.