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Public Water Now Launches H2O Petition Drive at Rally


(Photo by Wes White)

More than 100 enthusiastic supporters showed up Saturday afternoon for the Public Water Now kickoff rally at Laguna Grande Park in Seaside. The event marked the beginning of the PWN petition drive to put a new measure, dubbed H2O, on the 2018 ballot. “We collected our first 100 signatures and we’re off to a great start!” said PWN director, George Riley.

The Dave Holodiloff Band provided a great blue grass background. The atmosphere was upbeat and determined. Supporters wore T-shirts that read PUBLIC WATER NOW…or NEVER!

PWN’s goal is public ownership of the Peninsula’s water system. The petition reads: “The purpose of this Measure is to ensure the long-term sustainability, adequacy, reliability, cost-effectiveness and quality of water service within the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) area, to lower the cost of service to ratepayers, to promote and practice sustainable water management measures, and to establish public ownership of water system assets.”

The ballot measure, if passed, would direct the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to pursue a buyout of Cal Am if financially feasible. According to Riley, “We’ve looked at the numbers and we believe it’s feasible.” MPWMD’s general manager would be required within nine months to submit a plan to implement the new policy.

If Cal Am refuses to sell, the Water Management District has the authority to use eminent domain.

The Monterey Peninsula has the most expensive water in the country according to national nonprofit, Food & Water Watch. In the past two years, ratepayers have experienced a 68 percent increase in water costs. After widely promoting conservation, Cal Am charged ratepayers $40 million for water they didn’t use to make up for lost corporate profits.

Efforts to take the Peninsula’s water system public go back to the 1930s. “None have succeeded,” said Riley addressing the crowd, “but I’m calling this measure a game-changer.”

In 2014, Measure O was outspent 20 to 1 by Cal Am’s $2.5 million, but lost by only 10 points. Riley said the new measure has a much better chance of passing next fall because the political landscape has changed dramatically. During the Measure O campaign, all of the Monterey Peninsula’s mayors opposed it, as did 5th District Supervisor Dave Potter and former Rep. Sam Farr.

Many of those political leaders that opposed Measure O are now gone and have been replaced by those who support public ownership. A number of them were present in support at Saturday’s rally.

“We know we’re going to face Cal Am’s money again,” Riley said.

But he pointed out that voters had been on the side of local control in the vote on Measure Z, which defeated Big Oil. “We want local control over Cal Am,” he said. “I think Big Water will lose this time.”

A new PWN flyer points out that $19 million in Cal Am’s corporate profits and taxes leave our community annually. “Do you like sending your money to American Water in New Jersey (Cal Am’s parent company) or would you rather see it stay home?” Riley asked. “Corporate water is wrong and public water is right.”

Achieving community ownership of our water will take a community sized effort. The question Riley posed to the crowd was, “Do we want to rent our water forever or buy it and own it? It’s only going to work if we do the work. We can do this!” Felton, Ojai and Missoula, Montana have all succeeded in efforts to take back their water from corporate ownership.

To be placed on the ballot, the Measure will need 6,200 signatures from voters in the Monterey Peninsula water district, which includes Monterey, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks and Sand City. “We’re shooting for 10,000 signatures,” Riley concluded.

Short sessions to train people how to collect Measure H2O signatures will begin Monday at 1:30 and 7:00pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church 490 Aquajito Road in Carmel. Everyone who wants to help is welcome to attend the training. Other training times are scheduled here.

You can join Public Water Now here.

Melodie Chrislock, the communications director for Public Water Now, can be reached at MWChrislock@redshift.com.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dan Miller October 8, 2017, 6:55 pm

    It was a great event and a great start. It has my full support (as O did) and this should be a litmus test for anyone running for office in the coming election.

  • bill leone October 8, 2017, 9:52 pm

    The Partisan should have a link to all the testimonies of the event’s participants….as soon as the videos are edited & made available. I suspect they will be on the PWN website. They should be shared with everyone on your digital email address list.
    As the Mayor of Masula, Montana (not know for its Liberal politics) has said: “It was the Right Thing to do,” (i.e. Public acquisition of their city’s private water system).
    Finally, there is an election coming up in November, & time to remember all the elected officials & community “leaders” who sold their constituents out in exchange for corporate support from Cal-Am.
    (That’s me, with the white shirt, white beard, sunglasses & upraised, clenched fist: “Power To The Public!”)

  • James Toy October 8, 2017, 11:52 pm

    I’m inclined to agree with the recent Herald editorial that the water management district should just do the feasibility study of its own accord and spare us the ordeal and expense of another obnoxious campaign. Regardless of how the next ballot measure turns out, the issue won’t go away until we have real numbers to settle the argument once and for all.

  • Lou Panetta October 9, 2017, 7:19 am

    I’m having a neighborhood gathering at my home this week. George will present. I believe this the first house party scheduled. 21 people have committed to attend. All of you should do this. We can’t complain without getting involved. Get a sign, a shirt, a clipboard, and help.

    • Jeanne Turner October 9, 2017, 9:42 am

      Come to a training, listed in Melodie’s link, above. Just drop in. There will be more after this week. If you are interested and can’t come this week, please contact me jturner215@comcast.net

  • Marc Del Piero October 9, 2017, 9:03 am

    This is a great cause and the people supporting the buy-out of CalAm by a public agency are on the right side of history. The greedy tyranny perpetrated upon the voters and rate-payers of the Monterey Peninsula by CalAm and their self-interested, financially motivated apologists is about to end. Sign the petition!!! I will. Marc Del Piero

    • Richard C Kreitman October 9, 2017, 2:30 pm

      Bumper stickers. We need bumper stickers. And to insist in the eminent domain cost calculations that we pay for the infrastructure only as depreciated and net of any repairs required to bring it up to full functionality.

  • Karl Pallastrini October 9, 2017, 6:36 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks that MPWMD should have come up with a cost analysis for the proposed eminent domain takeover without being prompted by the Herald…or anyone else for that matter. It does make me wonder if they are going to be the right agency to manage a take-over? I know…they are the only game in town. Where are they in the process???

    • Melodie Chrislock October 12, 2017, 6:39 am

      Richard K. We have bumper stickers, yard signs and T-shirts. We’ll have an office open by next week at 1334 Munras in Monterey (across from Del Monte Center) where you can get them.

  • Ron Weitzman October 10, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Karl, you are not the only one who thinks MPWMD should have come up with a cost analysis of the proposed takeover. In 2013, I presented a cost analysis pro bono to the district board. You can see it in the PowerPoint form I presented it at this link: http://waterplusmonterey.com/cost_comparisons/COST_COMPARISONS/cost_comp_1.html.
    The board ignored it. The board also denied our Water Plus request to form a community committee to review the cost comparisons we presented. Incidentally, cost is not the only issue. It is not even the biggest issue. Bigger is whether the district has the competence, the experience, and the record to show it can operate the water-purveyance system at least as well and efficiently as its current owner from Day 1 of its ownership. That is what an eminent domain judge will be looking for, and that is a tall order for the district to fill. I challenge the board NOW to prove it is up to the job. If not, a fair question to ask is, Why does the board even exist?

    • Dan Turner October 11, 2017, 2:26 pm

      I am going to find out if the judge who ruled against Santa Clarita, Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin, had a philosophical ax to grind. By that I mean, was his decision colored by a regressive, Libertarian political point of view, or was he sincerely concerned – did he have real reasons to believe – that the City of Santa Clarita wouldn’t be able to establish the bureaucratic and technical infrastructure to deliver water.

  • Karl Pallastrini October 10, 2017, 6:19 pm


    More than fair. The Board knows that they were shown the door by voters…saved only by the fact that the vote was advisory. A history of their involvement in water affairs is in order. What is the good? What is the bad? What are the takeaways? I have them second to Cal Am as least likely to get it right. Is a leadership role in their domain? Apparently not. The Board appears to be tourists in the efforts to bring our water costs down, and, (I could be wrong) comfortable with Cal Am and the PUC.

  • bill leone October 10, 2017, 9:40 pm

    For those of you who would like to actually Do something about the Water Issue in Monterey County, I suggest you join my wife, Diane & I on the corner of Franklyn & Alvarado Streets, during Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays, starting at 4:00pm & lasting until sundown, We are collecting signatures on the PWN petition. It’s an opportunity to get off your behind, stop complaining & making pointless arguments…meet old friends, make new friends, meet relatives & neighbors, & talk to people who are curious about Public Water Now. If not, you can find your own corner at some other location at another time, perhaps in another town.
    Otherwise, just Shut Up & go watch TV.

  • Karl Pallastrini October 11, 2017, 6:57 pm


    Well said. See you at the next Farmers market.

  • bill leone October 15, 2017, 10:33 pm

    See you there, Karl.
    If Anyone else is interested in collecting signatures for the PWN petition at the Farmers Market,
    please give me a call (831-521-1055). I have a folding table (thanks to George!), a table cloth,
    a sign, & materials to collect signatures. I will set up at 3:45, & wait for anyone who is interested in joining me. If you have petitions, etc, please bring them. Also, please call me beforehand, since a few people are interested in doing this, & it would be a good idea to share the job rather than everyone showing up at the same time & standing around until sundown.
    You can also text me or email me at bleone2@juno.com, if you’re shy about calling.