The public good

I’m writing regarding the letter written by Alice McKay in last week’s COURIER. Like Alice, I’ve had it with the ongoing fight between the city, California Water Grab and Golden State Water Company.

Like Alice, I don’t live beyond my means. I pay around the same amount as Alice every month for water, and it is by far my biggest monthly bill. It is larger than my electricity, gas, sanitation and even my cell phone and Internet service in the summer.

My parents live in Santa Fe Springs (southeast Los Angeles) and pay only $38 a month for water in summer (actually, Alice, your water bill is bad for southern California). They have a front lawn with grass and a backyard jungle full of fruits and vegetables, including persimmons, avocados, guavas, bananas, lemons, tomatoes, chili peppers and more.

What’s most peculiar about the water rates in Claremont is that they go up by over 15 percent every three years, like clockwork. That is unheard of for any utility to increase its rates that much and that often. And this is true whether you use 10 gallons or 10 million gallons a month. Not even my cell phone company or the evil Time Warner cable increases their rates that much and that often.

Like Alice, I have common sense. But on matters as important as this, I think one should do some research to have an opinion based on facts and not emotion. So I simply went online and looked at the application that Golden State filed with the government for the recent rate increase. I was absolutely shocked to find out that the number-one reason they need to raise rates so much is because their customers keep reducing their water usage! In other words, because Claremont residents are using less water than before, Golden State must raise rates to compensate. My goodness! So I guess we should tell all those rich folk with their koi ponds to increase their water usage so me, the little guy, can see lower rates.

How can people be a part of the solution when they are confused on what the problem is? The problem is that our water rates keep skyrocketing every three years, and the solution is not to reduce water usage more because that will only raise rates more. The solution is to have some say and control over our water rates and, under the current system,  that will never be the case.

Compare, for instance, the process for the recent sanitation rate increase by the city to the water rate increase by Golden State. When the sanitation rate increase was proposed, we were notified beforehand and had the ability to speak directly to the five people (our city council members) that would approve the increase. We could voice our opinions either by speaking during a city council meeting, by email or even at the Sunday Farmer’s Market and receive responses directly from them.

Compare that to the water rate increase in which Golden State never engaged with the community as to why they needed to raise rates. We don’t even know who to contact in the company to have a conversation. And the regulatory agency merely sent an inflatable boob to sit and pretend to listen to us complain without engaging in any discourse, and then they arbitrarily raised rates with no reasonable explanation. If you are okay with that process then by all means write a letter to the editor.

If my common sense tells me anything, it’s that Golden State and their public relations goons are really the ones who wrote the letter from Alice McKay, and the more I read that letter the more it is blatantly obvious. Shame on you, Golden State Water!

If there’s anyone in this story that is “the little guy,” it is all of us, the city of Claremont, up against the Goliath tyrants of Golden State, who have complete control over something that is a basic necessity of life. Right now, Golden State owns every single drop of rain or melted snowflake that flows in to Claremont, and are just waiting for the day that they can use their massive profits to buy the rights to the very air that we breathe.

This is not something we can fix by buying low-flow showerheads or re-landscaping our yards. This is about having control over the cost of a public good. And not just for our next water bill, but for the water bills of our children and all future generations.

Arnold Tuason