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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Agitation and propaganda trump criticism

We saw Alinsky rules used in commentary about Costa Mesa’s Water District. (Alinsky wrote the manual for political rebellion in the ‘60’s, 12 Rules for Radicals. The rules explain how to influence, or even force, political decisions with technique, instead of facts or logic. In fact, Alinsky noted that the truth wasn't a major concern.)
 One of Alinsky’s concepts is to never argue the point the opposition wants to argue. He advises changing the dialog to something unrelated but with emotional impact. Also, activists are encouraged to attack opponents personally and hurtfully. The hope is to distract opponents into debating unrelated matters or to defending themselves. 

Blogger propaganda

We also found examples of propaganda in an anti-Water District blog. (Propaganda is defined for this blog’s purpose as messages intended to persuade by emotion rather than factual or logical argument.)

An objective viewer could hypothesize that the District is either doing something definitely right, or egregiously wrong since it has inspired an “anti” blog devoted to criticizing it (and to soliciting donations). We've found no evil in water matters in Costa Mesa to date. Certainly, since it’s run by humans, mistakes are made, and since it’s a human endeavor there is lots of room for argument about decisions its managers and governing board make.

That said, the
blog admits its (primary blogger’s) bias, while it demonstrate obvious propaganda techniques. For example, a picture of the BOD (Board of Directors) notes it is a male-only group. 

What isn't mentioned is that it is an elected group, not a self-perpetuating “old boys network.” But the label is there, and it could influence how readers feel about the board in the future, without their ever remembering why.

VP looks too masculine 

The blogger describes one board member as “testosterone fueled” and shows a picture of someone with well-developed upper arms shooting a rifle. A question related to the picture wonders if the shooter is thinking about shooting journalists. The remark was part of the blogger’s whine about probably not personally qualifying as a journalist for press accreditation by the board. 

A more objective view, from, say, a newspaper might be “a fit man with medium complexion.” However, his fitness (and his hobbies) are irrelevant to his duties on the board. This particular male is also a well-educated investment professional who helps guide board policy and decisions. That pertinent information was ignored in favor of a pejorative description of his body habitus.

I think they hate me. . . 

The blogger was whining about the board’s decision not to accredit journalists who represented only personal blogs.

That may have been a poor, possibly illegal, decision. However, the blogger 
didn't seek accreditation, so one doesn't know if the whining is based on anything other than paranoid projections. 

We observed that a journalist from the Register, who has repeatedly written highly-critical articles about the Water District and about the BOD’s decisions, was present for a recent BOD meeting. He was treated courteously (which included providing him public documents on a flash drive to facilitate his work).

 The blog linked to articles in the Register and the Pilot, with their “Allinsky-ish” comments.

Commenters use Alinsky manipulation

For example, one commenter opined that the District’s Communications Director should be fired. This is a brutal attack since bureaucrats tend to be acutely sensitive to both criticism and job loss. It seemed to be an attempt to deflect her attention to defending herself. (He was critical of her spending a minute part of a 3% share of the overall budget on a PR event which was limited to invited attendees. Commenters thought the price was high, although none showed any cost analysis or competitive prices.) 

It should be noted that the same commenter also opined that the contracted PR company gives “kickbacks” to the District. Of course, if he had any evidence – not squinty-eyed speculation – the Grand Jury would love to run up a few indictments on the matter.

Expert's teaching ignored

Another commenter is an investment expert who contributes his expertise as a volunteer for Costa Mesa. That is, he’s informed and he’s contributing. He tried to explain the concept of a trust fund, and how other water departments are now in trouble because they didn't prepare for replacement of their aging pipes and other infrastructure.

He was attacked by a
commenter who, to our knowledge, has never created wealth or managed large investments. Apparently she didn't understand investments or the expert’s information enough to rebut. Instead she alluded to the commenter’s friendship with a member of the District (we know Sisler {BOD President} is your BF. . .”).

It worked. He diverted to inform the readers that he sees Sisler at Board meetings. Thus was the discussion diverted from debate about the District’s expenditure and investments to a discussion about “Who’s your friend?” which is irrelevant.

Trained or just mimics? 

It’s not clear if the commenters are using Alinsky training or if they are just
mimicking those who have trained. A revealing comment by one hints at a common purpose: “Time to start some trouble.” Maybe there’s a phone chain to alert them to “evil in the elected City offices,” something like the bat symbol projected on the clouds in Gotham. Instead of battling evil, they are called to “cause some trouble.” 

Unlike the Caped Crusader, these commenters have no experience and no training in the matters they address. As 
we've mentioned, they often don’t even try to understand the subject before they set their mouths in motion.

They could be useful but won't

That’s disappointing, since fielding logical and fact-related arguments is exactly what hones public officials into more effective service providers. Commenters' angry diatribe, speculation without evidence, and labeling or name calling makes it easy to write them off as “kooks.” Alinsky techniques and propaganda efforts are alive and well in Costa Mesa’s anti-Water District crowd. 

They’d be so much more helpful to Costa Mesa if they could articulate
a truthful, factual, and logical criticism. Or even say something nice instead of attacking people and diverting attention from issues.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Weekend potpourri

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary," H.L. Mencken, columnist.

Never let a disaster go to waste

California, like all states, has two senators. First, we have Senator Boxer, who recently tried to capitalize on the Oklahoma tornadoes:

Senator Barbara Boxer told the Senate this week that the tornado in Oklahoma was the result of global warming and it was time to implement a tax on CO2 to stop extreme weather.

Boxer said: “This is climate change . . . Carbon could cost us the planet. The least we could do is put a little charge on it so people move to clean energy.”

Experts think not

According to an article in Forbes magazine in February of this year:

. . . (In a) newly published survey of geoscientists and engineers, merely 36 percent of respondents fit the “Comply with Kyoto” model. The scientists in this group “express the strong belief that climate change is happening, that it is not a normal cycle of nature, and humans are the main or central cause.”

The authors of the survey report, however, note that the overwhelming majority of scientists fall within four other models, each of which is skeptical of alarmist global warming claims.

Ice cores are used like tree rings to study past climates; they show eons of climate change, warming, cooling, warming again. Does that mean that humans have no effect on climate? Nope. We just have no idea how or how much. Or what we can do, if anything, to affect the rate of change.

The world is going to freeze if we don't . . .

The April 28, 1975 issue of Newsweek concerned the scientific theory that the increased number and seriousness of tornadoes was due to global climate change – but global cooling was the hobgoblin at that time.

The longer planners delay the more difficult they will find it to cope with the realities of climate change, once it becomes grim reality.” The majority of pundits favored melting the global ice caps by spreading soot (carbon) over them.

Why demand unrelated "solutions"

But lack of knowledge about the problem doesn't stop our senator from insisting on a solution. If she has no knowledge of science, or about the opinions of experts, why does she offer a draconian solution to a problem we don’t understand? Perhaps there’s a hidden, social-engineering goal.

A (former) Canadian Environmental Minister said, “No matter if the science is all phony, there are collateral environmental benefits.... climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”

A “’’think tank’ for a new world order” called the Club of Rome advocates reducing the earth’s population (two billion or more) by any means possible to balance the earth’s assets. One of their announcements states:

In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill....All these dangers are caused by human intervention .... and thus the “real enemy,” then, is humanity itself .... believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is “a real one or….one invented for the purpose.

The other is no better

Our other Senator is Feinstein.

During Senate discussion Feinstein admitted that our US Constitution would not allow the prohibition of specific books (First Amendment). She, however, persists in trying to ban specific firearms, and, in fact, to severely restrict all firearms ownership by private citizens (Second Amendment).

As we have noted in previous blogs, the greater the percentage of the population that legally owns guns, the lower the crime. Conversely, when people are disarmed, the law-abiding citizen suffers from criminal and governmental trespass. Clear examples of the latter are Nazi Germany and Great Britain, and in the U.S. Chicago and Detroit.

(For those interested in a rigorous application of scientific research to the question we recommend a book by Economics Professor John R. Lott, Jr.: More Guns, Less Crime. . . available from Amazon and other sources. And, there’s an entertaining and very short opinion expressed HERE.)

Does surface water = stupidity and vice versa?

We could hypothesize that it is the California water that creates Senators anxious to solve problems they don’t understand. We don’t know how the Senators’ water tastes, but their behavior gives us dysgeusia, the condition of having an abnormal, bad taste in your mouth.

Costa Mesa has an independent, underground water supply and enjoys good Council Members. Mensinger’s “Contract with Costa Mesa,” and Righeimer’s “Meet the Mayor” and Leece’s Town Hall meetings suggest that our politicians want to understand the problems before they try to solve them. The Council’s COIN ordinance (governmental transparency) reinforces that idea.

This might support the "surface water causes irrational thinking" theory.

If it’s not the water, what does cause our Senators to shoot first, aim later? Schooling? Parenting? Or is it caused, like climate change, by factors not yet knowable?

They'll protect you and your diagnosis

If you like the ethics and accountability of the IRS when it uses your financial data, you’ll soon be even happier. They’ll be using your medical records as Obamacare is further implemented.

Do it right, ask  . . .

Seth Godin opined: “I don't think the right question is, ‘is the path perfect?’ It's probably, ‘Is this somewhere I'd like to go?’”

That idea should be kept in mind as Costa Mesa’s charter is written. We should be sure we really want to “go there,” that is; do we want do exactly that, exactly that way, forever

An expedient, “feel good” document could cause far more problems than it solves. Let's do it right.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Water, Trash, and Crime

Monday’s meeting of Mesa Water District’s Board of Directors seemed benign, and even comforting. The Board met to study financial matters, including a report on the Department’s unfunded liability for pensions. (They’re in far better shape than our City, or other OC cities, for that matter, but that’s comparing apples with chickens.)

Some notes on the sense of financial responsibility that was demonstrated: The first question asked was, “Is he on an hourly fee or by the task?” about Joe Nation, who was commissioned by the board for the study. They wanted him to present first if he was paid by the hour.

Next, the results weren't comparisons with other water departments, because, “No point in paying for their studies with (Costa Mesa) money.”

Finally, directors expressed concern about the rate of return on their “savings.” The board is accumulating money, in effect as a trust fund for pipes and other infrastructure that will have to be replaced. Three directors expressed disapproval for taking money from today’s rate payers to fund future maintenance while letting the funds decline in value. (If the rate of return is less than the rate of inflation, the value of the fund declines.)  They were all interested in responsible stewardship of my money. Refreshing.

The body of the meeting was pretty boring. It seemed like responsible adults conducting business responsibly. We won’t be examining the board’s operations in more detail until something new or suspicious develops. Pretty much any question of interest can be answered from online files or upon request from their communications officer.

New criminals in Costa Mesa

On to the sweep of Costa Mesa’s released-criminal population. Criminals were released from jail to Costa Mesa early under the PCS (Post-release Community Supervision) sparked by Assembly Bill 109 (to reduce State prison overcrowding).  Twenty one were found and investigated. Eleven of these were arrested again. Most of them were involved in other crimes, and possessed drugs and/or paraphernalia. And most were found in the vicinity of the problem motels.

Perhaps this is a call for more probation officers; more likely it is a criticism of the selection of early release prisoners. You may wonder why they can’t be kept in prison and off of Costa Mesa’s streets. One reason is that the powerful union supporting the prison guards blocked any use of private enterprise detainment facilities. It’s also exerting a lot of influence to prevent criminals from being transferred to other states. 

Prisons alleviate crowding by sending criminals to county jails, which clear crowding by releasing prisoners under PCS.

Apparently the issue of crimes threatened against Costa Mesa’s (and all of California’s cities’) residents is less important than preventing competition to State-employee-run prisons. I guess it’s OK to have threats of rape, assault and murder increase as long as jobs and pensions are secure.

Trash, the board

More “I’m too special to concern myself with mere citizens” attitude: the oft-criticized trash board (called the Costa Mesa Sanitation District Board of Directors) will look at a new audit report. The report mentioned that 25 of the 31 questions asked by the auditors were answered satisfactorily by CR&R Environmental Services headquartered in Stanton. (Yes, the “no-bid-contract” trash company.)

One of the issues is the amount of money the company recovers from recycling. Costa Mesa pays extra to have our garbage screened for recyclables, which CR&R then sells. We know how much they’re billing Costa Mesans for picking up our garbage, and how much for sorting it, but we don’t know how much the company makes selling the aluminum, plastic and paper that they recover. Perhaps it should offset some billing.

There’s a lot more important information not available to the public. How important? Well, one board member who questioned the board decisions’ propriety was forced off the board though a lawsuit by board members. The lawsuit doesn't concern integrity or factual matters. It concerns an unclear State law; if that law was violated the violation didn't affect any board decisions or operations. It’s unclear if the law was violated, anyway.

Legal assaults and batteries

Will a private citizen be forced to acquiesce if you beat him up with enough legal assaults? Probably.

Fortunately, the City of Costa Mesa, faced with similar legal harassment has stood up to a union lawsuit about using an incorrect procedure. What is amusing, though, is that the nay-sayers are so upset that the City is spending money defending against the harassment suit.

Even though the initial question, albeit arcane, is now moot, the unions are continuing the suit. The whiners complain about the City spending money to defend itself against a union suit (intended double entendre) about a moot point.

Legal harassment is common in clashes between behemoth corporations, but isn't often seen between groups trying to make a city work more efficiently. Perhaps we aren't all interested in improving the city; some groups may be more interested in trying to intimidate the City Council. Others hold criticizing the Council for resisting the legal harassment as a high priority.

Summary; what can we do?

So we have more convicted criminals prowling Costa Mesa streets, a trash board that allows impropriety and opaqueness from its sole-source provider, and a water board that seems above-board (pun intended).

Some of our City’s trouble stems from Sacramento’s decisions and some from State-level influence-buying. There’s little we can do about that right now. Barring recall, the same goes for the BOD of the Sanitation District; anyway, they have a chance to do penance and amend their ways. They’ll meet soon to receive the audit report and decide what – if anything – to do about it.

On a local level, if we rid the city of the niduses of crime we’ll reduce our crime rate and make citizens safer. That will compensate somewhat for the State’s and OC’s “Send ‘em to Costa Mesa” release programs. It will also allow citizens to utilize City infrastructure like Lion’s Park.

We can do a lot as citizens of the City of the Arts to fix what’s wrong, and to applaud what’s right.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

And even more Charter Chatter

Adopting a charter does not change the way a city operates. A charter provides a framework for making City-specific decisions regarding municipal affairs. Changes to existing ordinances and regulations are made by the City Council, as always. An ordinance still has two hearings, a month apart, and offers an opportunity for citizens to express their concern. And, citizens can still overrule an ordinance by referendum.

And, the charter’s provisions must conform to the State constitution. There is no possibility that the Charter could overrule State or Federal law

Balance rights and efficiency

A charter should:

Strike a balance between the rights of the citizens and the ability of the city to function without voter approval. For instance, while it may be wise to require that city government win approval of the voters for a tax increase; it may unnecessarily handicap city government if they are required to ask for a vote of the people in order to give raises to city employees. It is important to carefully balance the scales between citizen oversight and efficient governance.

Purchasing works the same

Purchasing regulations and ordinances continue to govern how we spend the City’s money, in accordance with State and Federal law. “No bid contracts” in the sense used by the charter critics during the last election don’t exist, and can’t exist. All purchases are made through the competitive systems developed by the City staff, and are done by the City staff. Council members allow the bills for the purchased products and services to be paid.

“No bid contracts,” are actually a purchasing classification. Purchases above a “trigger point” follow a procedure outlined in state law for formally advertising the intended purchase and asking for bids. Bidders must qualify under demanding State law and City regulations. No bid contracts follow the regular city procedures. Some purchases are just phoned in by City staffers on an open contract, such as for oil, paint, or pencils. Others require negotiation for best price and service; these negotiations are conducted according to City procedures by City staff.

So, charter or not, there’s no way for a City council, or any of its members, to influence the award of a contract. Under General Law, cities use a State-mandated trigger for the formal bidding process. Under a charter, the Council may be able to specify the dollar value at which formal bidding begins. That trigger point only applies to purchases made for strictly City functions, and with strictly City money.

Governs only municipal affairs

In other words, a charter is written to govern only “municipal affairs.” These may include: construction and maintenance contracting, land use, City finances, City government structure, franchise fees with some utilities, negotiating with employee organizations, control over municipal elections, and some land use and zoning regulations.

So, for example, if we want to build a new police station with State and Federal funds, we have to follow state and federal laws and guidelines. “You pay the bills, you make the rules.” But if we decide to build a precinct station in South Coast plaza using City funds, under a charter we could build it as we saw fit, as long as it conformed to our City ordinances and the state and federal laws about safe construction standards.

Defers to state law sometimes 

In many cases a charter will specify “by state law” for any area that is changing a lot and would need updating, or that doesn't matter much to the specific city. For example, Costa Mesa is not likely to write ordinances about zoning for large industry, so we’d leave that to “applicable state law.”

Once it has been specified in the adopted charter, though, a full election process must be used to change it. So, if the clause read “state law” and we wanted to zone an area for a steel-manufacturing plant, we’d need a majority vote from the citizens.

If State rules don't help Costa Mesa

If Sacramento decrees that all cities hire a “Sign Painting monitor” Costa Mesa would need one as a General Law city. We probably wouldn't need one if we had a properly-written charter.

So, a charter could regulate construction and maintenance contracting for any building done only for Costa Mesa and using only Costa Mesa’s funds. All governance concerning matters beyond municipal affairs is controlled by State law.

Why should we care?

If the charter will only govern municipal affairs, what’s the point?

Right now, if the state needs money, it can “borrow” Costa Mesa’s funds as it wants. Sacramento has done this and will continue to do this. And the State can require Costa Mesa to follow rules that make no sense for Costa Mesa. In a well-written charter, as the City of Murrieta found, “…a knowledgeable, involved electorate . . . (can) both propel and constrain the direction of its own city.”

Could lead to evil if we're not careful

But, a charter can also be written to give council members a lot of money. One word; Bell. 

We have two defenses against Bell-like corruption here; a well-written charter, and citizens who care. Very few Bell citizens bothered to vote when Bell’s Committeemen were stealing. Costa Mesans care, and we have COIN (Civic Openness In Negotiations), so that path isn't likely here, regardless of who is on the City Council.

A charter is a tool to help govern the City and shield it from raids and rules by Sacramento. How well the tool works will depend on how well the charter is written.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Screening for Superstars 

“We can only hire superstars, and they’re hard to find,” an educator exclaimed at a barbecue last weekend. He was commenting about hiring teachers.

Screening for “superstars?” Professional sports screen those who want to earn a great deal of money by playing games. The great majority don’t reach stardom. Those that do have superb skill sets, top mental and physical conditioning and grit. Faced with difficulties, they tried harder – and they tried smarter – and they tried again. A few became superstars.

Leader superstars 

Military leaders are screened during training courses filled with pressure-cooker stress and increasing demands that appear impossible to meet. The courses have high drop-out rates. Only the superstars become leaders, especially in combat. In the long term military leaders protect our way of life. In the short term they protect their soldiers – our sons and daughters, spouses, parents, and lovers. We need superstars as military leaders.

Superstars with knives

People who want to practice medicine absorb amazing amounts of data and synthesize it under constant supervision and criticism. They must persist and excel. They become superstars because they have a calling to medicine, and they train, and they persist. They have the ability and they have the grit. We want superstars holding the scalpels.

Poor screening = poor results 

Screening isn't fun; it’s often unpleasant, especially for those who are screened out. But it’s necessary. If we lower the demands we get less than superstars.

Lowering the stress faced by military leadership candidates led to disaster. Remember Lt. Calley? He became an officer through a de-stressed officer candidates’ course. It was the Vietnam era, and lots of officers were needed.

Lt. Calley passed the lower-stress training and was assigned as a leader in combat. In 1968 he succumbed to battlefield stress and machine-gunned the village of Mai Lai. The low-stress screening didn't remove a leader who would lose self-control during the frustration, fear and confusion of battle.

Others screened

During the same time period the USMC continued to screen for a “few good men.” Navy SEALS faced training just as demanding as ever. The USMC and the SEALS faced high dropout rates. Their screening was effective; it led to productive marines and SEALS, not to leaders who became war criminals.

Want superstars, need superstars 

We want, and get superstars to entertain us. We demand and get superstar surgeons who cut into our tissues. We get Navy SEALS, Marines, and soldiers who have skills, abilities – and grit. Not everybody makes it through screening. Not everybody is cut out to be a surgeon, a basketball forward, or a Marine leader. Only the superstars are selected.

How -- and how not -- to screen them

In our opinion there are two major reasons that we have superstars in the surgery suite, on the battlefield, and on the playing fields. First, they are screened, and only the most suited make it to the top. Second, their screening is designed by professionals in their fields so it screens for what is really important.

What about teachers? Teaching is certainly a calling. It is certainly a profession. Becoming a teacher requires extensive training and practicing and performing under close scrutiny.  But, teachers are screened by the uninformed, the silly, and even the ignorant as well as by teaching professionals.

Government sets curriculums and defines standards. This is the same government that cannot make the Post Office work. So people who've never taught – and in many cases have never had a job or built a business – tell teachers how and what to teach. And parents demand automatic promotion, “niceness” and fun as substitutes for professional teaching.

The enemy is us sometimes 

It’s not all the government’s fault, though. Teachers joined unions to try to protect their profession.

Unions, like all powerful organizations, grew. Now their union protects the union first, then the union protocols, then teachers. That makes it very difficult for administrators to screen out bad teachers. So it’s imperative to screen early and find the superstars. It’s too hard to get rid of them if they don’t become superstars quickly. Some of those who are screened out could become superstars, just not quickly enough.

The police are unique

Police officers face demands civilians don’t – and can’t – really
understand. They should be screened by top professionals in their field so only the superstars remain on the force in Costa Mesa. City Council members, administrators, and lawyers cannot effectively screen them. An alert public can help screen the police and fire departments, though – but as customers, not as evaluators.

Cops are praised for being nice, or handsome, or having a spiffy uniform. Or they are chastised for making mistakes in the chaos of violent conflict in the dark, while they were meeting demanding responsibilities using inadequate information. But their critics are often uninformed; sometimes they are fools, as well. Both “badge bunnies” and cop haters provide evaluations that are fluff at best, harmful at worst and useful rarely.

"Associations" can impede 

They also face many of the problems that teachers face in the form of unions (that they call associations) which protect the union, union procedures, and jobs. Performance and professionalism often suffer

For example, their unions insist that screening by time on the job is meaningful, and that union reps be present when officers are counseled. The latter turns a learning experience into an adversarial ordeal. Effective screening and guided improvement become difficult. 

The City's role

The City Council can fairly determine how much Costa Mesa can spend on the Police and Fire departments. They can’t evaluate police and fire professionals. The Public Safety departments – and honest citizens with the courage to insist on professionalism – must screen for superstars – and for those who should seek other careers.

Our role 

Let’s help both departments screen their own organizations for superstars. We need superstars as cops and firefighters in Costa Mesa. We must let them know how well (we think) they did their jobs -- often.

The truth is: we’ll get the LEO's and firefighters we earn – and deserve. And we'll end up with the teachers that show "super stardom" early in their careers.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Water boarding mis-information

A director for Mesa Water District discussed some misinformation about the district in a talk Tuesday evening. Shawn Dewane addressed partially and completely wrong information that is appearing as newspaper commentary or as snide innuendos on blogs.

The explanations he gave were believable and clear. However, we haven’t confirmed his assertions yet, so this information is tentative.

Reaching goals

First of all, the board set goals a few years ago; a five-year plan. Two goals were an AAA Bond rating and a completely independent water supply for Costa Mesa.

The directors included a very conservative approach to pricing: no one should tell a Costa Mesa resident how much water she was allowed to purchase. Limiting water purchase through “tiered pricing” essentially sets limits on how much water “should” be purchased.

Social engineering through tiered prices

In order to set “fair” trigger points for increases in unit cost, buyers elsewhere are required to file information with their boards giving the number of residents in their house, the relationships of the residents, and other demographics. Then an allocation is set for their household; using more water than the allocation triggers a price increase for all water purchased.

That’s loss of privacy, denial of the freedom to purchase what the buyer wants and an arrogant assumption by a quasi-governmental agency that they know what “the right amount” of water use is. Does it work? Mostly no.

Costs more, in fact

In fact, with special discounts for special purchasers – think golf courses and farms – the cost per home resident actually goes up. And, if forced price increases aren't enough to stifle guerrilla car washing and other evils, folks can be cited and even fined. They pay a fine for watering their lawn on the “wrong” days.

Use less, pay more 

Most of water’s costs are fixed. That is, paying for the water plant, the pipes, and the overall maintenance will use the same amount of money regardless of usage. When usage goes down, the price per unit will go up so that the fixed expenses can be met.

In Costa Mesa, if you use more water, you pay more, at the same rate. It’s just like buying gasoline. If you value your flowers more than your dollars, you are free to make that choice. And the Board does not require you to list household residents, or limit what you do with water.

So, as some pundits preach, Costa Mesa indeed refuses to institute a tiered system. Instead, our water is treated as a commodity instead of as a tool for social engineering. In short, it’s a good thing.

Savings account too big, the sky is falling

The Water District is also saving up a lot of money, as the conspiracy believers complain. Who knows what they’re up to? Maybe they want to sell the district to their friends (through a no-bid contract, no doubt). Maybe they’re consolidating power to take over City Government – or worse, to give to City government.

The AAA bond rating requires that enough money be on hand to pay all expected bills for at least 600 days with no income. The AAA bonds are much cheaper for taxpayers over their long periods of payback.

This is important when considering the half-billion or so dollars buried as water pipes that will be replaced over time. It’s also crucial in planning for natural disasters; we need to be able to repair the damaged infrastructure quickly to avoid social calamity. (Water wars, with bullets, are common when the water supply fails. So far that’s endemic to some Third World nations, not to California.) AAA bond eligibility will get our water flowing while water districts with A ratings, which is where we started, are still looking for funding.

Self-sufficient in water

The colored water processing plant completed the Board’s goal of 100% self-sufficiency. Costa Mesa does not now buy water from anywhere; we draw our own from the ground. And, that will be true for the next hundred years.

Expensive business cards and signs 

Shawn also addressed the “half million dollars” for public relations and the “expensive re-branding.”

A half-million dollars was budgeted to be used as needed for informing the public about their water district. It is our property, after all, so we should know something about it. During the next (nearly) five years about $200,000 of that was spent.

When enough business cards needed to be reordered, and enough signs needed repair, the project was started with a “ re-branding” effort. A new logo was designed, for about $20,000, and printed on the new supply of cards. It was added to the signs that replaced those with falling letters, corrosion, and cracks.

Fight the social engineers

The PR folks also keep the Board informed of legislative matters that are important to Costa Mesa.

For example, a state-appointed bureaucrat decreed that certain State fund allocations would only go to systems with tiered pricing because “that encourages responsible usage.” Our board fought her efforts at social engineering, but wouldn't have known about her ploy in time without a heads up from their PR people.

So much good stuff, but . . . 

So, we have a pure, hundred-year water supply and some of the most efficient operations (expense per employee, expense per subscriber, etc., etc.) We have a AAA bond rating which will help us replace old pipes and survive disasters as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

What’s behind the complaints? We don’t know, but we've noted that, according to Dewane, very few citizens ever attend Board meetings. “Just a few activists against everything, maybe a union official or two.”

Taking a look

We’ll attend a few Water District Board meetings. Maybe the “activists” we'll see are the naysayers of City Council meeting infamy. You know, the ones who assure us over and over of the deceit, perfidy and duplicity of Council members – with no evidence, just speculation and innuendo

Or maybe these people don’t attend Water Board meetings since there’s no TV exposure for their nonsense. Maybe we'll meet a new crop of naysayers. We’ll see.