More Cooperation is Key to Managed Growth

At last night’s Beaumont Cherry Valley Water District board meeting there was a clear consensus from the citizens of Beaumont and the rate payers of the BCVWD on two issues important to the future of Beaumont and the Pass. The first was that we need more cooperation between the BCVWD and the City of Beaumont. Second, the growth of our city needs to be managed responsibly. If I am elected, I promise to make these issues a high priority.

Following is my address to the Board of Commissioners:

I want to thank the Commissioners for providing this opportunity for rate payers and citizens of Beaumont to offer input to you and our City Council concerning the future of our city and the entire Pass area.

There are a number of issues, not all related to water, that concern me about unrestrained growth in Beaumont. The water concerns are front and center tonight but I also worry about the millions in debt attached to our homes and the homes of our future neighbors. I worry about the unsustainable financial strategy of the current council for betting the future of our city on the assumption that tens thousands of new home buyers will continue to want to move here. Another housing market crash; a more prolonged drought; or the new tax per-mile-driven our State is considering, could seriously risk the future of our city if we continue to depend on new developments funding our infrastructure and balancing our budgets. If I am elected, I will work to adopt a new financial strategy focused on a strong, diverse economic development strategy in sync of the needs of the community.

I don’t believe anyone tonight has argued that we don’t need to work to conserve the water. We don’t know when the drought will end and the sooner we put in place measures to conserve water the better off we will all be, we probably should have started sooner. I believe under the responsible stewardship of our water by Mr. Fraser and the board, we have enough water in reserves for at least another few years but I think we all need to recognize our current conditions are a wake-up call.

My first thought was that the water district could bring the managed growth many of us are asking for, by denying water to the new developments. The problem I learned, is this would inevitably lead to legal action at the expense of the ratepayers. There will always be others willing to sell the developers water. As long as they own the land, and the City Council is willing to subsidize capital investment for developers Mello-Roos/CFD funding for infrastructure and services, they will continue to build unrestrained.

I believe the short term solution to our water future is for there to be more cooperation between the City of Beaumont, the Beaumont Cherry Valley Water District and other water boards and agencies in the Pass. There is no area where this is more apparent than concerning the issue of recycled water.

Last month I toured the Yucaipa’s wastewater treatment plant. I learned their district has recycled water that has met the standards of the health department and Water Resource board and is ready to deliver it to Beaumont. I know a deal to co-fund the infrastructure to bring that water to Beaumont was on tonight’s agenda.

The day after my tour in Calimesa, I toured the City of Beaumont’s plant. I asked about the status of the City’s progress towards providing the water district recycled water for their pipes. The City’s representative told me they have the recycled water available but it’s the responsibility of the district to build the system to transport the water to the purple pipes. Mr. Castaldo was with us on the tour and told me to ask the water district why they refused a $20 million loan from the State that would have made it possible for the district to finance the necessary infrastructure.

Through my research, I learned about SRF (State Revolving Fund), a fund administered by California for the purpose of providing low-interest loans for investments in water and sanitation infrastructure. I learned about the deal the Water District and the City were working on to qualify for the low interest loan, the deal Mr. Castaldo claimed was turned down by the Water District. I wasn’t able to find a definitive reason why the loan was never secured. However, I did find something that may shed some light on what happened.

I discovered a December 17, 2007 letter from the State Health Department sent to Deepak Moorjani, the Urban Logic consultant and Director of Public Works for the City of Beaumont. This letter was in response to the Beaumont Wastewater Treatment Plant Title 22 Engineering Report. The State informed the city the engineering report they submitted failed to pass the Title 22 regulations, the health department prerequisite for approving treated water for recycled uses. The letter listed 12 items the City must submit to complete the Title 22 report. According to the State Health department they still have not approved Title 22 compliance for the city and haven’t had any recent dialog with the City on this issue.

How could the City’s water representative claim last month the City had recycled water ready for transport when they hadn’t even re-applied for Title 22 compliance? Why, almost seven years after receiving this letter, has the city still not moved towards Title 22 compliance? This is why we need new representation on the council. We need a council that will do their homework and ask the tough questions. We need a council that will work with the neighboring cities and agencies to do what is in the best interest of our citizens as well as our neighbors.

In the long term we should reconsider whether or not the city should even be in the wastewater treatment business.

If I am elected, I will do my homework. I will continue to research and ask the tough questions and I will work to create an environment of cooperation to get things done. I will bring to Beaumont a government that accepts responsibility for its decisions and conducts its business in a way that commands respect.

I’ve worked at Esri in Redlands for the last 16 years. I like what the citizens of Redlands have accomplished by adopting a managed growth ordinance 30 years ago. It took the will of the people in Redlands to overrule their elected officials three times with three different measures to plan for a better future.

If the citizens of Beaumont determine they too want to plan for responsible growth, it doesn’t have to take hard work and a lot of money for citizens to pass a managed growth ordinance. It takes a council willing to listen to their constituents. It takes leadership to pass an ordinance initiated by council.

If I am elected, I will listen to the people and work to plan for a better future. A city we can be proud of. A city that is appreciated by our children. And a city that will continue to attract homebuyers and businesses.  If I am unable to convince others on the Council to follow the will of the people, I will lead an effort for an ordinance supported by the people. We’ll get this done the hard way, if we have to.