I blame our present Paso Robles water rate dispute on two widespread and unrealistic beliefs. One is that “No increase in government fees or taxes is ever justified.” The other is that, “Every complicated thing can easily be simplified.”
But really, simplifying complicated stuff is hard. Take, for example, the sheet of paper I found on my porch Monday. It was from the Concerned Citizens for Paso Robles, the outfit that’s fighting the city water rate increase in Tuesday’s election.
One side of the paper said “Treat Yourself, Don’t be Tricked by hidden taxes, Vote NO on Measure A-09.” A-09 would increase water rates, mainly to get 4,000 acre-feet of water per year from Nacimiento Lake.
The paper’s reverse side carried arguments against A-09. To support the arguments, the author quoted fragments of sentences from government reports.
That made me want to read the complete sentences and learn who wrote them and under what circumstances. So I spent hours searching documents and records on the city Web site.
The flyer’s first argument asserted the rate increase would only benefit future development, not us current residents. It quoted this sentence fragment: “Nacimiento water is assumed to benefit only growth.” It said that statement was from “City staff report, 7/1/08.”
And on page 52 of that report I found the eight-word quote in a letter from a consultant. There it was “… Nacimiento water is assumed to benefit only growth ...” But when I read the entire sentence I saw it meant the exact opposite.
Here’s the whole sentence; the wording is clumsy but you can decipher it. “The future water supply in addition to the City’s current 4,000 acre-feet of Nacimiento water is assumed to benefit only growth and is the only existing or future facility that is allocated to growth only.”
I would have understood that easier if he’d punctuated it like this. “The future water supply — in addition to the City’s current 4,000 acre-feet of Nacimiento water — is assumed to benefit only growth etc.”
And we must read the other sentences in the paragraph. They make it clear that the water being discussed isn’t the “City’s current 4,000 acre-feet of Nacimiento water.” It’s some future water supply whose cost will be allocated to the future growth.
The rate-increase opponents accuse city officials of trickery, but I’m not accusing the opponents of that. They may only be guilty of misunderstanding and misinterpreting.
But the decision we make Tuesday must be based on facts, not misunderstandings and misinterpretations.