Mayor States The Facts
By Joe Lyons
There has been a lot of talk around the city of Claremont the last few weeks about Measure W, the local water bond our City Council placed on the Nov. 4 general election ballot in response to rising water rates and citizen complaints about lack of local control. On behalf of my colleagues on the City Council and our city staff who have worked tirelessly on this effort, I want to take a moment to offer some facts on the issue. It is crucial that Claremont residents take time to understand the issue prior to the election.
The City Council voted unanimously on July 31 to place Measure W on the ballot. If passed the measure would authorize the city to borrow funds to purchase the Claremont water system currently owned and operated by Golden State Water Co. If acquired by the city, the water system would become the property of Claremont, being managed on your behalf by the city, rather than controlled by a for-profit corporation like Golden State Water Co. This move would bring Claremont in line with the vast majority of Californians who receive their water from public water agencies. In fact, according to the California Association of Water Agencies, there are approximately 800 public agencies delivering water to more than 75 percent of California residents, compared to only nine major corporations delivering water to the remaining residents in the state.
As many Claremonters already know, this conversation did not just begin this summer. The City Council has been working for several years, exploring alternatives to a privately owned water system in Claremont due to increasing rates and a rate-setting and revenue-recovery mechanism that charges customers when they conserve water. Under Golden State Water Co.’s system, when residents conserve water, as mandated by Gov. Jerry Brown, a surcharge is collected to ensure that this for-profit company receives its forecasted revenue and return on investment. And what about water rates? Some residential and business customers in our city have experienced water rate increases between 60 percent and 70 percent, according to a Golden State Water Co. executive’s sworn statement. In these tough economic times and an uncertain climate future, it is important to save and conserve whenever possible.
The City Council’s ultimate objective is to provide Claremont residents with an affordable water system that stabilizes water rates and provides local accountability to rate payers. Measure W would allow borrowing up to $135 million, and as fully described in the publicly available Feasibility Study, the city could finance a purchase price of up to $80 million through revenue bonds using existing rate revenues, and could, if necessary, issue up to an additional $55 million, should a court decision set the purchase price at greater than $80 million. Finally, the estimated cost to an average single-family household using 27 CCF (hundred cubic feet) would be approximately $28/month, if the full $135 million was needed.
At the end of the day, residents need to know that my colleagues and I placed Measure W on the ballot as a way for our constituents to have a say in their water future. The City Council does not need voter approval to issue revenue bonds to finance the acquisition of a revenue-generating asset. However, we strongly believe in fostering a transparent and open process with voters because it’s the right thing to do. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, Claremont residents will be able to make the final decision on Measure W. The city of Claremont encourages its residents to register to vote, which can be done at www.lavote.net until Oct. 20. And for more information on Measure W, please visit www.ci.claremont.ca.us.
Joe Lyons is mayor of Claremont.