Letters to the Editor, Aug. 14, 2015

Unpopular but needed water hike

Almost all of us turned on the water this morning without a second thought.

And for good reason: Gilroy enjoys water rates that are the lowest of 13 comparable jurisdictions in the Bay Area, including Morgan Hill. Our last water rate increase was in 2009 largely because of excellent expenditure management and careful budgeting to ensure that ratepayers receive the biggest bang for their buck. It costs about 27 cents for the city to produce 100 gallons of water. A 16 oz. bottle of water can cost $1.50 to $5.00.

The city operates water and wastewater (sewer) treatment systems for the benefit of residents and businesses in the city. Earlier this summer, the City of Gilroy received an independent report recommending increases to the city’s water rates but no increase in residential wastewater rates.

The independent report shows that a number of regional and statewide circumstances have recently intervened that increase the cost of providing water service in Gilroy. These circumstances include the costs passed on to Gilroy because of the drought, a California court decision regarding how statewide water rates should be structured and local water system maintenance needs.

As a result of court rulings, the rates developed in the independent study use a straightforward methodology to establish an equitable system of fixed and variable charges that recover the cost of providing service and fairly apportion those costs. The rates were developed using generally accepted cost-based principles and methodologies for establishing water rates, charges, and fees identified in the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Manual.

Gilroy uses groundwater for its water supply and relies on effective groundwater management for recharge of the groundwater basin. Because of the drought, costs to the Santa Clara Valley Water District to import water into the county to recharge the groundwater basin have been high. Twenty-one percent of the water purchased by the district comes to South County. These costs are passed on to Gilroy and other county water providers and play a key contributing role in the need for Gilroy’s first water rate increase since 2009.

The approach used in identifying the proposed rates for Gilroy are based on the following criteria:

Revenue Sufficiency: Rates should recover the annual cost of service and provide revenue stability.

Rate Impact: While rates are calculated to generate sufficient revenue to cover operating and capital costs, they should be designed to minimize, as much as possible, the impacts on ratepayers.

Equitable: Rates should be fairly allocated among all customer classes based on their estimated demand characteristics. Each user class only pays its proportionate share.

Practical: Rates should be simple in form and, therefore, adaptable to changing conditions, easy to administer and easy to understand.

No one wants water rates to increase. Yet, we are all in this together. The Gilroy water system belongs to all of us and we all want a safe, well maintained and reliable water system at low cost. Gilroy enjoys very low rates as compared to other jurisdictions and will continue to have low rates even with the proposed rate increase.

Without the proposed rate increase costs of system operation will far exceed revenues—by $7 million dollars this fiscal year alone. This is an unsustainable scenario that will harm our ability to properly maintain the water system, including replacement of aging pipes in the ground and likely increase future costs,

Mayor Don Gage, Gilroy
Charter schools have much greater autonomy

While reading your Aug. 6 article “Gilroy Prep Charter School’s Future is on the Line,” the following sentence caught my attention: “Charter schools are public schools that operate with taxpayer funds but are largely autonomous and are not required to have teacher unions.”

It is the second part of that sentence that deserves attention. Though it may not have been the writer’s intention, by inference, one might presume that public schools are required to have a teacher’s union in place. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Yes, indeed, charter schools have much greater autonomy than non-charter schools, but when it comes to employee-employer rights, California public employee labor laws have not changed and are currently the same for charter and non-charter schools and districts.

No public school district in California is required to have unions, whether the unions are for teachers, classified staff, substitutes or administrative staff. Charter schools are not exempt from these laws. There is no autonomy here.

When Gilroy Prep School first formed, the leadership stated publicly (and published in the Dispatch) that it was not going to have a teacher’s union. That statement was a blatant violation of California public employee labor law as it immediately puts a damper on the working relations between the employer and employee. That is, GPS is telling the employees what they can and cannot do within their rights as employees. Of course, there was an immediate response by the future GPS leaders that indeed they did make a mistake with that pronouncement, and retracted it.

Whether a union forms is entirely, by law, left up to the employees and not the employer. School districts and private employers are prohibited by law from influencing or attempting to interfere with employees in forming unions either subtly or overtly.

Reading your current article, it appears GPS leadership may have violated some of these working relationship laws despite their previous statement, and if so, then continue investigating so that GPS is held accountable for any potential future infractions.

Dale Morejón, Gilroy
Gotta love those safe and sane fireworks

James Fennell’s (July 24) guest column makes it sound like Gilroy is the only city with illegal fireworks on or around the Fourth of July (the best secular holiday of the year). I hear the same complaints from whiners in cities like Morgan Hill and San Jose who don’t even get to have block parties. Fennell complains that “the police don’t give this a high priority.” Good! Myself, I enjoy the show. And I have news for Mr. Fennell and the other anti-firework whiners: It will continue, so love it or LEAVE!

With our laws we as a society have set the proverbial fence so far back from the cliff we can’t see the ocean. It is possible for bicyclists to be cited for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, for a pedestrian to be cited for crossing a street when not at an intersection, and for me to be cited for drinking in public when on the evening of July 4 I drank a beer on my sidewalk while watching my son and the other neighborhood kids set off safe and sane fireworks.

If set off correctly, even the majority of the illegal fireworks are safe; the only ones that are not are the ones that come down hot. And admit it or not, the vast majority of people enjoy them.

Even more people enjoy the camaraderie of the Gilroy and Hollister block parties that Morgan Hill and San Jose will never see. In fact, several guests come from those places to Gilroy to partake in the fun.

And that is a good thing. That freedom is far more important than the money brought in or the lazy firemen who resent being on call during the glory days of July 1-6.

The July 24 column demands every law be followed to the letter or it’s a “mockery of justice.” Keep asking for the impossible, James. Having too many laws is the mockery; we can only mock back through nonviolent civil disobedience.

Alan Viarengo, Gilroy