Let’s hear more about separating the state

6 Feb

I’d like to thank a couple of people who have brought the State of Jefferson issue into our speaker series, and I was impressed with Bob Evan’s response when questioned about the subject.

Evans noted that we don’t get equal representation in Sacramento. Some serious talk about separation at county boards and city councils around the North State might get their attention, he opined.  And, “If they just laugh at us, we’ll already be down that road...” – meaning, we’ll already have the legal process in motion.

This is a sentiment that always attracts my attention – getting their attention, whether they are Downtown or in O-ville or in Sac-o-tomatoes. I have given up on Washington DC, sorry.

I was about to give up on Sacramento when I had a curious experience. I told you all there was a hearing in Sacramento the other day, regarding water rates. The Committee on Utilities and Commerce was hearing from some sub-committees and other entities regarding the effects of private water company rate increases on low-income and the elderly. I had been told they were looking for public comment, but I knew I would not be able to go to Sacramento on a couple day’s notice, so I picked up my cell phone Monday morning and went about trying to contact the committee by phone.  

I must have got a hold of a phone number the public is not supposed to have. It reminded me of the time I wandered out of my sister’s dressing room at JC Penny, and got lost in that catacomb of curtains. As I bashed in on all  these ladies, strapped into their 1960’s style foundation garments, I was treated like something the cat dragged in – one woman hit me right in the face with her nylon. They didn’t give me a chance to say, “I can’t find my Gramma!” They just yelled at me and threw me out. 

That’s what I encountered when I dared to dial a number at the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce – “what are you doing here?”  The woman who answered wasn’t a helpful public servant, she was a dog in the manger.  Or, excuse me, a hog in the trough.

You know that story – a dog, who can’t eat hay, jumps into a manger and snarls at any cow that tries to eat.  Dog knows he can’t eat hay, and hogs know they can’t eat all the slops. Dumb dog/hog? No, greedy dog/hog, a dog/hog that knows the power of running the manger/trough. Here we have the State Worker. State workers have a code – they protect the system, period. They are trough hogs, and they’re scarier than any dog you will encounter.

I tried to stay on track with this gal, I identified myself, and told her I was looking for information about a committee hearing that was to take place later in the day. She cut me off before I could finish what I was saying – “there’s no committee hearing today!”   I kept trying to explain myself, and she just kept saying that. At some point I must have mentioned a name or a phrase she recognized because she suddenly started listening to me. She admitted there was a hearing. “I’ll transfer you...” and she sent me on to somebody else. Again, I was treated as though I had wandered in on a fat lady struggling into a girdle. The second woman denied there was a meeting, and asked pointedly what I was doing calling her. Again I struggled to explain, again I must have mentioned some kind of code words – she also admitted there was a hearing later that day, and transferred me to a third person. 

So far, I had two women who had at first denied there was any meeting, but when I’d mentioned some specific names, they’d suddenly remembered – “oh – THAT meeting!” By the time I got to the third woman, I was pretty diddled, stuttering, but I persevered. She was ready to admit there was some kind of meeting that day, what did I want? I named the committee and meeting, and told her I had only heard about the meeting days before, on accident, and that I would not be able to attend. How could I make comments?

As if she hadn’t heard a word I said, she told me I could come to the hearing. 

So, I responded again that I would not be able to attend, and I tried to chatter out my comments as casually as possible while I still had her ear. I told her my community was being hit with onerous water rate increases for pensions, and we were tired of putting up with inaction from the California Public Utilities Commission.  She just kept babbling at me that I would have to come to the hearing.  I told her I was sorry I had wasted her time and mine, said goodbye, and hung up. 

Then I wrote an e-mail to the staffer who administers the committee.  They’d gotten a hold of her when they’d contacted Assemblyman Anthony Rendon’s office, he’s on one of the sub-committees. I wrote in my e-mail various concerns we have here in Chico over our water rates – complaints from both the city of Chico and Chico Area Recreation District that trees would be dying all over town, ball fields would be going brown, and playgrounds turned to dust and mud. I also made a brief complaint about what happened when I tried to contact the committee by phone.

I got the usual glad-handers – the damage control artists. Wow, this lady is mad, and she has a big mouth – we better smooth her over! Now all the sudden, everybody wants to be all nicey-nicey! From Sue Kateley, staffer to the Committee on Utilities and Commerce:

Dear Ms. Sumner,

First, I’m very sorry to hear that your call was not handled properly. I want to assure you that it is not typical to hear that someone was treated badly by Legislative staff. If you could provide the phone number that you called, I will see if I can find out what happened that led to this situation.

 

The hearing was held yesterday afternoon and we had a number of Cal Water customers from Lucerne and Marysville who did attend. There is a video recording available over the internet if you would like to watch the hearing (I know that isn’t the same as being there). I think this link will work for you:

http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=1784

We did hear a number of comments similar to yours, expressing concerns regarding steep rate increases proposed for Cal Water customers and a proposal that is being made by Assembly Member Yamada to provide assistance to low-income and disadvantaged water utility customers.

 

The Cal Water rate case has not yet been completed and some changes have been made to reduce the amount of the rate increase. I don’t know specifically what is currently being proposed for customers in the Chico area.

 

If you wouldn’t mind, could I put you in touch with the staff at the Public Utilities Commission so that you could get an update on the status of the rate proposal? I can do this via email but I don’t want to share your email without your permission. Let me know.

 

Best,

 

Sue

 

Sue Kateley, Chief Consultant

California State Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  They always want a name and a phone number. I don’t know how to tell this gal – it was her phone number, and she may be one of the trough hogs that snarled at me!  

But, there’s good news up there. “The Cal Water rate case has not yet been completed and some changes have been made to reduce the amount of the rate increase.”

 We still have time to contact these people. I’ll get back to this gal and ask her to put me in touch with the CPUC, and ask her for other contact information. I’ll try to be nice. But, I’m with Bob Evans. These snarling trough protectors in Sacramento don’t take us seriously. It’s time to sharpen that ax.

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