Metropolitan Water District of Southern CA agreement with Greenberg Traurig LLP

Metropolitan Water District of Southern CA agreement with Greenberg Traurig LLP

Metropolitan Water District of Southern CA payments to Greenberg Traurig LLP

 

RT’s $10 Million Streetcar Design Contract

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: April 25, 2016, 4:00 a.m.
Contacts: Erik J. Smitt, Policy Director,
Eye on Sacramento
Phone: (916) 215-2275
E-mail: erik@eyeonsacramento.org

REGIONAL TRANSIT’s $10.2 MILLION CONTRACT

DOWNTOWN RIVERFRONT STREETCAR DESIGN SERVICES

Tonight, Sacramento Regional Transit District’s Board of Directors will consider approving a $10.2 million contract with HDR, Inc. for design services of the Downtown Riverfront Streetcar Project. These design services will cover complete track-routing and all other facets of the proposed 4.2 mile system. The $10.2 million will come from federal Congestion Management Air Quality funds.
But there is more to the story.

The community does not want this useless streetcar. Last June, city of Sacramento registered voters in a proposed assessment district voted a resounding “NO!” to a $38 million bond measure to fund the city’s share of the $195 million streetcar project. This “NO!” vote created a significant hole in the streetcar construction funding. As yet, after ten months, the city has not found a funding source for their commitment to the project. Also, the State of California has not firmly guaranteed their $10 million share of construction.

Now, with significant funding still in limbo, the RT Board is asked to roll-the-dice on this $10.2 million financial commitment, which could be used on more important projects.

Another consideration: As pointed out in our recent report, “EOS’s Recommendations on RT’s Fiscal Crisis,” Appendix 1 (www.eyeonsacramento.org), based upon research by transit authority Dr. Gregory Thompson, annual operational expenses will likely range from $6.3 to $8.8 million. The streetcar project’s operational cost projections are woefully below this range, adding another significant project risk.

We want and need smart, long-range decisions for transit problems. Not needed are decisions, such as the one before the RT Board tonight, that may not only cause chronic operational red ink, but also become a waste of taxpayer funds if anticipated local monies fail to materialize.

Unless construction funding by all governmental agencies committed to this project are firmly identified, Eye on Sacramento urges a “No” vote on this Downtown Riverfront Streetcar design services contract.

(The design contract is #13 on RT’s Agenda. The board meeting begins at 6:00 pm and the meeting chambers are located at RT’s headquarters, 1400 29th St.)

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Statement from Eye on Sacramento to the Sacramento Transportation Authority

Statement from Eye on Sacramento to the Sacramento Transportation Authority

14 April 2016
by Greg Thompson, Chair, EOS Transportation Committee

EOS strongly opposes the proposed sales tax measure for the following reasons:

Regional Transit receives generous and growing sales tax subsidies that amounted to over $80 million this year alone, an increase of over 4% compared to the previous year, and over 9% over the past two years. RT’s existing sales tax subsidy is growing 3 to 4 times faster than the CPI, and yet RT management says that it is not enough to keep its system safe, clean and in good repair.

EOS thinks the existing subsidy is more than enough to do that, and in a report that we presented to the RT Board in March, we outline how (see link 1 below). We oppose any more tax revenues piled on top of those RT already is receiving until RT puts its own house in order. Without RT reform, its costs for running the existing system will continue to rise faster than its subsidies, and it will be back at your door, again and again to ask for additional subsidies just to keep the existing system running.

It is unconscionable placing this ever-growing burden on the backs of RT riders, not only asking them to pay among the highest fares in the country, but also high and ever-growing taxes.

An unreformed RT also blocks the region from having the discussion that we should be having now, which is about our vision for transit in the region’s future. EOS thinks that with RT reform there is an important role for transit in the region’s future. EOS hopes that regional leaders will support RT reform so that the region may start that conversation soon, and EOS will gladly participate in it.

1 Eye on Sacramento. EOS’s Recommendations on RT’s Fiscal Crisis: Avoiding Both Bankruptcy and a Transit Death Spiral, Sacramento, 14 March 2016.

Professor Gregory L. Thompson 
Secretary and Board Member, Train Riders Association of California
Chair, Transportation Committee, Eye on Sacramento
Professor Emeritus, Florida State University, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Chair, Light Rail Committee of the National Transportation Board based in Washington, D.C.

RT on the Rocks … Fight over fare hikes splits transit board

By Craig Powell

 

To get a sense of how broke Regional Transit is, consider this analogy. Let’s say you’re part of a Sacramento family. You have a fairly well-off, middle-class lifestyle, but in the last couple of years you’ve really splurged, buying yourself a big, new Mercedes and a big, pricey cabin up at Lake Tahoe, all financed to the hilt. Meanwhile, the small business you run, RT Clothing, has never regained the boatload of customers you lost when you decided to jack up your prices by 20 percent in the middle of the last recession (oops), leaving you with a flat income for years. Fortunately, your wife, a retiree who collects both a military pension from the federal government and a healthy state government pension, has been collecting cost-of-living increases for years. She brings home close to 80 percent of the family income these days, bless her. Together, you have a family income of close to $150,000 per year.

The charming new home you bought 30 years ago in Light Rail Estates is showing serious signs of age and, let’s be honest, neglect. Your roof is shot, the paint’s badly peeling, you may need a new furnace and your backyard pool has algae stains and a rather unpleasant odor. Lately, some of the sketchier kids in your neighborhood have been jumping over the fence when you’re not home, swimming in your pool, hanging around for hours on end and leaving their trash everywhere. It’s gotten so bad that many of your longtime friends no longer accept invitations to your summer pool parties. You’ve spotted some of them going into Bob and Nancy Uber’s backyard down the street. The Ubers put in a nice, new pool last year and they let their friends drop in to swim whenever they want.

Things are going so-so until one day you decide to open up your bank and credit card statements for the first time in six months. You’re stunned (stunned!) to see all of the savings you thought you were socking away each month have somehow evaporated. Not only that, you owe a whopping $18,000 on your Visa bill. (How did that happen?) In a panic, you check the balance in your checking account and your heart sinks further. You have just $3,000 in cash and, at the rate your family burns money, it will be long gone in three months’ time.

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Eye on Sacramento Urges City Council: Give Back the Tax!

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: March 21, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Contacts: Craig Powell, President,
Eye on Sacramento
Phone: (916) 718-3030
E-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org

Sacramento City Council Poised to Increase Utility Taxes By

$10 Million/Year as Part of its Major City Utilities Rate Hikes;

Eye on Sacramento Urges Council: Give Back the Tax!

Tomorrow evening, the Sacramento City Council is poised to approve double-digit, four-year hikes in city water and sewer rates. In 2018, the council is expected to seek voter approval of 16% annual hikes – for four straight years – in the city’s storm drainage rate. Collectively, the water, sewer and storm drainage rate hikes, if approved, would draw an estimated $88 million more each year from the pockets of Sacramento residents and businesses once fully implemented.

But there is more to the story.

Because of an imbedded 11% city “utility tax” that is unknown to most city residents, close to $10 million of the $88 million will be siphoned each year from utility customer payments and diverted into the city’s general fund to pay for the general costs of government. The diversions will reduce resources available to keep city water safe and clean, and to keep our sewer and storm drainage systems operating effectively. The diversions also drive up the need for future city utility rate hikes.

“The Council has a clear conflict of interest in deciding whether and how much to increase city utility rates,” said Eye on Sacramento President Craig Powell. “They know full well that for every dollar they increase city utility rates, they automatically divert 11 cents of that dollar into the city’s general fund due to the utility tax. This creates an almost perverse incentive for tax-hungry politicians to raise utilities rates as high as possible so as to inject more dollars into the general fund which councilmembers can spend any way they please,” Powell added.

“The Council can eliminate its conflict of interest and ease the burden on hard-pressed Sacramento residents and businesses quite easily: by returning to the Department of Utilities the $10 million in higher utility taxes that the utility rate hikes would generate each year, preferably with instructions to rebate 100% of the funds to utility customers,” Powell said.

“Several councilmembers have made public statements that major utility rate hikes are needed to upgrade and maintain our water, sewer and storm drainage systems. If that is, in fact, their sole and honest motivation for supporting major rate hikes, they can prove it quite easily by returning the nearly $10 million in higher utility taxes that the rate hikes will generate each year back to the Department of Utilities, instead of snatching it from the pockets of hard-pressed ratepayers for purposes entirely unrelated to utilities service,” Powell concluded.

Just how hard-pressed are Sacramento residents? Based on the most recently available data from the U.S. Census, EOS has computed that the mean household income in Sacramento has declined a stunning 12% from 2007 thru 2013.

The City Council will meet tomorrow evening, Tuesday, March 22nd, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, 915 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. Make your voice heard by phoning, e-mailing or coming down to City Hall tomorrow evening to make your voice heard on these important issues. Join us in urging the City Council to “GIVE BACK THE TAX!”

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Proposed RT Rate Hike & Alternative Solutions to RT’s Fiscal Crisis

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: March 14, 2016, 1:30 p.m.
Contacts: Craig Powell, President,
Eye on Sacramento
Phone: (916) 718-3030
E-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org

Professor Greg L. Thompson, Chair
EOS Transportation Committee
Phone: (916) 246-9230
E-mail: greglthompson123@gmail.com

Eye on Sacramento Issues Report Critical of Proposed RT Fare

Hikes and Proposing Alternative Solutions to RT’s Fiscal Crisis

Eye on Sacramento (EOS) issued a report today that is highly critical of a proposal to hike RT fares by 20%, which would make them tied with New York City for the highest transit fares in the county. The report sets forth dozens of proposals for closing RT’s looming budget deficits by reducing RT’s operating expenses without significant cuts to service levels. The RT board of directors will be considering its staff’s fare hike proposal at an RT board meeting this evening.

The EOS report is titled “Avoiding Both Bankruptcy and a Transit Death Spiral.” It makes the case that RT doesn’t have to choose between imposing huge, damaging fare increases, which could very well trigger a transit death spiral, on the one hand, and doing nothing about its looming financial crisis, which would likely lead to bankruptcy, on the other. The EOS report proposes a “third way” for RT to work its way out of its current fiscal crisis: smartly managing its way through the crisis with a laser beam focus on shedding unnecessary costs, renegotiating burdensome labor and other contracts and putting what have been sacrosanct and inefficient functions out to competitive bid.

“There is a road thru RT’s current financial crisis that does not involve massive fare hikes that will punish RT riders, drive down already depressed ridership and risk a transit death spiral,” said EOS President Craig Powell. “EOS has offered today what is essentially a roadmap for how RT can move beyond its fiscal crisis by reining in RT’s bloated operating costs without any serious cuts to service levels. It’s now a question of whether the RT board and its management can marshal the political courage to take the cost-cutting actions that are essential to stabilizing RT’s very shaky finances and protecting its vital role as provider of transit in our region,” Powell added. “The era of protecting sacred cows and entrenched interests must end at RT if it’s to avoid the awful choice between bankruptcy and a transit death spiral,” Powell concluded.

The principal author of EOS’s report is Professor Greg L. Thompson, who recently retired from the faculty of Florida State University. Professor Thompson is a transit expert who currently serves as chair of the Committee on Light Rail Transit of the Transportation Research Board, a Washington, D.C-based organization.

To View/Download EOS’s report, click here
To View/Download the Executive Summary of EOS’s report, click here

###

 

City shares footage of encampment clean-up

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: March 01, 2016
Contacts: Linda K. Tucker
City of Sacramento
E-mail: ltucker@cityofsacramento.org
Phone: (916) 808-7523

City shares footage of encampment clean-up

Hazardous waste, garbage must be hauled off bi-weekly to maintain public health and safety

See video of the clean-up from Thursday, Feb. 25

Note to news editors

  • Total running time of video (b-roll and sound on tape) 2:05
  • Spokesperson in video is Enrique Hernandez, Integrated Waste General Supervisor, Department of Public Works, Recycling & Solid Waste Division
  • High resolution footage is available upon request.

Background

Large truckloads of garbage and hazardous waste from an illegal campground were hauled away late last week from private property near Sutter’s Landing Regional Park and the American River in the City of Sacramento. It’s a recurring event.

Illegal camping of up to two dozen people has periodically occurred at this location for more than a decade. Taxpayers pay for a special police and social service team to offer the group services before clean-ups take place. Those that choose not to accept services simply move on and leave truckloads of hazardous materials behind. Needles, car parts, tires, feces, evidence of stolen items mixed with garbage, wet sleeping bags, and housewares are the norm. Clean ups like this are necessary throughout the City twice a month.

The City taxpayer cost of Public Works equipment and staff amounts to at least $80,000 a year for clean-up of encampments like this one. Also, Sacramento Police dedicate a team of two officers and a sergeant to serving homeless people and addressing encampments. At least 3,700 cubic yards of debris was picked up by the City last year. That’s about 300 large dump truck loads. See the monthly data.

Protestors at City Hall since December repeatedly ask the City Council to repeal the camping ordinance. The City believes repealing the camping ordinance to allow camping anywhere on public and private property is not safe, sanitary, or a means to ending homelessness. Alternatively, the City dedicates taxpayer dollars toward services. The City also works with Sacramento County and multiple partners on finding permanent solutions to housing homeless people.

Get the facts from City Hall.

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The Pot Tax … Helping kids at the expense of the general fund

By Craig Powell

Jay Schenirer means well, he really does. But programs launched with the best of intentions are no guarantee of sound policy or effectiveness, as Schenirer’s recent proposal confirms.

His basic idea is to dramatically increase city funding of programs for children and young adults by getting voters in June to approve a “new” 5 percent tax on marijuana cultivation, with the proceeds directed exclusively to youth services, bypassing the city’s general fund. Schenirer and his hardworking staff have spent the past year compiling research studies that show the benefits such programs can have on outcomes for kids.

Schenirer is certainly not new to youth issues: He’s spent most of his adult life working on them—in state service, on the city school board, as an education consultant and as the founder of youth-focused nonprofits since his 2010 election to the city council. (He’s raised more private funds for these nonprofits from corporations and foundations than any other councilmember with the exception of our city’s star private fundraiser, Mayor Kevin Johnson.) Schenirer is almost certainly the council’s foremost authority on youth issues, with Rick Jennings—the long-term CEO of the Center for Fathers and Families who served on the city school board alongside Schenirer—a close second.

Schenirer and his staff have prepared a thoughtful 22-page blueprint for how to create a new city department of youth services, an idea that city manager John Shirey threw cold water on by calling it a wasteful increase in city overhead. Shirey prefers to have the parks department, which administers the city’s current youth services programs, handle any expansion of such programs.

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Hikes Would Impose the Highest Bus Fare in the Country, Higher Than New York City

MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release
Release Date/Time: January 25, 2016; 1:45 p.m.
Contact: Craig Powell, President, Eye on Sacramento
Phone: (916) 718-3030
E-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org

Survey Data Show that Regional Transit’s Proposed Fare

Hikes Would Impose the Highest Bus Fare in the Country, Higher Than New York City

R.T.’s Growing Financial Crisis Cries Out for Governance Reforms To Control Escalating Costs

Eye on Sacramento (EOS) announced today that its analysis of survey data of bus fares charged by transit systems throughout the U.S. and Canada shows that the 20 percent fare hike (from $2.50 to $3.00) being considered tonight by the Regional Transit board of directors (6:00 p.m.) would, if approved, impose a bus fare on Sacramento residents that would be the highest in both the U.S. and Canada, exceeding bus fares charged by all transit systems in both countries.

EOS researchers examined the database maintained by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), specifically its 2015 Public Transportation Fare Database of fares charged by transit agencies throughout the U.S. and Canada. EOS analyzed the APTA Fare Database to identify regular base fares, exclude fares for intercity commuter service and to convert Canadian fares to U.S. dollars at prevailing exchange rates.

EOS’s finding that RT’s proposed $3.00 bus fare would be the highest in the U.S. is confirmed by the World Atlas, which published a report on November 17, 2015, which tabulated the highest transit fares in the world and identified New York City as the city with the then highest U.S. fare at $2.80 per subway ride, a fare which would be eclipsed by RT’s proposed $3.00 fare.

RT’s Unprecedented Proposed Fare Hikes Are a Sign of Deepening Crisis at RT

RT is facing a major financial crisis that has been a long time in the making. In the past five years its operating costs have risen by 29% (according to RT’s staff report on the proposed fare hike), while inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, over that same period rose only 8.7%. RT experienced such a major escalation in expenses despite the fact that energy costs, which have a major impact on RT’s bottom line, have declined significantly in recent years.

Raising fares to the highest in the nation to deal with such a crisis is a desperate and potentially reckless move that would punish low-income, seniors and transit-dependent Sacramento residents for RT management’s failure to rein in RT’s escalating costs of operation. It would push the price of basic transportation beyond the reach of potentially tens of thousands of people, leading to further revenue declines and a pernicious cycle of rate hikes/ridership drops that could very well lead to the system’s bankruptcy. (We take note of RT’s recently adopted board policy which calls for fare hikes every two years.) And the fare hikes would do nothing to address the real source of RT’s financial problems: its failure to control rapidly increasing operating costs.

RT’s Governing Board Needs Major Reform

RT’s governing board is comprised of 11 elected officials from the County of Sacramento and the cities that RT serves. “Historically and by natural inclination, politicians prefer to spend money to keep constituents happy rather than cut spending which makes constituents unhappy. Politicians are too often beholden to well-heeled special interests with agendas that differ from the broad public interest. Finally, local officials serve on an excessive number of boards, commissions and committees in addition to their primary duties as elected officials on their own jurisdictions’ governing board,” said EOS President Craig Powell.

“Sacramento city councilmembers, for example, serve on more than a dozen different governing boards, commissions, joint power authorities and committees (in addition to the city council), which stretches their ability to provide meaningful, informed, engaged and responsible oversight of RT and its staff beyond the capacity of even a superhuman,” said Powell.

“It is time for our local elected officials to recognize their human limitations and do the right thing by appointing experienced, independent and highly qualified individuals to serve on the RT board who will be better able to oversee RT management, as well as represent their jurisdiction’s interests in their place and stead. We support the Sacramento business community’s recent policy initiative which includes a recommendation that the Sacramento city council appoint experienced business men and women to represent Sacramento on the RT board. We encourage the leaders of all local jurisdictions to do the same, balanced with appointees who can represent the interests of all RT stakeholders, such as riders, seniors, the disabled and last, but by no means least, taxpayer,” Powell added.

“We recognize that such governance reforms may require charter and even legislative amendments. Given RT’s dire financial condition, there is no time to waste in enacting them,” Powell concluded.

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The Grinch Backs Down – Utilities Department Reverses Policy In Time For Christmas

By Craig Powell

Inside City Hall

Last month, my column included my Christmas gift wish list to city leaders, pretty much all of which involved wishes for changes in the city’s troubled Department of Utilities. Instead of granting any of my wishes, the DOU acted like the Grinch last month when it announced the repeal of a decades-old policy under which it would repair breaks in the sewer pipes that run between a resident’s house and the sewer main that typically runs down the middle of city streets or alleys. This change in DOU policy was poised to sock a number of Sacramento residents hard in the pocketbook this season, including a widow on 34th Street, when a sudden reversal of DOU policy chased away the Grinch and saved Christmas for some Sacramento families, with an excellent assist by an able and energetic local TV news station.

Here’s a little plumbing lingo you’ll need to know: The sewer line that runs between your house and the city’s sewer main is called a lateral. The portion of the lateral that lies underneath your front yard is called the upper lateral, while the portion of the lateral that’s underneath sidewalks and city streets (and alleys) and connects up with the sewer main is known in the biz as the lower lateral.

Under a new DOU policy that went into effect on Oct. 1, the city stopped repairing both the upper and lower laterals, leaving it to homeowners to pay the often high cost of repairing such lines. The new policy is part of a DOU effort to reduce the level of service it provides residents while charging ever more for it (which, come to think of it, is pretty much a citywide policy now). It’s like tech industries but in reverse. For example, a couple of years ago, the city stopped picking up recyclable waste on a weekly basis and reduced service to every other week. We also lost street cleaning service as well as the claw, apart from its reappearance for three months at this time of year. After a brief pause, garbage rates are once again climbing. Of course, no one at the DOU suggested that garbage rates be lowered to reflect reduced levels of customer service.  Monopolists rarely do.

How much could homeowners end up paying under the DOU’s new policy on sewer laterals? In a recent ABC10 report on the issue, Karen Silva, owner of Navajo Pipelines, a major city contractor on the water meter project, said replacing a lateral line under a major thoroughfare could easily cost $50,000. She also expressed concern about the quality of work that some contractors might perform. “What if we have sinkholes? What if the sewer main collapses? Then what?”

Coincidentally (I think), in mid-October I had a lower lateral line collapse in the alley that adjoins an apartment house I own in Midtown. What would have been repaired by the DOU without charge two weeks earlier would now end up costing me $5,000. The ABC10 report included an interview with Clara Cid, the widow of the late renowned Sacramento Chicano artist Ricardo Favela. Cid was dealing with the same problem at her home on 34th Street: a break in the lower lateral in the alley behind her home. She faced the prospect of a Christmas ruined by the costs imposed on her by the new DOU policy.

But there actually is a “good news” ending to this story for Cid, as well as 40 other city residents who were informed in the past two months of problems with their sewer lines. Once ABC10 started peppering DOU with questions about its new policy, the DOU abruptly changed its policy once again, announcing that it would repair breaks in lower laterals. (But homeowners will remain responsible for repairs to their upper laterals.)

What left something of a bitter aftertaste about this episode was a follow-up email the city sent to Joe Rubin, the producer at ABC10 who produced the story. The email, from city media officer Linda Tucker, claimed, “The change in direction [returning to the former policy of the DOU repairing lower laterals] is in no way a result of any questions posed to the City by ABC10. Staff had been having conversations about a definitive direction throughout the last four weeks.”

The question is: Does anyone really believe that? To believe it, you’d have to believe that city staff began having “conversations about a definitive direction” (whatever that means) of the new policy almost from the instant the new policy was implemented, a policy that was itself implemented after months of DOU internal deliberation. It’s possible, but very unlikely. It’s much more likely that the DOU abandoned the new policy after feeling the heat of ABC10’s attention to a dumb policy that was causing Cid and others like her major financial grief. Why didn’t they simple acknowledge that ABC10 coverage was about to shine a very bright light on a dumb policy change and they decided to drop the new policy so the DOU wouldn’t look quite so much like a Christmas Grinch?

To understand the city’s highly defensive posture on such matters, you first have to understand the role that investigative journalist Joe Rubin and the media companies he’s been associated with (first, Sacramento News & Review and, now, ABC10) have played in exposing multiple instances of major waste and misconduct in the DOU over the past year or so.

Rubin’s exposes have included revealing tens of millions of dollars of waste in the installation of water meters in city sidewalks; exposing the wasteful DOU practice of abandoning backyard water mains long before they’ve exhausted their useful life; exposing the DOU’s use of a chemical in the city’s water supply that led to concentrations of a likely carcinogen that city tests revealed exceeded maximum EPA standards for almost a year; and revealing contracting irregularities and overbillings in the DOU’s chemical contracts.

This is not the first time city staffers have said that changes in city policy following a Rubin expose had nothing to do with Rubin’s news coverage. On Nov. 21, just one week after publication of Rubin’s blockbuster story in Sacramento News & Review that revealed wasteful practices in the city’s water meter and water main projects, city manager John Shirey announced that the city was changing its policies and would start installing water meters in people’s yards instead of in sidewalks and that each backyard water main would be examined to assess its remaining useful life. Shirey stated in his announcement that he had asked the DOU to conduct a review of the water meter and water main programs “well before [Rubin’s] article appeared,” meaning that the changes in city policy had nothing to do with Rubin’s expose.

Side note: Under the city’s new policy, water meters are supposed to be installed only in folks’ yards unless a homeowner specifically requests that it be installed in the sidewalk and agrees to pay a $400 fee. But Eye on Sacramento, the watchdog group that I head, is receiving reports that meters are still being installed by default in city sidewalks. We’re also received reports that DOU contractors are not always examining backyard water mains to assess their remaining useful life but are, instead, abandoning such mains and digging up streets unnecessarily to move water service to the street. (If you observe such practices in your neighborhood, please drop us a line.)

We at EOS were pretty skeptical of Shirey’s claim that he had ordered a review of the water meter program “well before [Rubin’s] article appeared.” So we filed a records request with the city that sought copies of all communications between Shirey and the DOU relating to Shirey’s alleged directive to the DOU to conduct a review of the meter and water main programs before Rubin’s article was published. City staff was unable to locate any such communication. It’s possible that Shirey instructed DOU director Bill Busath by phone or in person to conduct such a review, but it’s not likely. A city manager of Shirey’s skill and experience would almost certainly have made sure that a directive from him to a department director calling for a review of two of the largest capital improvement projects in city history be documented, at least by email.

Rubin gets under the skin of city managers because his stories uncover waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer and ratepayer money and bad policies that embarrass city managers who, frankly, ought to be doing a better job of overseeing city government. It seems that they just cannot stand for Rubin to get any credit for triggering positive changes in city policies. Instead, they attack his stories.

Shirey’s public rebuke of Rubin and ABC10 for the story on excessive levels of a likely carcinogen in the city’s water supply made the point that the city never violated an EPA regulation. Well, that’s fine, but it’s also not relevant: The ABC10 report never claimed that the city violated an EPA regulation. ABC10 reported that numerous city tests showed that the city’s use of a test chemical (ACH) led to elevated concentrations of a likely carcinogen in the city’s water supply beyond that allowed under EPA standards for nearly a year. The report also expressed suspicions that the city may have shifted testing locations and taken the extraordinary step of injecting county water into the city water supply just days before a mandatory EPA test in order to dilute concentrations of the carcinogen to below EPA limits to avoid violating an EPA regulation and triggering an EPA citation.

The city is even hounding reporters who report on the ABC10 story, namely yours truly. After publication last month of my column, which included a brief summary of the ABC10 story on elevated levels of a carcinogen in the city water supply, the city’s Linda Tucker fired off an email to Inside Publications publisher Cecily Hastings that accused me of “propagating false information about our drinking water.”

Well. I knew that Rubin had the test reports in hand that proved the aEl Centro Reservoir trihalomethanesccuracy of his story. I also knew that ABC10 had its story vetted by ABC’s corporate legal counsel before running it. But out of an abundance of caution, I asked EOS policy director Erik Smitt, an engineer and experienced water plant operator, to analyze the data. He selected the test reports from a single city test site for review and plotted a graph that tracked the levels of the carcinogen over time. (You can view the graph at eyeonsacramento.org.) Smitt found that the mean (or average) concentration of the carcinogen at the test site throughout the one-year period in which the city was injecting the chemical ACH into the city’s water supply exceeded the allowable EPA standard of 80 parts per billion.  El Centro Reservoir trihalomethanes

Meanwhile, I’m pleased to report that Cid’s Christmas was not ruined by the DOU Grinch, thanks to the skilled and energetic reporting of the ABC10 team. As Cid was quoted as saying in the news broadcast, she considers the reversal of the DOU policy her family’s “own miracle on 34th Street.” And, yes, I’ll be asking the city in the New Year to credit me for the $5,000 plumbing bill I paid to replace the broken lower sewer lateral in the alley behind my property.

 

PROPOSED CITY UTILITIES RATE HIKES

January marks the beginning of key hearings on the city’s proposal to increase water rates by 9 percent, sewer rates by 10 percent and storm drainage rates by 16% in each of the next four years. The rate hikes are expected to increase a typical Sacramento homeowner’s monthly city utilities bill from $116 to $185 per month.

To express your views on the proposed rate hikes, I encourage you to attend the city’s Utilities Rate Advisory Commission meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, in the city council chambers in New City Hall (915 I St.). The commission’s recommendations will then likely be considered by the city council in either February or March. You can stay up to date on developments, as well as find out how you can help in the effort to moderate city utility rate hikes, by signing up for EOS email updates at eyeonsacramento.org.

 Craig Powell is a local attorney, businessman, community activist and president of Eye on Sacramento, a civic watchdog and policy group. He can be reach at craig@eyeonsacramento.org or 718-3030.