Current Santa Paula Council: Excuses, Excuses Excuses

sildenafil times;”>EditorialBy Sheryl Hamlin

stuff times;”>The theme of the recent League of Women Voter Candidate Forum should be “excuses, pills excuses”. We heard the following statements from the two incumbent candidates Ralph Fernandez and Bob Gonzales:

“Previous councils spent millions but left us nothing”
“No one would buy our bonds”
“We went to Washington but were turned down twice”
“The Brown Act makes it hard to be transparent”
“The people are becoming complacent”
“Recycling water is hard and expensive”
“United Water is raising rates”
“We did the best we could”
“Not enough money”

Let’s just look at these excuses:

If previous councils spent millions, as quoted by Councilman Gonzales, why did the council during the 2007-2008 period ignore this research? Of what did it consist? Over what period were these millions spent?

Councilman Fernandez claims that no one would buy Santa Paula bonds, but can he produce documentation showing that Santa Paula asked for a quote from a registered bond underwriter?

The Washington trip must have been depressing. Where are the trip reports showing whose offices were visited and why the refusals? Was the Wall Street firm Alinda Capital involved in these trips?

The Brown Act was designed to force governments into transparency, so why is there so little reference in council minutes about bond transactions, for example? Why is there no information about the “five year buyout” of the water treatment plant to which both council members Gonzales and Fernandez refer?

Yes, recycling water is hard and expensive, but the problem in Santa Paula is compounded because no one planned for recycling water and reselling treated water, so at this point there is no plan. The State of California just passed AB 2067 which Governor Brown signed mandating a complete overhaul of the state’s groundwater management. All urban areas with more than 3000 meters are required to participate or fines will ensue. Both private and public water sources must be included. Usage must be reduced 20% by 2020. The only way to accomplish this goal is to reuse water and Santa Paula has no plan.

The city has budgeted approximately $600,000 for the United Water Conservation District which amounts to less than $10.00 per month per bill, so there is absolutely no way to blame high water bills on UWCD like the city council has been communicating for the last two years. Even a 20% increase would only amount to a few dollars per bill. This was confirmed by the city’s own consultant at the last public water meeting. The high bills come from budgeted expenses of $18.6 million for the water and sewer operations, which was also confirmed by the city’s own water rate consultant.

Council members repeatedly said “we did the best we could” or “we got the best solution”, but the citizens realize this is not true. The bills are too high, the plant is over designed with excess capacity and we have no clear path to water reuse.

And, yes, there is very little money in the General Fund, which is barely in the black. As far as I can tell, the council has spent the last ten years raising expectations that big box stores and huge residential tracts will bring the city new found financial freedom. This is farther from the truth as the future of both new housing and new retail construction is unpredictable at this point in time due to changing demographics and an erratic economic recovery.

Santa Paula’s time for excuses is over. The city cannot re-elect incumbents who justify their actions with defensive excuses.

Compare these excuses with Ginger Gherardi or John Demers. Ms Gherardi managed and delivered big ticket projects and budgets for Ventura county during her 18 year tenure as Executive Director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission. John Demers built major infrastructure projects in the Middle East including a water treatment plant and now manages a multi-million dollar budget for the Port of Hueneme as the Chief Operating Officer.

New ideas and no more excuses: the time for Santa Paula’s incumbents to exit gracefully and let the real problem solvers take the helm.

I look forward to voting for Gherardi and Demers.

Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.

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