Our View

Water rates initiative is unnecessary

By From page A10 | July 28, 2013

The issue: Let the court decide whether rates are proportional under the law

The people have spoken. Now, it’s time to move on.

THAT’S WHAT WE have to say to residents who plan to launch a signature-gathering campaign in support of an initiative challenging Davis’ water rates. Those rates were approved this spring by the Davis City Council to pay for the city’s estimated $111 million share of the Woodland-Davis surface water project.

The project, of course, was approved by Davis voters in March as Measure I, by a 54.1 to 45.9 percent margin.

We supported that election, believing that a project of that magnitude — and that cost — should be decided by the people, not just by our elected representatives. But we are a representative democracy, and we put our trust in our elected officials to make important decisions on our behalf. If we disagree with those decisions, we have the opportunity to unseat those officials in the next election.

And while it’s true that the people didn’t directly approve of the new water rate structure in the Measure I election, the rates were thoroughly vetted in a wide-ranging community discussion during the water project campaign this winter and spring. Then, after the City Council got the go-ahead with the Measure I vote, our leaders followed the proper legal course — set by Proposition 218 — for adopting the new, higher rates.

THOSE RATES are the focus of a lawsuit filed by Yolo Ratepayers for Affordable Public Utility Services, who argue that they disproportionately charge ratepayers for the water they consume. We do not agree with that allegation. We believe the consumption-based fixed rate model — albeit difficult to explain and to understand — fairly apportions the fixed costs of the expensive new water project among all users and fairly bills users for their monthly consumption.

If Judge Dan Maguire agrees, and finds the rates to be proportionate under Prop. 218’s requirements, they will stand, and city leaders can move on to secure the necessary financing for the water project. If Maguire agrees with the plaintiffs and tosses the rates out, the City Council will begin the Prop. 218 rate-setting process once again.

Either way, this initiative is unnecessary — a waste of our time and our money. (The Measure I election already cost us $122,500.) One of the initiative’s proponents acknowledged in The Enterprise that he hopes the maneuver stops the city from moving forward with the surface water project.

BUT WAIT, didn’t the people support the project? Oh yes …

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