WAC Votes to Hold Future Meeting at Community Chambers and Televise

open-governmentby Matt Williams

Meeting number 3 of the Water Advisory Committee is now in the books, and it was largely uneventful.

Committee Chair called the meeting to order and read a cautionary statement to all the members and alternates about the importance of not speaking in public about water/wastewater without clearly stating that any comments are personal, and not official comments of the WAC.

Although it wasn’t said, Walter Sadler’s Op-Ed probably prompted the caution, since the Enterprise chose to end the Op-Ed with the sentence, “He (Walter) is an alternate member of the Davis City Council’s Water Advisory Committee.” Some readers of the Op-Ed may have inferred that the author was speaking for the Committee.

The next item of business was dispensed with quickly and efficiently, with the end result being that all future WAC meetings will be relocated to Council Chambers so that the meetings can be 1) take advantage of the existing cameras and recording equipment in the Chambers, in order to 2) simulcast the meetings on the City website, and 3) archive all the meeting recordings so that all Davis citizens can replay the audio/video at any time of their choosing.

The WAC’s actual decision was less interesting than the public comment prior to the deliberation and vote.  Council member Sue Greenwald, Finance and Budget Commission member Johannes Troost, Pam Nieberg and David Suter all spoke in support of maximizing the transparency of the WAC’s activities and actions.  WAC member Michael Bartolic expanded on the public comment by referring to the WAC meetings as  “an ongoing tutorial for the public.”

After a brief discussion of some logistical concerns regarding how best to capture images of a committee as large as the WAC, committee member Steve Boschken summed up virtually everyone’s thoughts when he said, “Transparency trumps everything else.  We all just saw Ernie Head get up and leave this meeting because he couldn’t hear us.  That wouldn’t happen if we meet in Council Chambers.” And followed that comment with a motion, seconded by Michael Bartolic, and amended by Chair Roberts-Musser to hold and televise all future meetings in/from the Council Chambers.

The remainder of the meeting was a continuation by Jim Yost of his presentation of the Water Supply Project History  (for a copy of the presentation slides, click on the link for Item 6 – Presentation: Water Supply Project History.  The purpose of the presentation was to bring all WAC members and alternates up to the same foundation level of background knowledge about both the current state of the Project, as well as the various alternatives that were considered in the planning process.

Throughout the Yost presentation, members of the WAC and alternates asked probing questions that enriched the formal presentation material.  The only controversy of the night came when the committee wrestled with how best to handle questions in future meeting presentations.  Bill Kopper advocated for 1) holding back all questioning during the presentations, 2) each member writing down any questions they may have as a result of the presentation, and 3) having a limited time question period at the end of the presentation where the written questions are answered.

The sense of the rest of the committee members was that such a structure would be very hard for the public to follow/understand, and therefore as questions arise in committee members’ minds, they should ask them and the presenter should answer them.

One biproduct of the evening was a clear understanding that the current schedule of 2-hour meetings every two weeks will not allow the committee to fully complete its work in the proposed timeline.  Committee members proposed two different possible solutions to this problem, A) expanding the duration of each meeting to either 2 and ½ or 3 hours from the current 2 hours, or B) periodically conducting weekend workshops of  a 3-4 hour duration.

A straw poll of the committee produced equal support for each of the possible solutions and the members agreed to give each solution further consideration before the next meeting where it will again be discussed.

Bottom-line this was a very business-like evening with the most noteworthy aspect being that if you didn’t know which Council member had appointed which WAC members (and alternates), you would never have been able to guess each member’s provenance based on the questions s/he asked.  The rumors that this WAC is DOA are grossly exaggerated.

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30 Comments

  1. Robb

    My thanks as well Matt. Very useful summary for those of us who could not be there. I must say that this kind of post (and those that helped push the WAC in this direction) demonstrates the usefulness of this space (i.e. The Davis Vanguard). For a virtual space this place can [b]sometimes[/b] feel like an actual community forum. Thanks!

  2. Matt Williams

    When the vote was taken it was unanimous.

    You can access the long range calendar of the WAC by 1) going to the City website [url]www.http://cityofdavis.org/%5B/url%5D, then 2) clicking on the City Council and Commissions link in the horizontal bar just below the Davis bicycle logo, then 3) scrolling to the bottom of the page to the last entry in the On-Going Committees section, then 4) clicking on that last entry which is labeled Water Advisory Committee [url]http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/agenda.cfm?c=40[/url], and 5) finally clicking on the Water Advisory Committee Documents link just above the list of Committee members.

    Either that or you can bookmark the following URL [url]http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/agenda.cfm?c=40[/url] in your browser.

    Here is an unformatted version of what you will find if you open the most recent Long Range Agenda.

    LONG RANGE CALENDAR FOR WATER ADVISORY COMMITTEE
    Year – 2012

    1/12
    Background and Current state of the water system – staff
    Background of Project (JPA and West Yost)
    1/26
    WasteWater Regulatory Requirements and the Water Connection – staff
    Background of Project (JPA and West Yost) (con’t)
    2/9
    1) Project Objectives, Scope of Work, Costs; 2) Discuss UCD Role in Project and other JPA issues
    Review Scope of Work for Rate Study
    2/23
    Discuss DBO process
    Rate Study Basics
    3/8
    Discuss Delta Impacts
    Revenue Requirements and Financial Assumptions / Rate Model
    3/22
    Water Conservation
    Review Proposed types of Rate Structures and discuss impact of rates of different user classes
    Public Outreach Needs
    4/12
    Water Quality in more detail – staff
    DRAFT Rate Study
    4/26
    5/10
    5/24
    Final Rate Study and recommendations to Council
    6/14
    6/28
    7/12
    7/26
    Recommend to Council to Approve Notice for Five-Year Rate Increase

    August Recess?

    9/13
    9/27
    10/11
    10/25
    11/8
    11/13 – Prop 218 Hearing (min. 45 days from Notice)
    11/22
    12/13

  3. Frankly

    Thanks for the great summary Matt! I got back into town last night too late to attend the meeting. Going forward at least I will be able to record and playback the proceedings. This issue is an important and complex one and citizens need to be as informed as possible.

  4. David Suder

    [quote]The rumors that this WAC is DOA are grossly exaggerated.[/quote]I had not heard that rumor.
    [quote]When the vote was taken it was unanimous. [/quote]That is not quite correct. All members of the committee voted in favor of this, [b]with the exception of Alf Brandt[/b], who argued that such coverage would adversely affect the discussions and [b]subsequently abstained[/b] from the vote.

    I extend thanks to all of the WAC members who voted to televise the meetings and move them to the council chambers in order to accommodate better quality audio/video coverage of the meetings.

    In addition to requesting that the WAC meetings be televised, Jan Troost also requested that the committee adjourn prior to the presentation scheduled for last night (a recounting of the surface water project history by Jim Yost) so that the presentation could be recorded for public viewing. Although the committee was unanimous (minus one) in their decision to record and televise the meetings, no committee member supported Mr. Troost’s request. Although this was entirely understandable (as it would have necessitated an additional meeting at a later date), it is unfortunate that Davis residents not present at the meeting will not have the opportunity to see that presentation and discussion. About a third of the WAC was actively engaged in the discussion, asking several very important questions.

    One important comment was made by Frank Loge, who emphasized the importance of separating “facts from speculation.” Alf Brandt countered that the committee should rightly consider expert opinions and interpretations. That is certainly a fair point, but Mr. Loge’s point is well taken: the committee should require that all opinions and interpretations presented to them be identified as such – and especially that opinions must not be presented as fact.

    One moment of relative levity occurred when Jim Yost mentioned that UCD has withdrawn as a partner in the construction of the water project because “they’re broke,” to which Elaine Musser replied “and we’re not?”

    At or near the end of Mr. Yost’s presentation, Mark Siegler asked the total cost of well construction and treatment (such as that installed on the most recently-completed deep well) that would be needed to meet Davis’ water demand. Because the total cost was much lower than the projected cost of the surface water project, Mark followed that question by asking “How do you justify the recommendation [in previous studies] for the more expensive surface water option?” Mr. Yost’s reply: “Because of the unknowns.”

    There is much that is unknown about the water situation. Some of the unknowns are unknowable, but a number of them could be assessed through diligent investigation. I encourage the committee to separate the two, consider what additional information may be needed to make the best decision regarding our water supply, as well as whether and how such additional information might be developed.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    I would like to say that this has been a wonderful group to work with, and an honor to be its Chair. There are many members who are extremely knowledgeable on water issues, and others who are learning. In the beginning stages, the process can be difficult, bc the level of knowledge of various members is so different. But that is also the committee’s strength, since it is highly representative of the community itself. Some members of the public know more about water issues than others. Committee members are extremely collegial/respectful; the conversation is always lively. I ask that the public remain patient until the mammoth logistics of working out the details of televising meetings for a large group of 15 takes place. I was very gratified to see so many members of the public last night in the audience. If you wish to email a public comment to the WAC, do so at the following email address: water@cityofdavis.org

  6. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]That is not quite correct. All members of the committee voted in favor of this, with the exception of Alf Brandt, who argued that such coverage would adversely affect the discussions and subsequently abstained from the vote. [/quote]

    I acknowledged Alf Brandt’s valid concerns, as did other committee members. Mr. Brandt made a very important observation – that meetings such as these are not normally televised bc of their very nature – which is to foster an uninhibited and collaborative discussion on the issues. Some folks are camera shy/leary of being demonized/having their words twisted to say something that was never meant, so may feel inhibited in their conversation. To televise the meetings could get in the way of free and fair debate on the issues. However, Steve Boschken made a very important point as well – even tho some may be camera shy, at this point public transparency may trump all other considerations. I urged all WAC committee members to pull together, recognize that uninhibited discussion is crucial to our mission, ignore the cameras, and do what we have been charged to accomplish. My sincerest hope is that televising the meetings does not cause any member hesitation in speaking up and voicing concerns, probing questions, frank comments or respectful disagreement w what is being said by staff or committee members. It must be recognized by the public that televising meetings does come with advantages and disadvantages.

  7. Michael Harrington

    ERM: actually, meetings besides CC and PC are not normally televised because they are too expensive to use Community Chambers and staff time. Community Chambers are very impacted from demands, including School Board.

    The water project numbers now well exceed $500 million, so of course the WAC should be televised.

    Also, all data submitted to the Committee or reviewed by its members, including the West Yost slide show, is a matter of public record, and needs to be kept and produced pursuant to law.

  8. Michael Harrington

    THE VOTER’S INITIATIVE: There will be an initiative on the November ballot, and it will qualify well before the June CC elections. We are going to ask all CC candidates for their views on the Initiative, and we anticipate that the public is going to want a major forum with the candidates concerning the Initiative and water.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]ERM: actually, meetings besides CC and PC are not normally televised because they are too expensive to use Community Chambers and staff time. Community Chambers are very impacted from demands, including School Board.

    The water project numbers now well exceed $500 million, so of course the WAC should be televised.

    Also, all data submitted to the Committee or reviewed by its members, including the West Yost slide show, is a matter of public record, and needs to be kept and produced pursuant to law. [/quote]

    Now this is interesting – on the one hand you complain about the cost of the project, but have no problem adding to the cost of the project!

    Where are you getting the $500 million figure? Please explain…

    All data and documents submitted to the committee are posted on the city’s website for all to view/download. To access this information:

    City of Davis > City Council & Commissions > Water Advisory Committee > Water Advisory Documents

    Or bookmark the following link [url]http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/agenda.cfm?c=40[/url]

  10. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]We are going to ask all CC candidates for their views on the Initiative, and we anticipate that the public is going to want a major forum with the candidates concerning the Initiative and water. [/quote]

    I agree with you that it is important to understand each candidate’s position on the water issue…

  11. Matt Williams

    David Suder said . . .

    [i]That is not quite correct. All members of the committee voted in favor of this, with the exception of Alf Brandt, who argued that such coverage would adversely affect the discussions and subsequently abstained from the vote.[/i]

    You are absolutely right David. Alf did abstain when the actual vote was taken. I should have reflected that in the text. I should also have spelled your name correctly. My apologies.

  12. David Suder

    [quote]I should also have spelled your name correctly. My apologies. [/quote]No worries, Matt. I got used to alternative spelling of my name when Justice David Souter was on the Supreme Court.

  13. Sue Greenwald

    @Elaine Musser: How does one get to $500 million cost for the water project? Let me itemize it for you:

    $335 million construction costs
    $ 80 million present value Conaway water costs
    $100 million capitalized O&M (minus Conaway water costs)

    $515 million total costs

    I through in the $100 million capitalized O&M costs because Steve Pinkerton told me that, in answer to my question, said that $50 million number a good approximation of the Davis share of the future cost of operating the new surface water treatment plant. I had asked him what the Davis share of the capitalized O&M would be. I have to double check that his answer was just covering the Davis share.

  14. Sue Greenwald

    Matt, I have been told that is a standard way to calculate this type of large project cost. It does make sense in terms of predicting future rates, especially since we will be maintaining our old system as well.

  15. Matt Williams

    Sue, typically Capital Costs and Operating Costs are kept separate. Capital Costs are recognized on the Balance Sheet and then amortized into a stream of annual Income Statement entries over the predetermined Useful Life of the capitalized assets. Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) have very strict prohibitions regarding capitalization of operating expenses. Operating costs/expenses are only recognized on the Income Statement, never the balance Sheet.

    So I believe whomever told you about “the standard way” must not be familiar with GAAP.

  16. Sue Greenwald

    @Matt and Elaine…I will try to get someone more familiar with the conventions regarding the of costing out these projects than I am to give me a description and examples and then and report back to you. This is what I have been told by someone very familiar with these projects.

    But regardless, we will have huge additional O&M costs because we will be operating not one, but two separate water systems.

    If you want to ignore the capitalized O&M and just acknowledge that it will be a massive additional cost, then we can certainly say that the total project will cost about $335 million for construction plus $80 million for the Conaway water which equals $415 million and that Davis will also have to pay about half of that (do to the fact that we will be paying for the entire treatment center to Davis pipeline) plus an additional $100 million for a wastewater treatment plant and $10 million for the new East Area tank.

  17. davisite2

    “So I believe whomever told you about “the standard way” must not be familiar with GAAP.”

    ….sounds like accountant-speak to me which we have all witnessed(Enron,etc.)being used to obscure “unattractive” balance-sheet facts.

  18. Michael Harrington

    I hope the WAC will look into the public financing of the proposed surface water plant. My understanding is that West Yost and staff made a decision to go with taxable bonds rather than tax-exempt bonds. The interest rate on taxable is nearly 2x the alternative. The reason West Yost went with the taxable is because the tax-exempt needed a 2/3rds favorable vote of Davis voters, and the consultants and staff (and this would include Souza and Saylor) believed that they would never win a separate vote; by burying it in the Prop 218 process, they gambled (and nearly won) that they could get away with it.

    If there is a project, and if bonds are needed, we will make sure that they are the tax-exempt.

    Dear West Yost and friends: unless there is a very favorable buy-in by the voters of Davis at or above the 2/3rds threshhold, you will never get your Field of Dreams project approved.

  19. Matt Williams

    Sue, looking at the impact of a new project on the overall fiscal well-being of the organization rarely can be neatly tied into one “global” number. Keeping Capital Costs separate from incremental Operating Costs is more logical. However, the debt service costs associated with the Capital Costs will definitely be a major addition to the Income Statement. No one is trying to “ignore” any of the impacts. That would be both foolish and fiscally irresponsible.

  20. Matt Williams

    “[i]….sounds like accountant-speak to me which we have all witnessed(Enron,etc.)being used to obscure “unattractive” balance-sheet facts. [/i]”

    Actually the exact opposite davisite. If the impacts to the Balance Sheet (additions to both Assets and Liabilities) are clearly and transparently stated, then the debt service and amortization impacts on the Income Statement of those Balance Sheet accounts will also be clear and transparent. Simultaneously, the impact of the increased O&M costs will also appear on the Income Statement so that the Income Statement of total fiscal impact will be easily seen in each year of operations.

    You are very quick to throw fecal material around under labels like “Enron.” Yet when you recently threw around the fact that your water bill was already $150 and that the rate increase would “remove $500 per month of discretionary spending in Davis by you and your wife” it was rather quickly pointed out to you that your $150 was triple the Davis SFR average consumption. I suggested not once but twice, that triple the average SFR water usage was highly indicative of a water leak, and that you should request a free water audit from the City. Have you requested such a water audit, and if so was it completed, and what were the results? If you haven’t done so why not?

  21. Matt Williams

    Michael Harrington said . . .

    [i]”I hope the WAC will look into the public financing of the proposed surface water plant.”[/i]

    Michael, why would you assume that the WAC wouldn’t do so? Which of the following WAC members do you think would be advocating not doing so?

    Mark Siegler?
    Bill Kopper?
    Michael Bartolic?
    Gerry Adler?
    Steve Boschken?
    Alf Brandt?
    Helen Thomson?
    Jim West?
    Frank Loge?
    Elaine Roberts-Musser?
    David Purkey?
    Jane Rundquist?
    Walter Sadler?
    Petrea Marchand?
    Myself?

    I look forward to your answer.

  22. Don Shor

    Elaine already posted the long-range agenda, but here it is again:
    [url]http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/water-advisory/documents/2012-01-12-item7-long-range-calendar.pdf[/url]

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