John E. Borst v. The City of El Paso De Robles. That’s the title of a lawsuit filed on the 18th of this month in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. It could also be the title of a four-year chapter in the history of Paso Robles.
We Roblans have had four years of turmoil over water rates and City Council efforts to raise them. We’ve wrangled over six water-rate proposals.
Five failed for various reasons. The sixth stirred up only a few written protests and a handful of opposing speakers. It was approved by the council in April. It’s to take effect Jan. 1. But then, on July 21, City Hall received Mr. Borst’s latest lawsuit.
It’s fair to say Mr. Borst has been the leader of the water-rate-increase opposition. His group is called Concerned Citizens for Paso Robles. But the CCPR isn’t mentioned in his latest lawsuit, nor are any individuals except him. He did, however, assure me the CCPR still exists and has 10 members who meet informally.
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He also acts as his own attorney in this latest lawsuit and personally drew up the papers. Last year, a Southern California lawyer represented the water-rate opponents. In that case, the judge ruled against their main contentions that the increase was a tax and required two-thirds approval in a city election.
But he also ruled the city’s protest notices were insufficient. So that increase was canceled. It was then reapproved this April by the council, but with more complete protest notices.
Mr. Borst said his new lawsuit shows the rate increase is really a tax because it benefits the general public as well as water customers. Paso Robles City Manager Jim App said this year’s suit is based on essentially the same premises the judge rejected last year. He plans to proceed with the increase unless a judge issues an injunction.
Support for a water-rate increase has grown through the years. People now realize Paso Robles is legally bound to pay its share of the Nacimiento pipeline costs, with or without the rate increase. They also realize the city’s wells can no longer meet the summer water demand.
But Mr. Borst said he’s continuing to fight the increases because he has a “strong sense of justice and fairness.” He also said, “I didn’t move to Paso Robles to have money wrongfully taken from me.”
But I can’t help wondering if he realizes the difference between fighting the good fight and a scorched-earth policy.
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.