Last night’s Fullerton City Council meeting brought out a number of people concerned that their water rates will be going up. I would like to thank each and everyone of them for taking an active interest in our City! A few of them stood and spoke before the council and many approached me after the meeting. They expressed a wide range of emotions and sentiments.
Disgust. Distrust. Anger. Fear.
There was the universal disgust that goes with the realization that Fullerton’s leadership has been absent for decades. There was the feeling of distrust that comes when someone feels they have been lied to about where the money goes. Many were angry that this report was not commissioned decades ago. Then there was fear. Many are fearful that the few businesses in Fullerton who are heavy water users will soon pack up and head out of state to more business-friendly areas. Others are fearful that they will have to leave, unable to afford the higher costs.
Those who sat through the 2-1/2 hour meeting observed many things.
Most notably, at least one councilman had serious trouble staying awake for the meeting. Death by PowerPoint I believe was the cause.
Mayor Jones repeatedly used Hitler as some sort of misplaced analogy to the gross mismanagement of our water system for nearly a century. There were several people who were clearly disgusted with his remarks.
Mayor Pro Tem Bankhead, who is a representative for the City on the Orange County Water District Board, bragged that the board hasn’t raised their tax on the City’s pumping efforts in a year even though a few key executives received raises. OCWD charges Fullerton taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $236 per acre-foot of water that the City pumps.
The franchise tax was mentioned several times. I pointed out that the tax should be eliminated completely which would allow the City to NOT raise water rates AND address the urgency of the neglected system. I did misspeak on one key matter. Specifically, I said that it would be better for the general fund to take the 10% hit rather than the taxpayers. Actually, the water utility franchise tax ($2,474,860 FY2011) accounts for about 1% of the total budget ($180,802,880 FY2011), not 10%. Cutting the franchise tax would increase the water fund from $27,728,430 FY2011 to $30,203,290!
So, the bottom line is that we have the funds to fix the water system but the City Council will need to adjust the City’s priorities.
Those in land development, engineering, construction or anyone else who rides Fullerton’s roads knows that the City’s priorities are out of order. City Hall places too much emphasis on housing and transportation boondoggles while ignoring the skeleton and muscle of the City’s infrastructure. It causes me to question whether or not our City leaders (are there any at City Hall?) have planned for repairing and replacing our roads.
Those interested in protecting the City’s infrastructure from further neglect while protecting the pockets of taxpayers are urged to attend the Water Rate Study workshops in the coming weeks and months.