Friday, April 18, 2014

Council to mull fate of water initiative

From page A4 | February 09, 2014 | 1 Comment

Learn more

Who: Davis City Council

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Community Chambers, City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

Watch it: Live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99; streamed at

The City Council will consider a range of legal options Tuesday to decide what to do with an initiative on water rates that is likely destined for the voters sometime between June 3 and the summer of 2016.

The city passed water rates last year that will be triple on average of what water customers have paid in the past. This is to fund the operation of the surface water project, which would divert water from the Sacramento River to the cities of Davis and Woodland at an initial price tag of $228 million to build the infrastructure.

The project passed voters’ approval last March with Measure I, but the water rates were set to a vote of property owners in a legal process called a Proposition 218 vote.

Water rate opponents want the rates specifically voted on by the people, not just property owners. Mike Harrington, a local attorney who has sued to stop the water rates, said it would allow renters to vote on costs that would impact them.

Although initiative backers gathered enough signatures to place the water rates on the ballot, the state election code gives city councils wide discretion on what to do.

Option No. 1: Do what the initiative says. Given the costs and staff time involved in coming up with new rates, that’s the least likely option.

Option No. 2: Make city staff analyze the effects of the initiative in a report and take no further action until March 11. If this happens, the council could wait for the November special election or as far away as the June 2016 election. This gives the council the most latitude.

Option No. 3: Hustle and place the initiative on the crowded June 3 ballot at Tuesday’s council meeting. This is the option initiative backers are hoping for.

— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews


Discussion | 1 comment

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  • Bill T.February 09, 2014 - 9:37 am

    I suggest that we simplify the argument with a straight forward solution to rates. The Council should suspend the consumption based stage of the rate structure until we get a better view of drought effects. Keeping a tiered rate structure in place serves two key purposes. First, a "use more-pay more" scheme is much easier for consumers to understand, regardless of the season, and very consistent with water emergency management needs. It is a straight forward message that consumption is costly -- no rocket science formula required! Secondly, from a ministerial perspective, it is much easier to deal with rate changes --there will only be a limited set of rates to increase -- and trigger much simpler discussions with the public. When the water supply crisis has passed and the mix of surface and well sources is settled, we can return to the consumption debate. Right now, the entire structure should be oriented towards reductions.

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