At their April 25 Special Meeting, City staff and representatives from participating regulatory agencies made one thing clear: support our oft-delayed, expensive Water Reclamation Facility or face the consequences. This is not how critical infrastructure should be promoted. Here are our thoughts why residents should remain vigilant and continue opposing the project.
City Attorney Joseph Pannone and CCRWQCB’s Harvey Packard indicated a successful protest of the Prop. 218 would effectively stop rate hikes and put the City on a path toward enforcement fines of $3,000-$10,000 for each violation. Why? According to Packard, a successful protest would be considered an action by the City that moves the project off its proposed timetable. This would seemingly make it impossible for the City to build a new facility within the five year range that the Water Board is providing in their discharge permit.
Pannone indicated he didn’t want to think about the consequences of ratepayers successfully opposing rate hikes for one of the most expensive water reclamation projects per capita in the state of California.
But we thought about it.
Voting NO on the upcoming Prop. 218 will send a clear message to the City: “We supported a $75 million project in 2015 but we cannot support a project that costs more than $150 million.” A successful Prop. 218 protest would help establish cost parameters for the project, which haven’t been consistently applied by the City. We need to hold the City responsible for rate hikes we already approved.
Voting NO on the upcoming Prop. 218 will not only be a referendum on the project, but also a referendum on the way the project was handled for five years. They delayed, we pay. Now we need expeditious course correction. Residents cannot afford any more public waste of their taxpayer dollars.
Voting NO on the upcoming Prop. 218 will compel the City to tell the truth in their project financing applications and documents — that there is significant community opposition because of project expense. This would direct City staff to commission an economic impact report or environmental justice review to determine our status as a “disadvantaged community.” Being a disadvantaged community could assist us in applying for federal and state grant opportunities.
Voting NO on the upcoming Prop. 218 will let the Water Board know to apply their enforcement policy consistently by “promot[ing] enforcement of all health and environmental statutes within their jurisdictions in a manner that ensures the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and income levels, including minority and low-income populations” (Source: 2017 State Water Board Enforcement Policy).
Voting NO on the upcoming Prop. 218 will send a message to California Coastal Commission staff that costs should be given the same weight of concern as their concerns for coastal hazards and coastal plan inconsistencies; this factor would be consistent with environmental justice provisions as outlined in AB-2616 —which was approved by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 — and in the Coastal Act.
Voting NO on the upcoming Prop. 218 will send a message to everyone that ratepayers should never be punished for exercising their right to protest rate hikes under state law. It is unconscionable for a state regulatory agency to threaten enforcement because ratepayers followed state law. This is an opinion held by the Howard-Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a policy organization that’s legally and successfully the state with similar issues.
The City and their attorney aren’t doing their job if he don’t want to think about alternatives should the Prop. 218 protests become successful. Save Morro Bay categorically rejects the scare tactics, encourages more city communication with residents, and supports practical, budget-conscious solutions for our wastewater/water reclamation needs.