GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Critics of San Diego water rate increase “should know better”

Posted by George J Janczyn on September 20, 2010

“The U-T should know better” said Don Billings, board member of the Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC). Speaking during today’s meeting at the Metropolitan Operations Complex, Billings criticized news media and political figures for promoting “false political narratives” that target the City’s Bid-To-Goal (B2G) Program and pension costs as the reason for upcoming water rate increases.

The comments, apparently alluding to a U-T editorial that called the B2G Program a “defenseless water bonus program” and earlier criticism from Councilmember Carl DeMaio, were made as the committee discussed details for an additional $100,000 audit of the Public Utilities Department to be done by the Office of the City Auditor. The new audit will supplement information already obtained from an earlier audit as well as a review of the Bid-To-Goal Program that was performed by the respected independent third-party consultant Brown and Caldwell as recommended by the Audit Committee on May 10.

The new audit will necessarily be limited in scope due to the relatively small amount budgeted for it. As the committee struggled with identifying the appropriate focus for the new audit, members expressed a firm commitment to represent ratepayer interests, but also understanding that increases will be impossible to avoid. Board member Todd Webster wondered aloud whether the expense of all the studies will be worth it when all is said and done.

The committee also received an update on the recently completed Brown and Caldwell assessment of the B2G program that was generally positive and included this praise for the way the program has been managed: “While a number of high performing utilities in water and wastewater sector have performance metrics, the Goal monitoring, measuring and renewal process — an essential feature of the B2G Program — is neither as common nor as rigorous among other agencies.” Under General Observations, the report noted:

…the PUD and its various Divisions have done a commendable job establishing a large majority of Goals which will lead to tangible organizational improvements and sustained benefits to their customers, both internal and external. The City can feel good about it; based on our knowledge of other high performing utilities of similar size and complexity, many would likely not do as well under the same level of scrutiny.

A full copy of the Brown and Caldwell report is available here.

Outgoing Interim Public Utilities Director Alex Ruiz also expressed frustration with the continuing scrutiny and public criticism, saying that people fail to realize that employees have made significant contributions far beyond what is called for as part of their normal jobs as a result of the program and noted that all recommendations from the earlier audit have been implemented.

One Response to “Critics of San Diego water rate increase “should know better””

  1. Brad Gore said

    I love the seamless way the Public Utilities Department (PUD) can use an internal process (B2G) to justify rewarding itself with bonuses.
    Bonuses! High performing? Are we speaking of the last major utility department discharging in violation of the Clean Water Act? And on the sidelines we have the rubber stamp IROC-when will it demonstrate some “independence”? When? PUD is sooooo deeply inbred, self-referential, ineffective and expensive it is really low-hanging fruit for privatization. November 2, folks, is going to be a learning experience for this crowd.

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