Fighting over water in Paso Robles
July 6, 2010
I helped circulate the petition to allow people to vote in November on the Paso Robles City water rate plan. People did get the chance to vote, and Measure A-09 was defeated.
It is only right for the residents to have a say in a Capital project more than five times the cost of all the projects combined in the 1998 Paso Robles Measure D-98, which the voters did approve. Had the City Council attempted to follow the intent of Proposition 218 on this current issue, instead of trying to get around it, this matter would have been long ago settled with the consent of the voters.
During the 1990’s, city officials had continually assured the people that population growth would pay it’s own way, but they miscalculated and the infrastructure (bridges, police and fire services) clearly became overloaded. The citizens were willing to increase their taxes (We have another 20 years to pay) in order to make up for the deficiency.
The current situation that invites scrutiny is that for years residents were continually assured by City Hall that there was plenty of water for growth. We are now being told by the City Manager that we have no choice but to pay for this project because there is a “desperate need for water. “
To this day no development project has been turned down by the City Council because of a shortage of water. In fact, if the housing bubble hadn’t stopped development, our representatives would likely have Paso growing three times faster than the rest of the County.
The important question for our citizens to consider isn’t “Did growth require more water?” Instead, residents should focus their attention on the question “How much should existing residents have to pay to subsidize population growth?” The residents of Paso Robles have the moral, if not the constitutional right, to their determining what that level should be.
Given the fact that the average resident’s income level in Paso Robles is far below any other incorporated city in San Luis Obispo County, I would think that if the City Council were going to subsidize anything, it would be to find ways to increase employment and growth in the earnings level for our residents.
Instead, they’re increasing the cost of living on people struggling financially to raise a family or to live on a fixed income, by saddling them with paying for growth.
Walter Heer lives in Paso Robles.