The issue is water in Paso Robles

May 21, 2010

Opinion by KAREN REED

The City of Paso Robles has taken the final steps to saddle us with exorbitant and irresponsible water rates. They have done a good job of making everyone believe this is a water issue. This is California. Water is an issue in the whole state. We all want sufficient water!

The real issue here is the way the City Council is going about getting the money to pay for the infrastructure needed. There are rules and regulations, guidelines for them to follow. The constitution of the State of California has even been amended to spell out the procedure to fund these kinds of projects. Our public servants have skirted the rules and decided they were just going to force us to pay for this plan and then hide behind the city attorney, preventing us, the people that have to actually pay for the projects, the ability to have a say in the decision if we are willing to pay the proposed costs for the proposed plan.

There are procedures that have been used several times over the last few years for the City to fund major projects. I can think of two or three I drive by every day. Of course, our public servants don’t like the process because it could mean they don’t get everything they want. But the bottom line is by following the proper procedures, the projects that have public support, will get done.

If they would have used the legal process to fund these kinds of projects when they started this in 2004, they would probably have the funding in place by now. The citizens would have had a voice in the project. It might look differently than the plan they have adopted now, but it would have been done legally and only with public support.

There is no reason to allow this plan to be rushed through. The pipeline is still under construction, the pipeline payments are covered in our current water bills, and all the other infrastructure can be added after the citizens have been allowed a voice in the decision how best to achieve these goals.

If we miss this opportunity to insist that the City Council follows the rules required to fund the projects, we will not only be saddled with 300 percent higher water rates, but it will reinforce the attitude in our public servants that the way to get things done is to bypass the will of the citizens and just force their will. That is an erosion of our constitutional rights. Once our rights are gone we will never get them back.

This November, three of the five City Council members will be up for election. Perhaps our only recourse as ordinary citizens is to vote out the incumbents. This will send the powerful message that this behavior will not be tolerated. We must have representatives that listen to their constituents and act accordingly.

Karen Reed is a businesswoman who lives and works in Paso Robles.

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Perhaps the City Council and others who are so enamored with the wine industry should have put a little more thought and conscience into blanketly allowing the wineries to suck up all the ground water for the holy grail of tourism! This city had plenty of water; to quote sources from years past “an unexhaustible supply” of ground water. They still suck it dry ….with no regulation or increase on their “well water” while the rest of us who aren’t getting rich on wine pay through the nose for our water. It is outrageous! On top of that our City park is taken from us for the hundreds of thousands of dollars the wine festival brings in; all at the cost of our downtown merchants. We are gated out like some kind of criminals, while the attendees become criminals by drinking to stupidity and then somehow manuver their way home. Paso Robles is not just about wine and the people who make it or drink it.