Bonita-Sweetwater Valley Water Rate Payer Newsgram from Mike Seiler
October 15, 2018
From: “Mike Seiler” <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: October 8, 2018 at 1:30:22 PM PDT To: “‘Michael Seiler'” <email@example.com> Subject:Bonita-Sweetwater Valley Water Rate Payer Newsgram, October 2018: SWA Elections
Dear Fellow Sweetwater Valley Water Ratepayers,
A convoluted story here folks, but one that needs to be told. Below are my thoughts and opinions about candidates in the upcoming election for South Bay Irrigation District (SBID) director seats.
Some voters may not know that the Sweetwater Authority Rate Payers Association (SARPA) has endorsed both Mr.Hector Martinez and current Director Steve Castaneda for SBID seats in the upcoming election. The elected directors in these seats double as Sweetwater Authority (SWA)directors, and the SWA directors are who decide what our local water rates will be. Both men are running for SBID seats that are within the City of Chula Vista: Mr. Martinez is running for the SBID Seat Number 4, and Director Castaneda is running for reelection to his SBID Seat Number 1.
I am personally supporting these two candidates even though they are running in districts other than our own SBID Number 5. I do so because I support SARPA’s endorsement. The SARPA is a politically neutral, non-profit corporation whose purpose is to study our water rates, educate ratepayers, and oppose excessive and unjustified water rate increases passed on to ratepayers by the SWA. In the past, SARPA’s efforts have paid off by forcing Sweetwater to make changes to our water rates to make them fairer to everyone. Now, more than ever, we desperately need “big picture” thinkers on SWA’s board of directors
Secondly, I am concerned that our own District 5 SBID/SWA director, Josie Calderon-Scott, is taking an active role in supporting a candidate who appears to also be setting aside a key cost issue concerning SWA employees. In the below e-mail, her candidate appears to have already sided against water ratepayers on this extremely important issue.
The below e-mail details a campaign event at her residence today for her selected candidate, with local politicians (active and retired) in attendance, along with another SWA director. What stands out to me is the claim that the three employee groups within the SWA actively support her candidate… an action that our director clearly considers a positive attribute. Yet the funds that support and pay for the inflated salaries, perks and benefits of SWA employees also drive the continued need for higher water fees for us ratepayers. Therefore, I believe our director’s very public support of this candidate is inappropriate.
You may recall that our director voted to again raise our water rates this last August instead of delaying an increase until a plan of action could be effected to start reducing overall employee costs. To me, this indicates that while our District 5 director may have a good heart, she will not volunteer or support ways to drastically reduce employee costs… and I suspect that neither will the candidate she supports.
Here are the numbers: Currently, at least $10.8 million dollars a year, every year is, and will be spent on just 133 SWA employees. That is $81,000 per employee for “free” perks and benefits. This is far more then state or federal employers provide their workers, and that amount doesn’t include their above-average salaries. When an average salary is added to these perks the total becomes a staggering $176,000 per employee! You may look at SWA’s published Five-year Financial Plan to verify these numbers.
I believe that if the SWA is again brought before a court of law with its current justifications for higher tiered water rates, the SWA will be found in violation of Proposition 218 (Article XIII C and D of the California Constitution). Worth noting is that in August this year, our director and four other SWA directors voted to set aside Prop. 218 mandated public hearings for five years.
Director Calderon-Scott states below that her candidate, “…is committed to keeping rates affordable for families… because the long-term health and reliability of our water system depends on Board decisions that put the community and its ratepayers first. ”
Fine words, but the current water rates actually put SWA employees first and rate payers last. This is especially true for families in water rate tiers 4 and 5. Higher water users are being viewed only as “geese that lay golden eggs” in SWA’s current business plan. When our district representative voted “for” the last water rate increase, she and four other directors looked once again to the “golden egg geese” to pay more than their fair share of water fees. As I mentioned above, they even put in place automated rate increases and eliminated Prop. 218 public hearings for the next 5 years. Some might say we have a cabal in place here.
I predict that when the “geese” are fed up and turn their greenscaped yards into rock and bark, SWA’s “golden egg” revenue stream will dry up fast and low water users will start seeing ten-fold increases in their water bills. This flawed “golden egg” business model must be fixed by the directors!
Summarizing, I expect our director’s candidate, if elected, will consider himself beholden to SWA employee groups as well as Director Calderon-Scott. We would then have two directors in lock step who support the extremely high costs of employee salaries, perks & benefits and ratepayers will continue to suffer.
Please pass this e-mail on to your friends in SBID/SWA districts 4 and 1 in Chula Vista. Ask them to consider voting for Mr. Hector Martinez for SBID Seat Number 4 and to re-elect Steve Castaneda for SBID Seat Number 1. These men are technically proficient in engineering and business, plus water and employee management, and are not beholden to any other SWA Directors nor to SWA employees. They are truly independent thinkers, and I believe they are both dynamic, forward looking individuals who will truly help move the SWA toward a fiscally sound future and fair water rates for allratepayers.