It's been a really frustrating day. This post is a bit of a rant. You might not make it through the whole thing. So, I'm going to post this reminder at the top: If you or anyone you know has some thoughts on the Poway Wal-Mart expansion, either pro or con, NOW is the time to send them off to the council. If you like, you can comment on anything in the DEIR (draft EIR), or you can just email a note to the councilmembers telling them why you do or do not want the Wal-Mart expansion.
Send the emails to:
Note: Near the bottom of this post, there is a link to an interesting blog written by Joe St Lucas. And don't worry, there's no heavy math terms in his post, although the number 30 will figure in. Be sure to click on the link and check it out.
And now to my whining.
If I haven't mentioned it lately, let me mention it again. I believe in government. I like having roads and schools and hospitals and cops to round up the bad guys. I like a little advance warning when a tornado is coming and a little help afterwards when our community is devastated by fire. Heck, I like medicare and social security too. I hate thinking about old people eating cat food to survive. I'm not one of those "shrink government down and drown it in a bathtub" people. But today, I am frustrated. Really frustrated. If some crazy wacko tea-partier goes on a bender about how government is the problem, I'm not going to interrupt. Not today.
I'm frustrated because the people running my local government seem to be saying and writing a lot of nonsensical things. For example, for 15 years the city has been saying that traffic sucked so bad on Poway and Community and Midland Rd., that they were exempt from the state law which requires that they permit granny flats to be built. Now that Wal-Mart wants to build a bigger store that brings in more traffic, the City decided to use a completely different method for evaluating traffic that concluded traffic doesn't suck anymore. It is a piece of cake to get through town, as long as you don't mind waiting through a couple of rotations of the traffic lights.
So I was already POd about that. Then, on next Tuesday's Poway council agenda, there is an item called "the draft Urban Water Management Plan(UWMP)" that really set me off. Poway (and all the other cities) are required by the state to prepare an UWMP. The data that is submitted is supposed to help the state plan for future water needs and also to set some water conservation goals for each jurisdiction. Part of the data that must be included in this document is the gallons per capita per day(GPCD) used by Powegians. To calculate GPCD, the total amount of water used in Poway over a certain period of time is divided by the population (using city water) and also divided by the number of days in the time period. For their calculations, Poway is using old Sandag data which estimated that the population of Poway was 52,056 in 2010. The numbers from the 2010 census are in and Poway's official population in 2010 is 47,811. So Sandag got it wrong, they overestimated by 4,245 people. But why is Poway using known faulty data in their UWMP? Could it be because dividing by a large population makes it look like Poway is using less water per capita than we really are? What value is this data when it is so far from being accurate?
I have another bone to pick with the City over the UWMP. It is an old one, which I have harped on before. In the report, there is a copy of a form Poway has to submit to the California Urban Water Conservation Council (CUWCC). On that form, Poway declares that they use conservation pricing for both their water and sewer pricing structure. Poway's 2-tier water rate structure is barely conservation priced. The only people who are given any incentive to conserve are the folks who use 200 or more units in a billing cycle. 200 units equals 149,600 gallons of water. There are only a handful of people who ever use that much water in Poway, so I guess you could say we have a very "elite" water conservation plan. For the vast majority of us, there is no conservation incentive at all.
So maybe they can bluff their way through calling the water rates "conservation priced", but, no way, no how, can anyone of a reasonable, minimally educated mind, declare that Poway's wastewater (sewer) fees are conservation priced. For one thing, CUWCC actually defines conservation pricing and Poway's sewer fees don't meet the criteria. Nevertheless, the City is claiming that they use an "increasing block rate" structure for billing for sewer.
CUWCC defines an "increasing block rate" as one "in which the unit rate increases as the quantity of units purchased increases". Poway's sewer rate structure is just the opposite. The more the customer uses, the cheaper the unit price is. It costs $12.49/unit for 2 units of wastewater and it costs $4.41/unit for 10 units and $2.64/unit for 20 units. The more one buys, the cheaper it gets, per unit. So how does that incentivize someone to conserve?
Today I have been going round and round with Kristen Crane, the Poway Utilities Administrator, who filled out that CUWCC form. She is insisting that Poway's wastewater pricing is an increasing block rate structure. It is so frustrating. Rates are taught in grammar school. You'd think somebody making $100,000 or so (courtesy of the
taxpayers sewer customers) would know what a rate is!
I am sounding like those tea-stained loonies. Time to take a deep breath and think. Maybe Ms Crane isn't paid big bucks because she has a firm grasp of math and good comprehension skills. Maybe it is because she is willing and able to obfuscate. Otherwise, why would she so obstinately insist that Poway's sewer pricing structure is an "increasing block rate"?
It's been one of those days, when the people who "work for me" seem to be highly paid pencil pushers. Is government bloated with civil servants who spend their days filling out meaningless forms with bogus data? Why bother?
Like I said, I am very frustrated.
And now, as promised, here is the link to Joe's blog. I don't want to give the whole thing away, but let me give you a little hint. Would you say that a council member who sweeps aside a city rule, for the benefit of his sons and their friends, is acting ethically?