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The Monterey Herald has not given me a voice in its recent editions. I am the obvious one to respond to its criticism regarding Public Water Now’s activities, and hospitality industustry executive John Narigi’s criticisms (twice). But I have been denied that voice.

Following a Herald piece critical of the current effort to put Cal Am Water under public ownership, and similar arguments from Narigi, I submitted a response late last week. So far, it has not been published. Either the Herald editorial team has completely committed to one side, or it has taken a dim view of dialogue, or it is inept.

Regardless I am deeply disappointed in the Herald’s editorial view regarding its broader community of ratepayers, residents, voters, and the basic local economic life around water.

The Herald’s editorial of Oct. 6 called the new effort to buy Cal Am a distraction from the process of getting a new water supply.

First of all, ownership and supply are two very separate and distinct issues. Neither hinges on the other. Supply is short term. Ownership is long term. Whatever develops with supply will have to be incorporated into the ownership proceedings.

Second, call it a distraction. Call it a ground squirrel. Call it whatever. But those who call it anything cannot deny this fact: Cal Am is a monopoly using Peninsula water as a cash cow. The real question is not about distraction. It is who is the ostrich refusing to see the obvious.

The Herald is not the only one playing ‘ostrich’. The next day, Oct. 7, a paid commentary by the Coalition of Peninsula Businesses argued for a larger desalination plant and claimed that “most recent local water savings has (sic) come from initiatives undertaken by commercial businesses.” Somehow residential conservation was overlooked, which did not endear the coalition to many local ratepayers.

On Monday, Oct. 16, the Mayors’ Water Authority meets with the Peninsula Water Management District at 5:30 p.m. the district office. The mayors voted 4 – 2 to not discuss the community opinion of Cal Am.

During the Measure O campaign in 2014, Cal Am and the others expressed confidence that a new supply was close at hand. But here we are four years later, and still Cal Am flounders. Other supply projects have caught and passed Cal Am’s desal plan.

The foursome must spend a lot of time talking to themselves. Because they seem deaf to ratepayer complaints. Do they care? Ratepayers have been vociferous. Who is listening?

Public Water Now is the largest ratepayer advocate community organization on the Peninsula. Others are WRAMP (Water Ratepayers Association for Monterey Peninsula), previously called WaterPlus; and a new group, Citizens for Just Water, representing residential interests in the Marina area. All three participate in CPUC proceedings. All three hear from ratepayers and residents all the time, and the messages have been simple and clear – Cal Am is too costly, is arrogant in its approach to water, hides behind CPUC rulings, has a history of failure, and is no longer welcome.

Back to the starting point. Where is the distraction? The Herald, the business coalition and the mayors’ authority Business Coalition, Mayors Authority, all do not seem distracted. They seem focused. But they have not been successful. So are they actually distracted? Or is there another motivation?

My perspective is that all four want a distraction. They want a scapegoat. They want to have something to blame if Cal Am flat out fails. They want to be able to say that the community has “again” not marched to the “leadership” powers that be. They need an excuse to explain to the state water board why the cease-and-desist order regarding Carmel River water needs another modification, or why Cal Am cannot get it right, or why “they” cannot get it right.

Here is the obvious. Ratepayers are upset. Ratepayers have been gouged. Ratepayers and residents are reacting. It is time for a change. It is time for Cal Am to leave town. It is time for public ownership. Since the ostrich ‘leadership’ will not lead, ratepayers will.

In summary, ratepayers are being hammered. Monopoly water is too expensive and wrong. Public water is more affordable and right.


Look for a public water petition and sign. You will be doing the entire region and the future a big favor.

George T. Riley is managing director of Public Water Now, which is circulating petitions supporting local public ownership of Cal Am, a privately held international company.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Karl Pallastrini October 16, 2017, 7:07 pm

    Let me be the first to agree with the treatise by George Riley. Why the Mayor’s committee and the Herald support Cal-Am is relatively easy for me to see. They have one focus. The tourist industry. I hope that it is known that the tourist industry on the Monterey Peninsula is heavily promoted in southern California…including all media sources. Now…the Peninsula will benefit from the unfortunate events in Santa Rosa, Napa et. al.
    Does anyone believe that the tourism industry gives a rat’s behind about the cost of water to residents? The Golden Goose is filling the pockets of the Industry…while residents continue to conserve at the request of the Governor and common sense.
    The recent article in the Herald by the in-charge guy at the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce was off-putting to say the least. Contributing to an editorial that clearly supports only the tourist industry demand for water leaves out the concerns of the local rate-payers, home-owners, who have given their best to conserve. Hello. Pretty short-sighted and entirely missing the point.
    I would suggest that the Industry that promotes (ad nauseam) the beauty of choosing our peninsula as a destination…pay for the rate increases and cut their profit margins accordingly. The same could be said for Cal Am, but their profit margin and commitment to share-holders will always be their primary interest. You cannot convince rate-payers (who out-number those with a vested interest in Cal-Am) to see what is happening here. The track-record is an indicator that we are being played. Can PWN do a better job? I don’t know. I sure as hell support their efforts to find out. I see nothing in the long-range picture to do otherwise.

  • Alan Estrada October 16, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Verily excellent statements, comments, points and remarks above. Full steam ahead. Do not forget that Cal Am is owned by a German company and Britishly run by RWE-Thames-Water. Like Felton, the time to flow is ASAP. Let this be a sign of a revolutionary time. Hoping that http://www.vomb.org [Voices of Monterey Bay] chimes in soon on this salient subject as well.

    • Ron Chesshire October 16, 2017, 10:17 pm

      In order for people to make informed decisions one cannot depend on “fake news” such as that above. It should have said Cal Am WAS owned by German Corp. with a British Subsidiary. No wonder we have difficulty in curing our water situation.

      From 2001 to 2006 American Water Works was owned in part or whole by German Corp. RWE which had also had purchased Thames Water. Thames Water was head of RWE’s Water Division and American Water Works (which owns Cal Am) was part of that water division. Sometime in 2006 RWE made a decision to divest of both Thames and American Water Works. In 2008 RWE ran an IPO to start the divestiture of American Water Works. Many shares were sold and RWE maintained a great amount of shares which it eventually sold. Here is what the main owners look like now as American Water Works is a publicly traded company. This may not be a perfect report but is a lot better than “fake news”.

      Check both Fund and Institutional Owners

  • Alan Estrada October 16, 2017, 10:36 pm

    Agreed. Good research. Thank you for the real, informative, up-to-date news. The history of Cal Am remains relevant and pertinant to the day…

  • Jan Shriner October 17, 2017, 6:50 am

    Well written George. Can it be said honestly that the commercial rates of cal am are influential in the debate?

    There was a sense of urgency until an extension was created. It is amazing how useful a sense of urgency can be to stifle the careful consideration portion of the discussion. I believe the mantra was something about a cliff and the complete elimination of tap water. If the “fake news” clarifiers would please address all angles, rather than just the stray comments from one, the conversation could be more productive.

    Negotiations, extensions, and penalties for cal am are all possible for them to continue the monopoly and illegal takes of Carmel river and salinas valley groundwater.

    The decision is about how much profit do peninsula customers want to pay before joining the national majority of water users with publicly owned water utilities?

    • Ron Chesshire October 17, 2017, 7:49 am

      I believe the facts are pertinent to any discussion, don’t you? Alan was a victim of false information. Many people on the Peninsula still believe what he believed. In fact our illustrious Editor is in need of a tune up having put this in as a byline. “George T. Riley is managing director of Public Water Now, which is circulating petitions supporting local public ownership of Cal Am, a privately held international company”.

      I found this as an opportune time to dispel false information which has been perpetuated for much too long. If you don’t believe getting the facts is part of having a more productive conversation then you only affirm my assumption as to why we are having so much difficulty in solving our water situation.

      As to addressing “all angles”? George Riley’s angle is to make a pitch for signing the petition. Since I believe democracy is the foundation of our country and the people have a right to vote on conditions affecting them, I will sign. Therefore, I expect George will be knocking on my door soon. As to what I think and how I will vote, that is to be determined by reviewing the facts.


  • Lou Panetta October 17, 2017, 4:45 pm

    The Partisan has the best body of information regarding this issue … including opposing views. Will the archive will be available as we campaign and gather signatures?

    Thanks Royal.

  • bill leone October 18, 2017, 8:45 am

    Well, what can you expect from a newspaper that consistently puts the interests of its community far below the interests of its advertisers.
    I agree with the above statements: that we need accurate Facts, not hearsay, to counter Cal-Am’s propaganda (as well as the Herald, the Pine Cone, & KSBW editorials) on Most local issues. Therefore, everyone who cares about the quality of life on the Peninsula should be busy checking other contributor’s facts as well as their own (the Internet is very useful for this purpose).
    Finally, if Anyone is interested in collecting petition signatures for PWN, please contact me (831-521-1055, or bleone2@juno.com). I have a folding table (provided by George), two folding chairs, a table cloth, a sign, & materials for PWN information & collecting signatures. If I get enough volunteers I will need to get my hands on another table, more chairs, another sign,
    & more petition materials. I can set up a table at the Monterey or Seaside Post Office in a matter of minutes. Let’s do this!
    PS: Karl, I missed you at yesterday’s Farmers Market.