The following letter was sent to Cynthia Koehler at the Marin Municipal Water District
As founder of the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers, I am writing on behalf of the interests of Marin Municipal Water District's ratepayers.
CO$T is pleased that MMWD is conducting a Public Workshop (4/11) prior to the Public Hearing (5/16) when you will vote on the proposed rate increases.
The purpose of this letter is to urge that all MMWD directors preside over the workshop (and its design), sit on the dais, and participate in a constructive dialogue there with ratepayers.
MMWD's newest proposed rate increases have upset your constituents.
The April 11 workshop is an important opportunity for you to hear your customers’ concerns and for you, as a director, to explain why you support the increases.
Your customers have a right to expect that the directors who will cast votes on their behalf will preside over and participate in the workshop – not, as occurred in 2015, when one or maybe 2 of you simply sit in the audience and others of your Board skip the forum altogether.
The April 11 workshop should be designed as a forum that facilitates a dialogue between your ratepayers and the board, NOT a marketing event for staff to promote MMWD's proposed projects or spin the “service” it provides.
The MMWD presentation I heard from District’s General Manager at the Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plan’s Core Group March 6 meeting and again at your March 7 board meeting was characterized as a dry run for MMWD’s 4/11 workshop. That presentation by staff was way too long and did not seem to anticipate the board taking the lead. But the Board should---and must, for it represents its constituents and should not be a rubber-stamp for MMWD Staff’s interest. You represent those who elected you and not the Staff necessarily.
For your workshop, the board should preside over the forum, which would start with a brief introductory presentation by staff. The “meat” of the forum should be the board responding to ratepayers’ comments and querying staff as appropriate. Ratepayers hope that the community’s comments and suggestions -- together with your responses and leadership -- will provide a path to an alternative solution to the latest in an 18-month series of rate increases that outstrip your customers’ income growth.
Your customers rightly should expect the workshop will be their chance to work with the board toward an acceptable solution to the district's challenges. And you as a Director should clearly and definitively enunciate those challenges that your Board contends require placing increasing burdens on your customers.
The May 16 actual rate hearing is also important to your customers. However, its format is not conducive to a meaningful dialogue with your customers and the hearing is too late in the process for the board to seriously consider alternatives. Ratepayers often leave your rate hearings even more frustrated than when they arrived, particularly when your Board’s decisions seem pre-approved regardless of the magnitude of the opposition or the validity of constructive suggestions.
I look forward to reassurances that you, as a director, plan to preside with other directors at MMWD's April 11 workshop. I also look forward to your assurance that you will direct staff to design that forum to maximize two-way dialogue between directors and ratepayers, consistent with the suggestions above.
Mimi Willard, Founder
Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers