Former State Superintendent and politician Jack O’Connell’s argument in the Friday, February 7 edition of the COURIER is based on some mistaken assumptions. This is a common error for most of us when heavily invested in a system of beliefs and trying to take an objective view of a problem.
The first mistaken assumption is that we need to pass a school bond in order to have a good educational system. Is the present system not doing a good job of educating our children? Are our teachers and the education they are providing our children sub-standard because the previous school bond did not pass? I think not.
I have had opportunity to observe hundreds of hours of instruction in different school districts’ classrooms, many of them in Claremont, over a period exceeding two decades. In all instances, the quality of education provided by Claremont teachers has been consistently first-rate.
The second mistaken assumption is that Mr. O’Connell is treating two dissimilar situations as one, black-and-white, simplistic issue. Quality of education is a complex, multifaceted subject often as strongly influenced by culture as it is by economics. US students are notorious for performing well below students of other developed countries even while the amount being spent on those US students often far exceeds that being spent on the students who outperform us.
We appear to have a mind set that if we just throw more money at something it will improve it. Unfortunately, this constricted approach is often encouraged by those who have become entangled in the system.
The issue of who controls our water resources is more clear. The goal of Golden State Water is profit. They have clearly demonstrated this. There is no doubt. They have repeatedly manipulated the system to maximize their profits—and the consumer has nowhere else to go because GSW is a protected monopoly.
The goal of the city of Claremont is to provide water to its citizens at a cost that is reasonably comparable to those of surrounding cities whose water supplies reflect local control rather than private for-profit revenue.
If the city owns the water supply their primary goal will be to provide a reliable and safe source of water to their constituents, not to continue to milk as much profit out of the system as possible. And the city’s target is to do this through a process that is more in control of the voters, not by slipping hidden benefits under the table to highly paid executives who ramp up company profits. Yes, public bureaucracies can be as error prone as private, but they are more accountable to the citizens.
In fact, it seemed somewhat incongruous that Mr. O’Connell was arguing for local control of school resources but against local control of water resources. It appears logical to Mr. O’Connell that we should have the right to vote about promoting energy efficiency in schools but not logical that we should have the right to vote about penalizing ourselves for reducing water consumption.
As others have pointed out, and which I won’t belabor here, there are disadvantages as well as advantages to the city acquisition of the water system. But the issue should not become misdirected as one between supporting our schools or supporting control of water. The issue is that citizens have a right to make a choice about where and how their money is to be spent and what freedoms or restrictions they feel are necessary.