It’s time for local control; vote yes on Measure W

Golden State has run a tough campaign in defense of their assets. While we don’t take issue with free market economics, we’re opposed to a company that makes a life necessity a vehicle for ever-increasing profit. For this reason, the Claremont COURIER newspaper staff urges Claremont residents to vote yes on Measure W.

With the city in charge, residents would have a voice in how our water is managed and be guaranteed access to the higher-ups. Have an issue with your water bill? Call city hall. Better yet, stop by on your way to the post office, or visit the council’s booth at the Sunday Farmers’ Market. 

Upset about a possible rate increase? Public comment at a city council meeting will provide a guaranteed opportunity to address the people making the decision. There’s no more flying up north to battle the Public Utilities Commission, and no longer will our queries be shuffled around to PR firms and law offices. Our city leaders live and work here in Claremont. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of access.

Opponents of Claremont’s efforts to acquire the water system complain that a takeover will not yield water rate savings for some time. But Golden State’s clockwork rate increase requests, which are routinely granted by the PUC, already ensure that Claremonters’ water bills will constantly rise for decades to come.

By the city’s estimate, it can support up to $80 million in revenue bonds. Should Claremont take ownership of its water system, these municipal bonds will be repaid solely from money generated by our water bill payments. No charges will impact property taxes in any way. The use of revenue bonds is the most fair method, as the burden of repayment is lifted solely from homeowners.

The city has faced this dilemma twice before, spending considerable time and resources pondering water acquisition, only to back out at the eleventh hour. If the city and residents shy away from taking control this time, we will end up back in this position again, with an even higher price tag attached to the water system. Residents will have no recourse other than to pay up.

The systematic rate increases by a company beholden to shareholders will cease with a public water system. With a city-run system, turning a profit is off the table. Water users will be paying for the bond for years to come but, like most debt, the bond payments will come to an end. Conversely, our burgeoning payments to Golden State Water Company are endless.

Golden State representatives previously chastised Claremont leaders for wanting to “get into the water business.” The fact remains: water isn’t “business” for Claremont, it’s a service to residents—one of many services the city can competently provide, as they have proven over the years. 

Along with Golden State’s usurious rates, we take exception to their disinterest in getting to know Claremont and its residents. As a reader explained to the COURIER, “One would think a billion-dollar company would try to understand a community and customize its approach. Instead, Golden State has run the fear and misdirection playbook.” We couldn’t agree more.

The frontman for Golden State Water has been a former Claremont McKenna College professor who has sought to use his past connection to CMC as a means to get people to listen. His credentials are impressive, but no more worthy of accolades than the thousands of other professors, academics and professionals in the community. If there’s one way to turn off Claremont, it’s posturing.

Golden State’s disconnect has also been evidenced by the company’s overreliance on their Sacramento-based public relations firm, Randle Communications. Where was Golden State CEO and President Robert Sprowls in all the debate? Even the once-present senior vice president of regulated utilities, Denise Kruger, has gone silent.

Being forced to contact reps in Sacramento about a Claremont concern is draining and has proven to be futile.

Golden State continues to flex its multi-million dollar muscles with overblown propaganda. Their ensuing shell game—executed by intimidating residents through confusion tactics and filing lawsuits against city officials—has ultimately worked against them by exacerbating residents’ long-held distrust of the corporate giant.

Despite Golden State’s occasional condemnation of Claremont residents for high water usage, reducing use is all but discouraged through their tacked-on fees as the company recoups its profits with the PUC’s blessing.

The fact that, even in the midst of a historic drought, Golden State Water has refused to reverse its WRAM charge, a troubling fee levied on ratepayers who conserve water, is proof that the company’s focus is turning a profit by any means necessary.

Golden State puts profits before people—an approach that will not change in the future as company executives continue to protect their million-dollar salaries and stock options, while feeding healthy dividends to the company’s shareholders.

The most exciting outcome of regaining control of our water system, and probably the least talked about, is the expansion of the possibilities. Freedom from Golden State Water Company will, for the first time, give Claremont the chance to explore options in sustainability. With the collective brainpower and green sensibilities of this community and its groundbreaking colleges, Claremont can make its mark as a leader in water conservation.

The greatest challenge for voters is a lack of solid information. We won’t know what the water system is worth or exactly how much it will cost to obtain it until a judge or jury decides its value.

Answering the riddle of Measure W essentially came down to one question for us, “Who do we trust more?” We’re with the city of Claremont on this one. Vote yes on Measure W