Cal Water comes on strong with propaganda blitz in Visalia

29 Dec

I was not surprised that as soon as I found out about the city of Visalia’s plans to look into ownership of their own water system, I also found Cal Water has mounted a mis-information campaign.

Yesterday I posted Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen’s letter to the Visalia Times Delta, explaining why the city is thinking about buying out Cal Water. Actually, I wouldn’t even call it “thinking about buying out” – how much would any of us know about that? Call a realtor? What?

The city is making a very legitimate effort not only to learn the facts but to get the public involved in the discussion. Of course, Cal Water intends to put their foot in the middle of the facts and grind the conversation out like an old cigarette butt. Independent Thought Alarm!

The first volley is underhanded and sneaky. Letters to the newspaper, not from Cal Water employees, but from employees of a popularly unknown company that serves Cal Water and other utilities by manufacturing and installing the infrastructure by which these utilities “serve” us.

You’ve seen that episode of “Twilight Zone” and you’ve seen the parody on “The Simpsons”. You know what Cal Water means when they say they “serve” people.

After Mayor Nelsen’s letter appeared in late November, these two letters turned up December 11.

There’s no doubt in my mind that California’s tax-and-spend policies have burdened the middle class and driven business from our state. That’s one reason I chose to make Visalia my home; affordability when it comes to cost of living, and for the most part, responsibility when it comes to decisions made by our elected officials.

Unfortunately, recent actions by our local government could be construed as anything but responsible. Their move to start a takeover of our water system from Cal Water is not only reckless, but has also been done under the table and without public input. This is a mistake and it’s incredibly disappointing.

I will be opposing the water takeover and supporting Cal Water. I will also be thinking very carefully about how I vote when our elected officials are up on the ballot; any councilmember who supports this won’t be getting my check next to their name.

Dylan Byer


Wow, Mr. Byer, what a load of manure you’ve shoveled out here. You didn’t come to Visalia for the affordable cost of living, you came as an employee of Western Utilities Transformer Services. Glassdoor reports the average salary at WUTS in the mid $70,000 range, which is more than one and a half times the median income in Visalia. WUTS works for Cal Water and other utility companies, so it’s in their best interests to take public opposition out of the CPUC process. 

Please note that Mr. Byer does not offer any real information regarding this issue, but misinformation. He says this conversation has been had “under the table,” even though the mayor has written a letter to the newspaper about what’s going on a couple of weeks previous.

Here below is a letter from a woman whose husband is employed by WUTS. She threatens that just having a conversation and moving forward with a study is going to “indebt us for years to come.” 

Her grammar alone is enough to send anybody away screaming. How do you talk to people like this, with the childish threats? “water takeover”?

Ratepayers and taxpayers beware: The City of Visalia is about to make a grave mistake and we’ll be the ones who pay for it.

If City Council moves forward and conducts the study to take over our water system from Cal Water, it will indebt us for years to come.

In order to avoid poor service, higher rates and new taxes, join me and stand against the water takeover!

Rachel Telfer


Published a couple of weeks later was the following letter, supposedly signed by 57 Cal Water employees, including Utility Workers union shop steward Juan Cisneros:

Imagine for a moment that one morning there is a knock at your door. When you open the door, the people standing there tell you that they are from the IRS and that they are going to come in to determine how much your house and belongings are worth just in case they decide to seize them from you, but that you really don’t have anything to worry about.

Of course, their assurance that you don’t need to worry would fall on deaf ears, not only because it obviously isn’t true, but also because you probably wouldn’t have heard much after “we’re from the IRS.”This hypothetical scenario became all too real for the 61 local employees of Cal Water, which has been Visalia’s local water utility since 1926. On Nov. 5, Visalia’s City Attorney sent a cold, emotionless letter to Cal Water notifying it that the city was going to conduct an appraisal of Cal Water’s property and business in Visalia ahead of possibly trying to seize them through eminent domain. City staff told Cal Water that it really doesn’t have anything to worry about.

Does City Council not realize that Cal Water is as much a part of the Visalia community as anything else in our city?A few weeks later, Mayor Nelsen asked in these pages whether Visalia needs Cal Water, and laid out his case for taking over the water system. Worse, he accused each and every employee at Cal Water of being unconcerned about Visalia’s residents and the well-being of the community.

Does Mayor Nelsen not realize that we are residents of Visalia? That we shop at local businesses? That many of us grew up here? That our children go to school here? That we work tirelessly every single day to make sure that everyone in Visalia has safe, reliable and high quality water service?

And just a few days ago, the city issued a press release saying they were going to delay consideration of trying to put Cal Water out of business. The press release made it clear, though, that the city was still going to complete the appraisal of Cal Water’s property and business in Visalia. And Mayor Nelsen all but said that the city hasn’t taken the option of a government takeover off of the table, just that they are going to wait a little while before making a decision. Perhaps the city was just trying to tell us, again, that we really don’t have anything to worry about.

Do City Council and Mayor Nelsen not realize that they are playing political games with our jobs, families, and lives?

Just as you would be rightfully worried if the IRS showed up at your house one morning, we are worried that the City Council is trying to put Cal Water out of business and, in the process, steal our jobs and livelihoods.

We serve this community because it is what we love to do, and ensuring you and your family have safe, reliable water service is what we are here for. We’d normally never ask for anything extra in return. This Christmas, though, would you indulge us with one small gift: Please let City Council know that there are no circumstances under which you will support a government takeover of the water system and that it should stop playing political games with our lives.

We truly appreciate your support! From our families to yours, Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Juan Cisneros, a Cal Water employee since 2006 and secretary/shop steward of the Local 205 of the Utility Workers of America, signed this letter along with 56 other local Cal Water employees.

So now we have the official hysteria campaign from Cal Water. The hyperbole is going to get so thick, you will need a gas mask. 



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