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Open Letter to Director Chuck Muse, Helix Water District Board

Open Letter to Director Chuck Muse, Helix Water District Board from Lori Kern

Dear Mr. Muse:

Congratulations on your re-election to the Helix Water Board. Here are some things I hope you will consider as you go forward with the Helix Water District:

We ratepayers are working-class and elderly. Money is tight these days and I see room for adjustment in the budget. We can’t afford to have our rates increased again next year. Water is a necessity, not a luxury and not a commodity. In my mind, our rates are a tax.

I’d like you to think about other options before you vote to raise rates again, like looking for other sources of income. Every public agency has sacrificed during the recession and subsequent slow economy. Helix has not. 

I understand that you want to be generous with the employees. But, the health coverage for the Board and the employees is the best I have ever seen. Perhaps you can look into some less expensive plans, like the ones other public agencies have. I’ve worked in the public sector most of my life, and I’m pro-worker, but we all have co-pays now and so should you. Your employees earn good salaries and they can pay a co-pay when they go to the doctor, just like the rest of us. There needs to be a little give and take on the part of the employees.

I understand that you want to give the employees autonomy to do their jobs, but letting them hire an auditor is wrong. The Helix Policies and Procedures Manual, which I found on the Helix Water District website, says: “Section 9.1-11(B) …The Board will retain and periodically review the work of an auditor as an independent contractor of the District (other than the Financial Officer/Treasurer), who will report to the Board, to conduct an annual audit of the District’s books, records and financial affairs….” In other words, it’s your job to hire the auditor, not staff’s job.

Please move Board meetings to a reasonable hour, like say 6 or 6:30 p.m. when we work-a-day folks can attend. Whether or not we show up is not the point. We should always have access and you will show us you’re not hiding anything. There’s a lot of mistrust among the “customers.” 

Get rid of the tiered-rate structure. It’s unfair. It doesn’t matter that everyone pays less than the price of water for the first 10 units. It penalizes those who have animals, fruit trees and gardens. For example, an elderly woman living alone told me her bill was over $400 because of her avocado trees. Another single woman with very little property, told me her bill is normally over $200. My family’s bill is normally over $200 and we don’t water our grass. We water our trees and plants only.

I appreciate that you care enough to be involved. I hope you will do the right thing for the ratepayers for a change, and I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Lori Kern

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David Smith November 12, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Lori, You are continuing to hide a nasty agenda with your friends Hedberg, Scalzitti, McMillan, and others in your "Open letter" to Mr. Muse. You continue to try and tear down the employees and the Board on issues that you know you will not change. To say that you would not raise rates is a complete lie or at least a complete misunderstanding of the industry and the water issues at hand on your part. To continue to foster the notion that employees and the current Board has complete disregard on cost control and the state of the economy is ridiculous and shows that you have paid no attention to what the District has done to cut back. You lost the election, so stop trying to govern from the sidelines by continuing to mislead on issues that you certainly are not up to speed on or are purposely mistating.
David Smith November 12, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Helix did have a rate increase this last year and it was the lowest rate increase of all the other agencies and the most forthcoming and easy to understand. It was one rate increase that included all other rate increases that will come from CWA and MWD. Every other agency hides that fact through pass through charges after they raise their own rates. The employees and Board have made cuts to benefits that equal or exceed the cuts made to surrounding agencies. The Board has moved meetings to a later scheduled time (in the evening) in the past to see what type of participation they would have. Attendance was dismal, so they agreed to hold meetings that deal with rate issues at a later time. You are correct that water is a necessity, but being a necessity does not make it "free". It has to be treated as a commodity or product or what ever else you want to call it on order to run the District. You can't purchase water from MWD or CWA on feelings of necessity, you need money. The tiered rate structure model is used in many utilities and is completely fair. It does force conservation on a necessity "water" that is also finite. I live in a system with a hybrid budget/tier structure. My base tier is the same as Helix's 3rd tier not including pumping charges. Helix must be doing something right to have rates that much cheaper than a close neighboring agency and no pumping charges or additional pass throughs on top of the rates.
The Riddler November 12, 2012 at 04:11 PM
David, Just because Lori lost the election doesn't mean she lost her first amendment rights. I hope she will continue to speak up. It's apparent that you don't know Lori Kern or you wouldn't accuse of her of "hiding a nasty agenda." She wanted to serve her community. I want her to run again.
David Smith November 13, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Riddler, I fully support the 1st amendment and her desire to serve the community to try and make things better. The point you miss is that it should be done truthfully. I could write things like she has an agenda to scuddle District funds to close puppy mills but that would not be truthful. I am all for speaking up, but do it with facts. If something is your opinion then state it that way " I do not know all the facts, but in my opinion, or I have a vision of how this should work........" See how easy that is. Lori has done nothing of the sort with her numerous posts and candidate responses claiming that she "knows" these things but continues to mistate and mislead the readers on the issues.
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Monsire March 02, 2013 at 04:49 AM
For a working class woman as yourself Lori you sure do find a lot of time commenting on blogs all over the internet. Bragging about saving dogs but then supporting the killing of unborn babies won't help you gain influence. Everything you have spread online is up for everyone to read. You are a radical liberal with little self control. How many people you think want to hear you tell them that we don't bath in orange juice? You liberals have the most difficult time talking in "good faith" you should try it sometime.

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