Pro-Charter Supporters Misinforms Public On Water Bills

A glass of water macro shot

The Common Sense Saratoga website is the flagship site for the pro-charter group. The latest disinformation campaign on this site is a twelve alarm warning, alleging that the city has dramatically increased water rates. The warning is false.

Here is a sample from the pro-charter website which includes shrill videos touting their allegations.

Are you shocked by the increase in your water bill–like so many in Saratoga Springs? It’s really time to put professionals in charge of City Hall. First, the Rec Center’s funding is cut to balance the budget. Now, this. When we look at other cities in the region, none of going through the type of funding cuts we are.

Common Sense Saratoga

The reality is that some residents’ bills have gone up considerably and the city did increase water rates in March but only by 2%. There were no water rate increases in 2018 and 2019 and the fund balance and overall health of the water budget is very strong.

This is a link to the resolution that increased the water rate.

So how to account for an increase in water bills beyond 2%?

Reftelis is a consulting firm. Working with Duke University they have been analyzing water consumption during the pandemic. Here is a link to their report. What they found was that residential consumption was up and commercial consumption was down. The drop in commercial water use is not surprising when you consider how the hospitality industry for example has been devastated by the pandemic.

On the other hand there have been multiple factors that have increased residential consumption. For one thing, during the pandemic people have been spending much more time at home resulting in greater water consumption. In addition this summer was extremely dry verging on drought conditions so people have been watering their lawns and gardens more. The fact that water bills are sent out quarterly can also contribute to sticker shock.

So if a resident’s water bill has gone up more than 2% then it can only be due to greater consumption (or a faulty meter which could account for a particular individual’s bill but not for widespread increases).

In this video from a news story on WRGB, Commissioner Scirocco explains the issues.

https://cbs6albany.com/news/coronavirus/covid-19-brings-unexpected-rise-in-water-bills

A Matter of Ethics

I can understand the quandary facing people who think the proposed charter is an improvement but who are fully aware of the profoundly dishonest nature of the campaign that is promoting it. How do you support changing the city’s government while maintaining your integrity by distinguishing yourself from these people?

One thing would be fundamental, I would never donate money to the people who maintain sites like Common Sense Saratoga. If I agreed to appear in a video on their site I would insist on including a statement that I disavowed many of the tactics on that site.

The only person I am aware of who was both a supporter of charter change and who was critical of the proponents’ tactics is Barbara Lombardo. On her personal blog during the 2017 campaign she both advocated for the passage of that charter while expressing dismay at some of the tactics employed by its advocates. She is opposed to this year’s charter change proposal.

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