Jack Bebee and Tom Kennedy
Special to the Village News
After years of study, the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) last month voted to allow the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District to detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and begin purchasing water from the Eastern Municipal Water District. The move is estimated to save Fallbrook and Rainbow ratepayers $7.6 million a year on water costs and help preserve our agricultural economy.
But hold your horses (and hoses) – this isn’t over yet.
The City of San Diego has convinced a state assemblymember to carry its water and quietly propose a change in state law that the City of San Diego believes would make it nearly impossible for our two districts to switch water suppliers.
Under current law, only a successful vote of Fallbrook and Rainbow voters is needed for our districts to change suppliers. The City of San Diego, however, is trying to change the law to also require a countywide vote on the issue, and they’ve enlisted Assemblymember Tasha Boerner from Encinitas to do their bidding by amending AB 399.
Not only would holding a countywide election be expensive for taxpayers, it’s highly unlikely that a majority of voters from across the region would support the measure, because the city of San Diego has far more voters and far more resources to communicate its point of view than do our two small districts.
For over a year now, the city has been trying to derail our attempt to change suppliers. Among other things, they’ve falsely claimed that their ratepayers would see a big jump in their water bills. The fact is, an independent analysis conducted for LAFCO concluded that city ratepayers would see zero increases in the first five years after detachment because Fallbrook and Rainbow have agreed to pay a nearly $25 million exit fee. Thereafter, the impact would be miniscule – only about one dollar per month. But the Water Authority could eliminate the impact entirely if it adjusts its expenses.
But that didn’t stop the city. They, along with the Water Authority, spent months spreading other false claims, and they unleashed their lobbyists and other powerful interests to try and persuade LAFCO to reject our applications to leave the Water Authority.
Having failed to prevail at LAFCO, the city is now – in a last-ditch effort – trying to change state law, a law that has been in place for decades.
If we are to make the switch to Eastern and save you and your fellow ratepayers millions of dollars a year, we need your help – now.
With a vote on AB 399 coming as soon as mid-August, will you share your opinion on this legislation by sending our State Senator Brian Jones and Assemblymember Marie Waldron an email or making a call to their offices?
We must defeat this backroom bill! If we don’t, all the work we’ve done together over the past several years to have the opportunity to vote and decide for ourselves whether to switc water suppliers could be for naught.
Bebee is General Manager of the Fallbrook Public Utility District, and Kennedy is General Manager of the Rainbow Municipal District.