Fifty Percent Water Rate Increase Causes Revolt in Redlands
January is a good time for government. While most citizens are recovering from the holidays and getting back to normal life, they aren’t paying much attention to the ramblings of elected officials.
On January 18th, the Redlands City Council voted 4-1 to increase water rates by 40% over three years. The council tacked on a 2.5% annual increase for sewer fees.
The city previously increased rates in 2013.
The justification for this huge increase is that city residents have done such a good job of reducing water usage during this drought that the Redlands Water Department is now short $2 million a year. Actually, Redlands was fined by the state for failing to meet the mandated 36 percent reductions when the city only achieved a 25 percent reduction from the prior year.
But, a combined fifty percent rate hike isn’t sitting well with a large portion of residents. Water customers can stop the increase if 50 percent of customers file a formal protest with the city by mid-March. In the last few days, fliers with a standard protest letter have begun appearing on residential doorsteps. The letter and flyer are linked to this article.
The protest letter only requires a property parcel number address and signature of the resident. If more than 50 percent of customers protest the rate increase is automatically rejected. That’s a tall order.
Most residents are completely unaware of the city’s effort to take them to the cleaners for doing their civic duty of conserving water. Like most communities, Redlands residents are busy living their day to day lives and are not paying close attention to what their city government is doing on a regular basis. They mistakenly trust their elected officials to do what is right.
It is a common theme in California government these days that elected officials listen more to hired government employees than they do their own constituents. In Redlands, that applies not just to water, but the proposed Redlands Rail service as well.
Government unattended by those it is supposed to serve has a tendency to run “off the rails.” Redlands is apparently on that track as well.
It will be interesting to see if the rate hike opposition can pull off the protest effort. City Hall is certain to hear from residents when they get their first bill, if the rate hike stands.