Arroyo Grande councilmember ignores conflict of interest
September 9, 2014
OPINION By TORY RAND
Recently, on August 29th, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted 5-0 to approve a $70,000 a year, five-year contract with San Luis Obispo based Verdin Marketing to perform Water Conservation Education within the Arroyo Grande Community.
The unanimous vote came despite 10 out of 10 citizens speaking against the contract as a waste of money. Citizens said that there are more efficient ways of communicating water conservation with the public, such as newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and email marketing, all of which city staff could perform.
I certainly agree. A subscription to the well-known email marketing firm Constant Contact costs a non-profit or municipality $25 per month to send up to 25,000 emails/newsletters Using email marketing, Arroyo Grande Staff could easily reach its water customer base for less than $500 per year. Additionally, newsletters could be inserted into the water customers bills for a small charge.
Verdin Marketing’s proposal didn’t include email marketing, but it did include telephone marketing, which is much more cost intensive.
Looking at Water Conservation Education this way one must ask themselves, why is the Arroyo Grande City Council spending this amount of money on this goal? Why is the Council unanimously ignoring citizen opinions that the Verdin Marketing contract is a waste of money? Is this a political favor?
That is the question I asked of a Council Member who immediately responded “developer Nick Tompkins called the Mayor and asked him to get this marketing contract through”.
Additionally, one must also ask why Arroyo Grande Councilwoman Kristen Fellows Barneich did not recuse herself from voting on this issue? Barneich heads up the Tree Guild and is also part of Arroyo Grande in Bloom. Both organizations beautify the city, but having said that, both organizations are heavy users of water.
Therefore, any water saving issue or cost issue that Barneich votes in favor of is basically saying to the constituency, you can conserve your water, you can let your lawns die, I can fine you if you waste water, I can increase your water rates, I can charge you $70,000 educating you on how to conserve your water, while I use your water to build my non-profits name!
Kristen Fellows Barneich cites in her Tree Blog website that for the first two years the saplings require that the city run water trucks to water the trees thereby increasing city water usage and costs. Food for thought.
“Do as I say not as I do.”
Tory Rand has lived in the city of Arroyo Grande for over 25 years and works as a controller at a local company.