BY KATHERINE KELLY
There’s not a lot of controversy regarding the prop 218 water rate increase protest when it comes to those eager to protest it. For these people it’s a straightforward issue of economics and math. But there is a controversy when it comes to the city and the city council.
We the People were told in July that the water fund had a $400,000 cash reserve, now we’re told if we don’t raise our rates we’ll be defaulting on a loan in January. So what happened to the surplus? How can we trust what they tell us when it changes so unexpectedly?
Another aspect that doesn’t make any sense is when Public Works Director, Eric Weir, talks about expanding the pipe capacity from the prison to the elevated tank at a cost of $1 million. We were also told that the prison has reduced its consumption by half. Why the need for an expensive pipe expansion if the prison is using less water?
So what is it driving up the cost of providing water to the community? Could it be excessive salaries and benefits for the employees? Or buying things we can’t afford at this time? Or maybe it’s that so many people have lost their homes or businesses that the customer base is too small? Or could it possibly be mismanagement?
I’m reminded of the sewer rate increase in 2007. We were told breathlessly that we must have our rates increased or we would not be able to pay the $43 million loan. Now we find out that they are running that department in the red and will be coming at us again for more money. So, either they lied about the rate increase being what was needed to cover the loan payments, or they have mismanaged the fund.
Overpaying employees during an economic stalemate might be an issue with our city. Just for example, Interim Director of Finance, Susan Mayer, will be getting paid just over $9000 a month, which includes a $2000 a month housing allowance. Surely she’s qualified to make such a salary, elsewhere, but here? You don’t go buy Gucci when you can only afford White Stagg. And can’t she find somewhere to live cheaper than $2000? How very generous of us, to allow this woman to live in relative luxury while the rest of us are barely scraping by. Maybe it’s time to match the hierarchy of our city government to the lower-archy of its citizens?
I see this a lot here in Crescent City: the “we deserve it” mentality that pushes people into debt driven by greed. The city itself needs to learn to live within its means like the rest of us. I don’t go out and buy things because I deserve to have them and put it on the credit card that I know I can’t pay. That’s what the city did with the new sewer. Instead of repairing the old one so that it functions the way it needs to, the “update” was more of a “rebuild” so our sewer is now “pretty” but still discharging effluent that doesn’t meet standards of the state. How much have we had to pay on fines since our “new” sewer was built? And we have a testing lab that was promised would pay for itself in two years: still bleeding red ink on that one.
I have a hard time believing anything the city officials say at this point because they are willing to lie to the people they serve in order to get their way. Note the comparison of our water rates to other cities. They only compare to those that are higher when there are many examples of cities that are lower. And they compare our 500 cf flat rate to 1000 cf in other areas. I’m sure they hope no one will notice, like we’re that stupid. And it’s nothing to brag about in wanting us to be in the “higher” group, when they should be striving to keep our rates low. Just because Gold Beach jumps off the bridge…you know how the saying goes.
Incompetence and malfeasance seems to be the rule of our local government. They pay themselves well, do a poor job unworthy of their pay and job title, screw it up badly, then come with their hands out for the citizens to bail them out, again. Have they no shame?