“You can pay me now or you can pay me later.”
- The Fram Oil Filter Man
The city of Cloverdale owns, maintains and manages our water and wastewater systems. During the week of April 26, residents received a letter explaining the need for rate increases to cover the costs of delivering the service upon which all of us depend. According to the letter, those costs include “ongoing operations, maintenance, repair and replacement of existing infrastructure, administrative costs and debt obligations” adding, in part, “Other revenues to the utilities include impact fees paid by new development…”
Several months ago, the city reviewed and compared income generated by rates against the cost of providing service. As a result of the review, the city proposed an increase to ensure services and upgrades could take place in a timely and responsible manner. That proposal was not perfect and was met with such public opposition including a grassroots initiated fill-in-the-blank protest form citizens could simply check and mail in. The outcry from the effort prompted council to instruct staff to go back to the drawing board to formulate a new proposal.
That proposal is in resident’s hands today. In about three pages, it outlines the need for the rate increases and provides charts to illustrate the pocketbook costs of those increases to the utility customer. It is reasoned, justified and simply makes sense. Unfortunately, included with the letter is this statement…
“If written protests against the proposed water and/or wastewater rates are received for a majority of the parcels subject to the proposed rates, the City will not impose the proposed rates for the utility service(s) receiving majority protest.”
…with a protest form that residents can simply check and deliver to City Hall.
This is a mistake. Sadly, I suspect, too many people will look at the rate increases, not read or absorb the accompanying justification, or simply figure “Hell, I’m already paying enough!” and protest the increases. If those not wishing to read the documentation — and it may only take a few — push the protest over the top, then the necessary improvement upgrades will be put on hold further dilapidating our aging system. That won’t be good for the city of Cloverdale, nor will it, in the long run work out well for the city’s water and wastewater customers. [Recall that the Fram Oil Filter mechanic (standing over a blown engine) often said, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” The proposal offered by the city is the former.]
In a representative democracy, while it is certainly okay for decision makers to “take the temperature” of citizens regarding any proposal, to suggest that a majority responding one way or the other shall carry the day supposes that all who voice an opinion are as comprehensively informed on the issue as those whom we elect to be comprehensively informed on the issue.
Cloverdalians need to foot the bill for the increasing costs of delivering high-quality water and wastewater services. Some Cloverdalians may not like it. But we elect the council to make tough decisions. This is one of ‘em.
David Delgardo is a resident of Cloverdale.