Friday, August 9, 2013

Shocker! OC Register: Tiered Water Rates Violate Law, Judge Rules

Michael had no comment
(Mod: A judge has now ruled that tiered water rates violate the law. Sierra Madre has tiered water rates. I believe they were part of the Joe Mosca water rate hike of 2010. Many other cities have them as well ... I am not going to write a lot here, I am just going to repost this Orange County Register article. It is good enough just as it is. But I will point out an important thing. The attorney who represented the City of San Juan Capistrano 
in opposition to this Prop 218 challenge to its tiered water rate system was Michael Colantuono. The world's self-proclaimed expert on such things. And damned if he didn't lose. Bodes well for our possible Prop 218 challenge in a couple of months ... So does this mean none of us should pay our next tiered water bill? Because it's illegal? ... We now have just so very many questions to ask at that meeting on water rates next Wednesday. Like how can the City raise our tiered water rates when tiers have been ruled unconstitutional? Oh, and won't Teresa of Barstow and the consultant be busy! I'll stop now.)

Tiered water rates violate law, judge rules - San Juan taxpayers group sued, charging a 2010 rate increase was illegal.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – San Juan Capistrano's tiered water-rate system is illegal, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The city must abandon the system, approved three years ago by the City Council, and restructure the rates so they comply with the state Constitution, an order issued in Santa Ana by Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz said.

City spokeswoman Cathy Salcedo issued a statement saying city officials "are very disappointed and are reviewing the decision with our attorneys."

"Given how proud the city is of our conservation-rates program, and how important such rates are for all Californians, we will consider how to respond to this decision in a way that serves our water customers and residents, the city and all who care about a well-managed water supply for California," the statement said.

The Capistrano Taxpayers Association sued the city in August 2012, alleging the rate system was illegal because it violates Proposition 218, an initiative approved by voters in 1996 that requires government fees be set in accordance to cost.

Cities across California use tiered water-rate structures that charge residents higher rates as their water use increases to try to deter people from wasting water. San Juan Capistrano has used such a system since 1991, but the City Council increased rates in 2010. The Capistrano Taxpayers Association said the reasons for that increase were arbitrary.

Munoz agreed, saying he found no evidence to support the rates. He ordered the city to pay the taxpayer association's legal fees.

Munoz heard arguments July 29 from the group's lawyer, Benjamin Benumof, and Michael Colantuono, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing the city.

"This court finds that the city failed to carry its burden of establishing credible evidence that the rate increases were proportional to the costs of providing water services to its customers," Munoz wrote.

"City refers to the administrative record as providing the proof on which the new rates were based, but the court could not find any specific financial cost date ... to support the substantial rate increase."

Munoz also ruled the city violates the Constitution by charging ratepayers for recycled water "that they do not actually use and that is not immediately available to them."

Colantuono learned of the ruling late Wednesday and had no immediate comment.

San Juan Capistrano resident Jim Reardon, who filed the lawsuit with fellow association member John Perry, said he was pleased with the ruling.

"Being in the water business is really a business to provide a service. It's not a business to do social engineering," said Reardon, a member of the Capistrano Unified School board of trustees. "What the city of San Juan Capistrano has tried to do is, through its water-rate structure, change the behavior of people in the town regarding their utility services and to pick winners and losers."

The lawsuit also alleged the city violated the law by increasing rates to pay for a bond that was never issued, but Munoz said the city didn't violate the law because the money went to water supply infrastructure and service.

San Juan Capistrano's illegal water rates

Water rates (per cubic feet)

Base rate
Tier 1
Tier 2
Tier 3

Residential lots
$3.18
$4.24
$6.37
$11.67

Landscape
$2.73
$3.65
$5.48
$10.03

Agriculture
$2.81
$3.74
$5.51
$10.29

Commercial
$3.07
$4.09
$6.14
$11.24

Construction and fire lines
$6.37
$6.37
$6.37
$6.37

Source: City of San Juan Capistrano

(Mod: With our City about to raise water rates based on a tiered system of billing, well, the timing of this just couldn't have been much better. Talk about a potential monkey wrench. It just might change something. Enjoy the moment.)

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68 comments:

  1. Busy morning at Edison too. If it's illegal to short-cut the 218 requirements on our water rates, doesn't that also apply to electricity rates?

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    1. Edison goes through the process through the State and is not required to go through the 218 requirements. They notify users via their bill that the are going through the process that gives a chance to be at the hearing usually held in Sacramento, but not always.

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  2. I confess I never understood the necessity of tiered rates. It seems overly complicated.
    Why not just have one rate and people who use more pay more, people who use less pay less?

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    1. Tiered rates mean more money for the sneaks at city hall. It is always about getting more of our money with these people.

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    2. Tiered rates are just another way to screw the consumer!

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  3. City spokeswoman Cathy Salcedo issued a statement saying city officials "are very disappointed and are reviewing the decision with our attorneys."

    "Given how proud the city is of our conservation-rates program, and how important such rates are for all Californians, we will consider how to respond to this decision in a way that serves our water customers and residents, the city and all who care about a well-managed water supply for California," the statement said.

    Don't you just love the way phony baloney city functionaries talk? It's like they were all made in the same Easy Bake Oven.

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    Replies
    1. It is a specialized skill, and it doesn't come naturally.
      People have to work hard to be able to use so many words to say so little.

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    2. There is also the pandering. We charged more for water to do good! And now these awful people have taken that away!

      Ugh.

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    3. Pure palaver.

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    4. One of our former mayors was able to use many words to say nothing!

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    5. Don't be so hard on Joe. He helped some of the older women in this community believe they were loved.

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    6. Well, since you bring it up, 6:50; if some of the nice older women of this community knew what Mosca said about the way they looked behind their backs, they would be appalled.

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    7. Yes, this is true. I overheard one of his comments when a couple of well known middle age/ older ladies had been speaking to him.....these two ladies were supposed "good friends" of his. His comments were very unkind, to say the least.
      Joe Mosca is a very unkind man. That is the nicest thing I can say about him.

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    8. He was told by the big Dems that if he did his time in that little town a great career in Sacramento awaited him. He was easily played and came up a loser.

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    9. I guess when you get people to conserve, which means less revenue to the city, you have to make up the difference somehow.... somebody has to pay into those those pension funds.

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  4. In Sierra Madre's case, lots of hiking the rates will be justified by the need to support the bond holders. As we all know well by now, Sierra Madre signed it's own water independence death warrant when it went into debt with the worst kind of loan possible. A stupefying decision.

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    Replies
    1. Bankruptcy could correct it. That might be the only thing that can correct it.

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  5. Won't this ruling open up all those cities with tiered water rates to lawsuits?

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    1. First come the appeals, yeah? Colantuono is probably working on it as we type.

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    2. If I was an official in San Juan Capistrano I would consider hiring a lawyer different from the one that had just lost the case.

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    3. But Michael is the Prop 218 expert! Which means he is the guy who knew best how to eviscerate it.

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  6. Here's the most frustrating thing about these lawsuits: the citizens won against their own government, and their own government has to pay court costs, which are paid by? The citizens.

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    Replies
    1. Bad city governments are parasites.

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  7. It only said their's is illegal because they could not prove the need for the extra costs , I think Sierra Madre can

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    1. Sure, bond debt. But does that have anything to do with the cost of water?

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    2. You cant raise rates to pay for bond debt, that was lied about while raising rates.
      Lies like "matching federal funds" Joe Mosca what a turd.

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    3. Hmmm. Maybe that is why they don't want to talk about bond debt ...

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    4. Bond debt is not a legitimate reason to raise rates?

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    5. Should bad city governments be allowed to get more money from its citizens by putting them deeper in debt?

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    6. Of course not, 7:56 -I just meant that as a technical question - because if it's not legitimate reason, the controversy is over and the tiers have to be eliminated tout sweet.

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    7. The people who challenged the City of San Juan Capistrano included in their suit something about bonds. It didn't work because the city had decided against using money gained through tiers for a bond purchase. But the implication here is that had they done so it would have been a bad thing.

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    8. Good. Bad thing? Good.

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  8. we incur additional costs when we have to pay to import water.

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  9. Detroit is trying to restructure some of its crippling water and sewer bond debt, and meeting resistance.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323838204578654400680571748.html

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  10. Here is how I suggest you to pay the next bill if you are in the 2nd or 3rd tier. Write two checks, one for the entire number of units times the rate of the 1st tier, and the second check for the balance which covers these "illegal" charges and make a zerox copy of the two checks (same if you pay on line). Write a protest letter saying you expect a refund for the "illegal" overcharge as per the Orange County Judge's decision. This way you cannot be charged a late fee and you have separated the fees and will make it easier for you to follow this mess and pay attention to your water billing and the cities inevitable mistakes.

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  11. The whole attitude of the water industry providers is that it's Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to charge what the traffic will bear. That's what tiers are about in the first place, with the large residential lots obviously being owned by people with more means. You see how quickly the residential/commercial tier structure ramps up (urban water supply).

    This is exactly what the electrical power and gas bills look like, too, with tiers for increasing use charges. But these are not public utility providers, so they can legally price their utilities that way so they can pay their shareholders with the profits. The City utilities can't make a profit this way, they have to raise the whole price structure in line with their costs and only charge for providing the direct commodity. They are not a "service", they're a government providing essential resources to its residents, with everyone paying the same unit price.

    How very socialistic of Sacramento to require that :-)

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  12. 6:55 you are so right, how do you know what he said, you must have been close to "them" to know that. He also talked about the way the women dressed, maybe he was jealous.

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  13. GODD JOB CRAWFORD...

    1. Tiered rates are illegal...

    2. Maybe the 200% & 300% Water Surcharge is illegal also?

    3. The city council adopted the water surcharge rates... the residents never voted and never approved them?

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  14. This is encouraging news.Apparently there is an epidemic of unscrupulous Lhameow lives employed by and unfortunately elected by gullible citizens who make hay at the citizen's expense! Shame!!!!

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  15. It sounds by reading Crawford's blog as if the council of Capistrano did not go through the 218 process nor did they have a consultant required to justify a raise in rates. I don't know about the argument about tiered rates and hopefully we can get out from under them but the city is going through the motions of being legal by hiring a consultant and discussing the 218 process. It will be very interesting to hear what they have to say on the 14th. If the city does find out that tiered rates are illegal they would do well to hire the law firm that was rejected by the fabulous three who really, really wanted Theresa to stay on. That firm that came in second had experts in all things related to water situations including representing water districts.

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  16. Less than 20,000 away from the the 1.75 MILLION hits mark.

    Good thing no one reads The Tattler!

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    1. Some people only look at the picture.

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    2. I think in this picture of Michale Colantuouno, he's saying "Have you seen my glasses anywhere?"

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    3. That's okay, 10:28....Crawford's cartoons often press the message.
      It's like those cute TV commercials.

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    4. Obviously someone stole Michael's "I am the World's foremost authority on Prop 218" Abraham Lincoln stovepipe hat.

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    5. Did Sandi retire?

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    6. Don't know about Sandi, but I remember that when Michael left, there was something about his wanting to cut back and spend more time in his own town of Auburn in Northern California.

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    7. According to Wikipedia 97% of the people living in Auburn live in single family homes. Apparently the kinds of development policies he pushes in the cities and organizations he works for are not in place in Auburn.

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  17. Just like Johnson's Baby Shampoo. No more tiers.

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    1. OK, that was funny!

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    2. No More Tears was also the name of an Ozzy Osbourne song.

      The light in the window is a crack in the sky
      A stairway to darkness in the blink of an eye
      A levee of tears to learn she'll never be coming back
      The man in the dark will bring another attack

      Your momma told you that you're not supposed to talk to strangers
      Look in the mirror tell me do you think your life's in danger here, ya

      No more tears, tears, tears
      No more tears, tears, tears
      No more tears, tears, tears

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  18. How about that. A judge stood up to the screw the taxpayer confidence operation that is local government these days. Amazing.

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  19. My question is, if we had spent the bond money on repairing the leaky pipes instead of building water storage tanks to raise the "paper water" capacity for development, would we be in the (hot) water problem we have now?...

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  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Yeah, you could. And you wouldn't be wrong. But you can;t say that here.

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  21. It's time for the "secret Government" of water monopoly king makers comes to an end.

    California Tiered Water Rates Violate State Law, August, 2013. this of course will go tot he California Supreme Court and it will them apply to all of California.

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  22. John Crawford and Tattler readers!

    We really need protection against these builders, politicians, attorney firms, and all their friends. They are using our resources to benefit their own pockets.
    We have been exploited here in Sierra Madre.

    We need to start a Sierra Madre taxpayer's protection association. We need to do this.
    Please help save Sierra Madre!

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  23. Claremont is going to want to follow this too as they are being charged in a tiered system by Golden state Water company. It was heather Allen at one of the CC meetings on water who questioned why water cost more in the second and third tier, wasn't it the same water. Charge you more for using more, so you are supposed to want to use less.

    Also, if you google some of the Capistrano coverage you will see that part of their outrange was that the city was using the money from the second and third tiers for recycled water for city parks, etc. On another water web site, some other jurisdiction was not charging itself to use water for city parks, etc.

    Many different things going on out there to disgust the citizen.

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  24. Well, after being really conservative on our water usage, we just got our bill today, and the water reading was three times what it's ever been. So I don't know what's going on here, but I will be calling City Hall Monday to complain.

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    1. In my experience the 'reading' of the meter by the meter guy is a bit haphazard. I have had 3 consecutive billing periods with exactly the same quantity consumed each time despite very different usage patterns.
      You have had good advice to read it yourself. You will need insect spray(spiders!) a bright flashlight and a rag to clean off the lens of the meter.There is a brass flap over the lens but they seldom bother to close it so the lens gets filthy and you can't read it.
      Look for the number on the extreme right of the meter - do not include that in your reading. That number is very useful to identify slow leaks in your plumbing.If that number moves when every fixture is turned off -you have a leak.The most likely culprit is the diaphragm on your irrigation valves.
      I hope this helps you resolve the problem.

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  25. Read your own meter. Check what it says against the last months's bill and this one. Make a note of it. Read it the same time each day for the next three days before you go to city hall. you may then have some information to use as to their misreading of your meter. No way it should be up by three times when you have been careful about your water usage.

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    1. Yep, I have of my bills. We don't have a leak. I took a reading myself, and it was literally up about 500 in 30 days. The city is sending someone out. I suspect the meter is broken. It's very old.

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  26. Armstrong Confirms “Hundreds” Of Layoffs At Patch, 400 Sites Shuttered Or Partnered Off, And A New CEO.

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    1. That was inevitable. Faux local with no quality control equals this predictable result.
      I do feel sorry for all the English majors who took those terrible jobs with such heavy demands and such little pay.

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    2. Well, OK. But good riddance, anyway.

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  27. Since it is illegel, will the residents get a refund?

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  28. More like, not even kissed, but thank you for your "water payment bond donation."

    No refunds are in the mail and besides the money's already been spent.

    Time to make the city council, city manger and finance director drink some of the same Kool-Aid they have been making the rest of us drink for so long, kind of bitter isn't it?

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