Friday, August 29, 2014

Bob Dunning: A new day dawns for Davis


From page A2 | July 04, 2014 |

HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN … against very long odds, a small handful of people who decided they didn’t like the water rate structure imposed on the ratepayers of this fine town by the Davis City Council, forced the issue to the ballot and eventually won the day early last month … and then the heavy lifting began …

To their credit, each and every member of the council, including new member Robb Davis and outgoing Mayor Joe Krovoza, listened closely to the loyal opposition and set about to come up with something better … they achieved that Wednesday night with an 87/13 split between consumption and fixed costs as part of our citywide water bills … thus, 87 percent of our bill will be determined by how much water we use each month, which will vary widely from consumer to consumer, which is as it should be …

Combine that 87-percent figure with the very high rates necessary to pay for the still-under-construction surface water project, and serious conservation is virtually assured …

A STANDING ‘O’ … now that Dandy Dan Wolk, our talented new mayor, has officially declared it’s OK to express our approval or disapproval of all matters taking place in the Community Chambers by clapping our hands together vigorously, people all over town are standing to applaud the council’s bold, unanimous and ground-breaking water rate decision … indeed, a new day has dawned …

MAKE MINE JELL-O … interestingly, it was two staunch opponents of Measure P, Matt Williams and Donna Lemongello, who crafted, packaged and sold the 87/13 rate structure the council ultimately adopted … I don’t know about you, but our family will be replacing the traditional slice of ice-cold watermelon at our Fourth of July picnic tonight with a very large serving of red, white and blue Lemon Jell-O … Matt and Donna are invited …

JOHNSON’S BABY SHAMPOO … just like the ad says, there will be “No More Tiers” when it comes to paying for Davis water, which is perhaps the best news to emerge from the Great Rate Debate the residents of this city have been engaging in for the better part of the last two years … tiers tend to set one citizen against another, punishing some and rewarding others on the never-proven assumption that all high users are Republicans and all low users are Democrats … and if there’s any group we wish to officially punish in Davis, it’s Republicans …

A WORD OF CAUTION AS CONFETTI FALLS FROM THE SKY… while the naysayers are being soundly drowned out by the overwhelming roar of approval coming from most Davis ratepayers, it should be noted that the very high fixed costs of the surface water project combined with the 87/13 structure’s strong emphasis on conservation, puts us in a classic and perhaps very difficult-to-solve Catch-22 …

The actual dollars-and-cents rates the city comes up with to implement the 87/13 structure will no doubt be a shock to the senses and will encourage a conservation ethic that even Davis has never before seen … unfortunately, if you conserve too much, the revenue raised will be insufficient to pay for the surface water project … at that point, the rates will have to be raised once again …

SPEAKING OF FIXED RATES … while a strong case can be made that basing an entire bill on the amount of water one uses is the fairest way to go and is also a plan that encourages the greatest degree of conservation, the uncertainty of how much revenue would be raised makes it virtually unworkable given the high fixed cost of the surface water project …

Whether a 13-percent fixed rate on our bills will generate enough certainty to satisfy the bean counters remains to be seen, but it’s clearly worth a try given the “fairness” components built into the 87/13 structure … obviously, a 100-percent fixed rate would be the best guarantee of revenue, but the incentive for conservation would go completely out of the window under such a structure …

IT’S NOT OVER UNTIL THE FAT LADY PROTESTS … while it appears new Mayor Dan Wolk has with lightning speed achieved his first goal of finally putting the Great Rate Debate behind us and will now be moving on to other concerns, nothing will be set in stone until the Prop. 218 process has run its course …

That means the city must come up with actual dollars-and-cents rates for all users, not just the percentage breakdown dictated by the 87/13 structure … the city must then notify all ratepayers exactly what they will be charged for water … and then, under the incredibly undemocratic provisions of Prop. 218, ratepayers (and only ratepayers) will be allowed to protest the new rates …

If a majority of ratepayers protest, the rates cannot go into effect … if, however, you agree with the new rates, you don’t have to do anything at all to register your support … in fact, I plan to register my “vote” of support by stringing a hammock between my two city trees and drinking an ice-cold glass of Sacramento River water … here’s betting the city receives no more than 250 protest votes of the approximately 8,000 needed to overturn the 87/13 plan …

— Reach Bob Dunning at





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