We’ve heard that the last poll taken before the Measure I vote showed that a majority of voters were opposed to the surface water project as currently configured. This is consistent with our own observations as the campaign progressed to the end. Many who voted early on, before hearing both sides, even asked us if they could change their early vote before Election Day. Unfortunately, we had to explain that this was impossible.
But there is still a way that many voters can be heard. You can file a Proposition 218 rate increase protest if you own property. And, if you own more than one parcel, you can file a protest for each parcel.
The Prop. 218 law gives property owners the right to turn down proposed water rates. The city should have made it clear how to file a Prop. 218 protest, including a form and envelope as it did in summer 2011, but it did not do so this time around. But it isn’t difficult, so I want to tell you how.
First, you may have received a protest form in the mail from the No on Measure I campaign that you can fill out and mail. Second, you can go to www.noonmeasurei.net and click on the pink box in the upper right-hand corner of the page, and print out a protest form.
Or, you can just take a piece of paper, give the address of your home and/or any other property that you own, and print your name. Then state that you own the property, sign your name as the property owner, write the date, and then state: “I protest the city of Davis water rate increases under Proposition 218.”
Your protest must be received by the city clerk no later than Tuesday. If you can’t mail the protest by Saturday, you can deliver your protest in person to the city clerk’s office at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd., Suite 4. There is ample parking behind the building.
Local residents have shared many different reasons with us for opposing the project as currently planned. Some believe that the tripling of water rates in three years and quadrupling them in seven to eight years is simply unsustainable in these difficult economic times. These residents, of course, are often among the 50 percent of us whose household income is below the median of $57,000 a year.
Others can afford it themselves, but understand there will be many unintended consequences if we pursue this course that will give us among the highest municipal utility rates in the state. Businesses may leave Davis, and school bonds and supplementary taxes won’t pass.
Furthermore, anyone who can opt out of paying will opt out. UC Davis already has opted out of the project. The city itself is planning to opt out to avoid paying most of its water bills by irrigating directly from its own wells. El Macero is similarly talking about opting out, and now even Village Homes is talking about drilling a well for irrigation and opting out. New subdivisions also may drill wells for irrigation and opt out.
The more who opt out, the higher the rates and costs will be for those who can’t, because the enormous fixed costs and interest on the bonds for the project must be paid by those remaining ratepayers.
Some residents cannot accept a system that shifts the burden of paying for this project to homeowners, who must water their yards and our street trees, and who work and can’t leave for the summer. They believe it is unfair for homeowners to pay more per gallon of water used, which will be the result of the sliding rate scale based on six months of “summer” water use.
Other residents are concerned about another inequity, i.e., that Davis ratepayers will pay 30 percent more per gallon than Woodland raterpayers, due to the unfair cost split between the two cities.
Because two small rural towns can’t afford an entire new, separate surface water system and because we are required to build a wastewater treatment plant at the same time, we will have among the highest municipal water utility rates in the state if we don’t change course.
During the course of this campaign, we documented that our deep aquifer water meets all state and federal drinking water standards and that we soon will be drawing all of our water from the deep aquifer whether we proceed with this project or not. We have no problems with selenium, hexavalent chromium or other constituents in the deep aquifer.
We documented that the deep aquifer water is not deteriorating in quality. Rather, it is currently healthy and stable, according to the city-commissioned Brown and Caldwell Engineers Phase II Deep Aquifer Study. They summarize: “Recharge is in approximate equilibrium with extractions from the deep aquifer.”
There is time to develop economically fair and sustainable approaches to assuring our long-term water supply and to implement fair rates.
So, I urge you to fill out and sign a Prop. 218 protest form and be sure it is received by the city clerk before 5 p.m. Tuesday.
— Nancy Price, a longtime Davis resident, is a member of the No on Measure I campaign committee and a member of Yolo Ratepayers for Affordable Public Utility Services.