December 15, 2009

Are You Listening?



There were lots of goings on last week in the ol’ Poway corral.


First off, Rod Gould unexpectedly resigned. He is going to be leaving Poway in January to take the city manager ‘s job in Santa Monica. Gould has been Poway city manager for 4 yrs.  That's not very long by Poway standards (Jim Bowersox served for 24 yrs), but probably only a few years shy of the average city manager’s tenure. Gotta wonder just how much of Gould’s decision was a desire to get away from the rancor and contentiousness of Poway and how much was a desire to do something in a bigger city and get paid a lot more for it. Gould is a consummate professional. We will probably never know.


Betty Rexford was elated at the news about Gould’s leaving. Apparently she and Gould didn’t get along too well. I think there may have been some words between them about this city not being big enough for both of them. She’s still standing, so I guess that’s a win for her.
Last week, Rexford launched her website, therealbettyrexford.com. It is Rexford’s effort to get her side of the story out. As you might expect, the Poway Posse aka the recall-rexford folks responded to the rollout of her website by rolling up their recall tent. Not. You can read their responses here, but I suggest you avoid it, unless you have a perculiar nostalgia for your junior high years.


Last week was also the performance of Steve Vaus’ Carols by Candlelight. That’s his annual “for charity” gig. But since Vaus’ production company is a for profit company, we won’t know how much of the donated money and ticket revenue from Carols by Candlelight went to coddle the artists and line Vaus’ pockets and how much of it actually went to charity.  The recall stampede has been pretty quiet lately. I am not sure if that is because Vaus has been otherwise occupied or if they just ran out of steam.  Vaus hasn’t sent out a tweet since Nov 10.  No new republican leaders have stepped forward this week demanding that Rexford resign right this very minute.


Vaus’ claim that other houses burned to the ground during the Cedar Fire because a fire crew  was diverted to “babysit” Rexford’s house has been getting a lot of pushback.  I must say, the “facts” about the fire presented on the realbettyrexford site here, here, here  and here are pretty compelling. The documents on Vaus' site don’t back up his claims, they just show that a fire truck was sent to Rexford’s neighborhood to mop up after the fire. No document that Vaus provided shows that Rexford called and made any demands to send a firetruck. No document shows that any other house burned down due to a truck being sent to the Creek Rd neighborhood to quell spot fires.  Although not backing down or apologizing for what sure seems like a freakin’ distortion of events, Vaus (and his friend, Jack) are quick to point out that the issue of Rexford costing us a lot of money remains.


Do whatever you can to hide the real issue. Betty Rexford is unfit to serve and her repeatedly poor ethical choices have cost the city almost 1/2 a MILLION dollars. Does this not even bother you Gerold and Chris? You would rather put up with someone who is clearly unfit to serve rather than let anyone replace her?
So, maybe another house didn't "burn" as a direct result of her having trucks babysit her home, but does that make it any less salacious that she was able to have her own personal fire brigade stationed at her property and available to her beck and call?


Yes, it does bother me that the court case cost the city almost $500,000. I don’t agree with the recallers that Betty, and only Betty, was the problem that led to the court case. Nor do I agree that removing her from office just before her term expires and replacing her with an appointee is gonna fix things. But, consider the mathematics of the settlement. There are about 50,000 people in Poway. This case cost us about $10 ea. Or about $25 per household. Since January, I have been bitching about something that is costing me and many other Powegians about $50 per bi-monthly billing cycle. That is about $300/yr and it has been going on for years and will continue to go on until the council takes some action on it. I’m talking about my sewer consumption rates also known as “a variable commodity charge”. I’ve blogged about it here, here, here, and especially here. I’ve also complained about the fixed fees but that is another whole blog. Right now I am paying $72.23 for using 13 units of sewer water.(even when I only use 10 units). That is over $6/unit. Customers who use over 51 units are paying less than $2.29/unit. It isn’t fair, it isn’t just, it doesn’t comply with the best management practices of cities that have joined together to promote less consumption. Why should those who dump less water into the sewer system be paying a higher rate?


Tonight, the council will take another look at the water rate increses that went into effect this summer. The GVCA (Green Valley Civic Assoc) has complained that the rates aren’t fair and that some people will be paying more than it costs the city to provide the water.  Well, hello, isn’t that what I have been saying about the sewer rates for almost a year now? Can anybody hear me?  At least with the water rates, everyone is paying the exact same rate for the same amount of water purchased. Not so with our sewer rates. Those who buy more pay less. So how is it that GVCA got the council to bring back the water rates, but my complaints about the unjust and unfair sewer rates have been completely ignored?



Not a single councilmember has stepped forward to bring back the unfair sewer rates and put it on the agenda. In fact, Merrilee Boyack is the only council member to even respond to my many emails. Ms Boyack said maybe the council will look at it in a couple of years. A couple of years, eh? In a couple of years, that $300 extra that water-wise Powegians are paying each year is going to start adding up. It makes the Rexford settlement look like chump change.


Betty Rexford has also spoken in favor of rehearing the GVCA call to roll back the water rates to a flat rate. My request to rehear the sewer rates? She has done nothing.  Here is the issue where I am in total agreement with the recall folks. Betty Rexford has not been doing a good job of representing all of us.  But I’m not looking to replace Rexford with an appointee chosen by the council. I want the voters to replace her with someone who will listen to everyone in this community, not just the GVCA.


As for Higginson, Kruse and Cunningham, I haven’t heard a peep out of them about the unfair sewer rates either. They all live in north Poway and are pretty much tethered to the GVCA, but, uh, don’t you guys represent all of us? The unfair sewer rates  are not a north v south issue. The people who are getting ripped off are the ones who don’t use a lot of water in the winter months.  They are paying up to 10 times the sewer rate of the people who are putting a lot of water down the drain.


To be fair, most of my complaints were sent to the council before Carl Kruse was appointed.  So, here is your chance Carl. At tonight’s meeting, I am hoping you will ask to bring back the sewer rates and change them so that everybody pays the same rate for their sewer use. Not the same fee-  the same rate-  for each unit of water put into the sewer pipes.  Are you listening, Carl?  


Is anybody listening?





4 comments:

jeffswpblog said...

Chris,
Believe me, many of the "high water use" residents in Poway would like sewer rates to reflect the actual water going down the drain. This was discussed at council meetings during the last adjustment of sewer rates (I think that was what stimulated the discussion). There was at least one citizen there speaking against the current rate calculation method.

In most cases, two people that live on a larger property shouldn't put any more water down the sewer than two people on a small property with little to no landscape. So calculating sewer rate based on total water use isn't an accurate method. On larger properties much of the water is put on the ground and not down the sewer.

This is another reason why it would be helpful to separately meter home and landscape water use. Unfortunately, the cost (quoted by the city) for a second meter is too high to make this a realistic solution.

Listening to the council at the time, I didn't get the feeling they truly understood the sewer rates calculation. Not many people do, but I understand it assumes, ideally, that landscape water will be turned off during the winter months so sewer rates will be calculated for in-home water use. Unfortunately, Poway weather and landscape plants do not cooperate and many landscape plants must be watered all year long. (Though obviously not as much during the winter months.) Averaging winter use over a few years of winter use is suppose to smooth out the effects of dry winters. Basically, I heard that Higginson et al believe the current method is not perfect, but the best method considering all factors. (I'm sure you have heard statements like this before from the council and other places.)

I like your statement about responses to the Rexford website -- "but I suggest you avoid it, unless you have a peculiar nostalgia for your junior high years" -- Very funny.

Chris Cruse said...

Jeff, there are actually 2 issues with regard to the sewer rate. The first is the calculation of usage. The method the city uses- averaging the winter use from 2,3 and 4 yrs ago- does penalize people who need to water in an extremely dry winter. The averaging method also disincentivizes people from saving because they have to wait up to 4 yrs to get into a lower tier.

The 2nd issue is that the rates themselves are all screwed up. The city doesn't even talk about rates. Their website shows what fee each assigned tier has to pay. When the fees are converted to rates, it is pretty obvious that the rates are staggered in an uneven pattern and the rates decrease as the amount of sewer use increases. It is the inverse of how the water rates are structured.

I realize that some people use a lot of winter water because they grow stuff on their property or have personal golf courses or some other water sucking venture. I just don't know why single family homes and commercial avocado ranches are in the same water use category- and, btw, pay the same fixed fees.

Anonymous said...

Even after reading Betty's website you still think she's ok to leave where she is? Put it up for a vote in June. Sign the petition and get the issue on the ballot for June. Betty is continuing to cost the taxpayers her monthly salary, along with the stipend that is paid for her car and cell phone. The only thing we can trust her with is the Pet of the Month and even then she gets it wrong.

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