Protest aside, what about our water?

By Triplicate Staff September 30, 2013 05:28 pm

It’s not an election year, but there is a door-to-door campaign unfolding nevertheless on the streets of Crescent City.

Both inside and outside the city limits, users of the city water system are being asked to sign letters protesting plans for a rate increase. If enough such letters are collected by Nov. 4, the proposal is quashed.

The natural inclination, of course, is to oppose anything that adds to your monthly expenses, especially if it seems to provide no additional services. The opponents of the rate increase are banking on this simplistic response. They say the good folks of Crescent City can’t afford to pay more. Period. End of story.

After all, when the budget’s tight, long-term maintenance gets deferred, right?

The problem with that line of thinking is that, while it may be prudent to postpone a new coat of paint on the house, it’s irresponsible not to maintain a public system that delivers fresh, clean, downright good-tasting water to your tap, your neighbors’ taps, the whole community’s taps. And once that system falls into disrepair, it’s a lot more complicated to fix it than to finally get around to that paint job.

Another problem with the just-say-no campaign is it ignores the fact that city officials have already deferred taking care of the water system’s finances to the point of irresponsibility.

The water system is aging. An elevated storage tank needs to be made more earthquake-resistant. And the water fund has been running a deficit that the city has been covering with reserves that are now depleted.

The fact is, the rates should have gone up before now.

The city is making a big deal out of an analysis that shows we pay lower water rates than elsewhere in the region, and will continue to do so even with the proposed increase. Heck, the very first line of the resolution just passed by the City Council states, “Whereas, The City of Crescent City has some of the lowest rates for water service among comparable cities and water districts ...”

Well, that’s nice, but it’s not exactly a selling point. Local water-users aren’t going to accept a rate increase just because people elsewhere have higher rates. But they should be willing to pay more to preserve and protect what they currently enjoy: a system that delivers abundant, pure water.

The only legitimate question on the table is one the protest organizers totally ignore: Is additional money needed to protect our precious infrastructure? To answer it, the city finally got off its duff and produced a pretty straightforward analysis. You can read it at

Better late than never, the city is addressing a woefully under-funded water system. City Council members have belatedly taken responsibility. Opponents of the rate increase should do the same.

It’s easy, and no doubt politically popular, for them to ignore what’s needed for the water system and instead beat on a well-worn anti-government drum: Our leaders don’t care about poor people.

It would be much more constructive to address both problems. Yes, we need more money for our water system, and yes, some people truly cannot afford to pay more. How about accompanying the rate increase with an assistance program that would provide some relief to those who are economically eligible?

When the protest leaders come to your door, ask them what they’re doing to ensure you’ll always have a safe supply of water.

Yes, you -can fight City Hall, but sometimes that’s not enough if you’re a responsible citizen.