Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Ease up on taxpayer wallets

With skepticism and a sense of irony, we read Frank Mecham’s Oct. 8 Viewpoint. While he was proclaiming that we need Nacimiento water, it was reported that Paso Robles city management was “to ease grip on residents’ faucets” (Oct. 8).

Likewise, we urge all citizens, including present proponents of Measure A-09, to ease up on the grip of taxpayers’ wallets by voting “no” on Nov. 3.

Residents in our community are to be commended for achieving this summer’s water conservation goal set by Paso Robles city management. As a consequence, local citizens have now proven that current residents don’t need a drop of Nacimiento water — let alone an additional 2,000 or even 4,000 acre feet per year.

Proponents of A-09 conveniently overlook the fact that when water isn’t needed, it’s unlawful under Proposition 218 to charge taxpayers for the added expense. Further, according to the city’s 2008 Urban Water Management Plan, up to 800 acre feet per year of additional water for our community are possible if water conservation efforts are implemented and managed properly. Current residents don’t need Nacimiento water.

If residents don’t need Nacimiento water — and indeed a 2008 report by HF&H Consultants states this new source of water is assumed to benefit only growth — Mr. Mecham’s viewpoint amounts to little more than argument by slogan and an appeal to hurry along a draconian, pro-growth water policy.

While I believe his sentiment is correct that we should all be concerned that 1 billion people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water, what of us in Paso Robles with such access? Therein Mr. Mecham’s humanitarian sentiment ends with a whimper. He, along with the proponents of Measure A-09, are telling current residents to commence funding well over $332 million worth of water infrastructure — including $2.8 million for one acre of property, an unneeded $6 million remote water metering system, and a wish list of 28 other capital projects — all for which current residents will receive no measurable or special benefit.

City documents state that benefits of the Nacimiento Water Project (pipeline construction, by the way, was never voter approved) accrue not only to new developments in the city, but to those outside our city as well. In a December 2007 report to the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Committee entitled “Update for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin,” the Nacimiento project is identified as one undertaken by the San Luis Obispo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, the City of Paso Robles and a group of private landowners called “PRIOR” (Paso Robles Imperiled Overlying Rights group) to manage and protect basin groundwater. Paso Robles uses about 4.1 percent of the water pumped annually from the basin. All beneficiaries of this regional project should share project costs.

We challenge Mr. Mecham and the proponents of Measure A-09 to show evidence of how residents will each proportionately benefit by helping pay the city’s Nacimiento debt. With a $20 million cash balance in the water fund that could be used to make bond payments over the next five years, we shouldn’t be asked to pay or subsidize the water costs of others, absent such evidence.

Indeed, over the course of these past two years in which elected officials have publicly discussed this water issue, they have been unable to show for three previous Proposition 218 votes any measurable proof of project benefit to current city residents. Since 2005 there has been no benefit to residents in paying the Nacimiento water charge that appears on our water bill. We ask Paso Robles readers, what has been your benefit for the more than $800 the city has collected from you since 2005? It’s time for our public officials to end the $18 deception.

While it may be fine for Mr. Mecham to assure his grandkids they’ll benefit from the Nacimiento Water Project, it’s time he and other elected officials act with similar deference and greater responsibility toward current residents and taxpayers on this matter. In “California’s Water” (Oct. 2008), a report written by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, the message to follow in word and deed is clear: “Government may not impose (user) fees to finance the future expansion of a water system.” The city’s water rate proposal fails to meet this standard of Proposition 218 law.

We, along with the opponents of Measure A-09, urge the voting public to tell our elected officials to ease up. Please vote “no” on Nov. 3.

John Borst and Brooke Mayo are members of Concerned Citizens for Paso Robles.