Thursday, April 21, 2011

Water Rates - Is the grass greener in South County?

Tonight the Moulton Niguel Water District which serves Laguna Niguel will take up water rates. 

The OC Register is reporting that much of the outrage and confusion over the new increase is "as result of a previously approved 16.2 percent water rate increase that becomes effective June 1 – just one month before the billing structure would take effect."

Fullerton is facing a similar challenge.  Our water rates create a moving target for infrastructure planners.  As rates increase and usage declines, our ability to maintain the water system declines. With everyone cutting back and being a little wiser about water usage, revenues to support the water distribution system are being underfunded.  As MWD Director and former candidate for the state assembly said, “...the whole world of water is ballet.”

It doesn't have to be that way. 
It seems that every year an elected official stands before the people of Fullerton and declares that the increase being voted on is not a tax or even a City-imposed fee but rather a "pass-through" expense being imposed upon the people of Fullerton by the evil water districts from which Fullerton must purchase our water.  The increase stems from increased costs to operate the water districts.  It covers the actual cost of water, pumping taxes, labor, benefits, energy costs, etc. 

As with most proclamations of the sort, there are half truths to the pass-through increases.  It is a tax increase being recovered by the City because the City's leadership does not want to restructure the budget to absorb the increase.  So you and I get the bill while water districts continue to grant early retirements, raises, and other perks.  Early retirement can be a problem because it takes a presumably productive worker out of the work force and shifts the financial burden from the agency's current budget on to the pension system, both of which are funded by taxpayers. 

There are many things the water districts can do to provide clean water at reasonable rates.  In Fullerton, there are actions we can take as a city to provide responsible management over one of the single most important pieces of infrastructure.

For starters, we need to recognize the actual cost to deliver water to your meter.  The pass-through taxes passed by our council over the years only covers the cost of purchasing the water from the water districts, not toward the system over which the City controls. 

This means there is a burden on our infrastructure which the City of Fullerton is not being completely compensated for.  Only about 36% of your water bill (less sanitation, waste, and other fees on the utility bill) is going into the Water System with portions of that percentage also going to cover administrative costs. 

Therefore, 53% of what you pay for water covers the actual cost of water with about 11% of the total cost going into the General Fund to pay for police, fire, parks, and other departments in the form of a franchise fee or franchise tax.

You will hear a lot of people, city staff and politicians alike, say that everyone charges the franchise fees and that they are a normal part of doing business.  They might add that the funds from the franchise fee help offset some of the costs of managing the water system.  I'm not so sure about that.

The first step in managing our water system is being able to measure the cost operating and maintaining the system.  Understanding the actual costs of the system, not including the cost of the purchased water, will allow us to see with clarity what we have been failing to address for a great many years. 

Once we know the true cost, we could apply that cost proportionally to each water meter while bearing in mind that the costs to manage and maintain the system are fixed (except for inflation) and that the system is designed to provide water to all meters at the same time.  Though rarely used all at once, the system must be maintained for the maximum potential usage.

We should insist that we first apply the 11% franchise fee back into the maintenance and operation of the water system.  This would eliminate much of the need to raise water rates on users for at least 3 years. 

It is also important that we address the water system budget and the way government, Fullerton in particular, does business.  We, acting as the government, cannot expect to recover every single cost of operating simply by charging users.  If that were true, all of Fullerton's roads would be toll roads and no one would be permitted to use one without paying the fee.  We could apply the same logic to our parks and street lights.  We could apply it to our libraries and other services.

As taxpayers we assume that a portion of the cost of rent or mortgage is going to be spent on property taxes.  We expect our government to redistribute those funds in a manner that best represents the needs of our communities.  Unfortunately, much of the money falls into the Sacramento abyss -a topic for another day.  Therefore, our cities and even our counties do not have the funding which they require to operate based on revenue projections from 5 to 10 years ago. 

This means our city budget needs some serious and significant adjustments.  We no longer receive the "fluff" or padding that allows us to spend money on gimmicks and fun events.  Instead, we must shift our financial priorities toward addressing our infrastructure in a meaningful and, dare I say, comprehensive way. 

Readjusting our priorities and reflecting those changes in a budget that makes sense for the near and longterm future is the only way we can hope to stay out of the financial pitfalls of communities like Vallejo, California.

There are several ways you can get involved and fix this antiquated system.

First, understand the City's budget.  There is a budget workshop on Tuesday, April 26 at 6PM in the City Council Chambers.  Contact the City Clerk for more information.

Second, understand our water system and the rate structures that are being proposed.  Click HERE to go to the City of Fullerton Water System Management webpage.  There will be opportunities in the near future to speak out on this.  I hope you will take an hour or two from your busy schedule to express your view and offer a solution.

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Greg Sebourn

Orange County Bail Bonds

The Beauty of a Storm

The Beauty of a Storm
Orange County, Ca.

My Grandma - A Eulogy

LET'S TALK ABOUT 1914 FOR A MOMENT.



FOR STARTERS, GRANDMA WAS BORN TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1914 IN HER FAMILY'S ATWOOD RANCH HOUSE.



IT IS WORTH NOTING THOSE ALSO BORN IN 1914:

JACK LALANNE

JOE DIMAGGIO

DANNY THOMAS



AND WHO DIED IN 1914:

JOHN MUIR, THE FAMOUS NATURALIST FOR WHICH NUMEROUS ROADS, PARKS, HOTELS, AND NATURE RESERVES ARE NAMED.



IT IS ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT IN 1914 WOODROW WILSON SIGNS MOTHER'S DAY PROCLAMATION AND BABE RUTH MAKES HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT WITH THE RED SOX. MOTHER'S DAY AND BASEBALL- TWO OF MY FAVORITES!! (PERHAPS HER NICKNAME "BABE" CAME FROM BABE RUTH???)



GRANDMA WAS BORN INTO A PERIOD OF TIME FILLED WITH TURMOIL. IN JUNE OF 1914 ARCHDUKE FRANZS FERDINAND WAS ASSASSINATED. WITHIN ONE MONTH WORLD WAR I RAGED ACROSS EUROPE. TWO DAYS AFTER HER BIRTH HOWEVER, GERMAN AND BRITISH TROOPS INTERRUPTED WWI TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. (PERHAPS THEY PAUSE KNOWING THAT A GREAT WOMAN WAS BORNE) WORLD WAR I CONTINUED UNTIL THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES IN 1919.



ALTHOUGH SHE WAS ONLY 5 YEARS OLD, SHE SAW THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS CREATED AND THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS APPROVED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS GUARANTEEING THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO VOTE.



SHE LIVED THROUGH MANY NOTABLE EVENTS. LIKE THE 1933 LONG BEACH EARTHQUAKE OR WHEN ATWOOD FLOODED ALONG WITH MOST OF ORANGE COUNTY IN 1938 AND THE FLOOD-WATERS CLAIMED MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE, 43 OF WHICH WERE FROM ATWOOD! ALL OF THIS DURING A TIME THAT WE READ ABOUT IN SCHOOL AND KNOWN AS "THE GREAT DEPRESSION". SOMEWHERE IN ALL OF THAT SHE FOUND THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, GRANDPA LEO, GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL, GOT MARRIED, AND HAD KIDS!



THEN THERE WAS WORLD WAR II. FROM PEARL HARBOR TO HIROSHIMA, GRANDMA WAS RAISING MY UNCLE BOB AND MOM ARLINE. WITH AIR-RAID SIRENS AND BLACKOUTS SHE WAS A WIFE AND MOTHER. WHAT A TIME TO RAISE CHILDREN! I BET GRANDMA'S PARENTS WERE ABEL TO TELL HER A THING OR TWO ABOUT RAISING KIDS IN WARTIME.



GRANDMA WAS THERE WHEN THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA HELD THEIR 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL JAMBOREE IN 1953. SHE SAW AIRBASES OPEN IN '42 AND CLOSE IN '99. SHE WATCHED WALTER KNOTT START UP HIS BERRY FARM AND WALT DISNEY TURN ORANGE GROVES AND STRAWBERRY PATCHES INTO DISNEYLAND!



SHE SAW THE HORSE AND CARRIAGE FADE AWAY INTO HISTORY AND SPACE TRAVEL EXPLODE BEFORE HER WITH THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING. JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS. FROM TUBE RECTIFIERS TO SUPERCONDUCTORS; FROM TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH CABLES TO SATELLITE TV.



SHE SAW MORE IN HER 93 YEARS THAN MOST OF US WILL EVER READ ABOUT, LET ALONE LIVE THROUGH!



OF THOSE 93 YEARS IT IS MY HONOR TO HAVE BEEN HER GRANDSON FOR 35 OF THEM. SHE WAS MY MOTHER WHEN MOM HAD TO WORK. SHE WIPED MY NOSE AND PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH. SHE LET ME PLAY WITH GRANDPA EVEN THOUGH SHE NEEDED HIM TO TAKE HER TO THE STORE. SHE WAS MY GRANDMA AND I WILL MISS HER IMMENSELY.



JUST LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM; SHE DID THIS. SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE INTO THIS WORLD AND TOGETHER TODAY. THIS IS HER LEGACY.



A Dedication To My Loving Wife, Stacey. Thank you for all you do for me!

Brad Paisley - I Thought I Loved You Then


I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you
You had me mesmerized
3 weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 min to kiss you goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet but I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you
You were so surprised
There were people around
But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there
And once again I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I can just see you with a baby on the way
I can just see you when your hair is turning gray
What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before.

Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Well look back some day at this moment that we’re in
And I'll look at you and say I thought I loved you then
And I thought I loved you then...

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