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Letter to the Editor: Former Shoreline Mayor Ron Hansen Says Prop. 1 Opponents Have it Wrong

Anti-Prop. 1 political ad is "false and misleading," Hansen says

To the editor:

This weekend I received the most false and misleading political advertising that I have ever seen and I will address it point by point after I urge you to please vote yes on Shoreline Prop 1.

Why do I want you to vote for Prop 1?

1. I want my water utility rates capped and yours, also.

2. I want Shoreline water utility ratepayers to stop subsidizing the City of Seattle to the tune of $2-3 million dollars each and every year.

3. I want local government answerable to Shoreline rate payers and not Seattle, as their main responsibility is to Seattle residents and rate payers.

For the betterment of all Shoreline residents, vote for Proposition 1.

Now, why was the "No on Prop 1” so false and misleading? On the front side of the mailer it says "Don't Sign a Blank Check," but Seattle already has the blank check and has cashed it for $2-3 million dollars per year ever since our incorporation in 1995.  That comes to over $35 million dollars that Shoreline rate payers have transferred to the City of Seattle. This consists of a 14% surcharge that Seattle charges to non-Seattle residents (It goes into its utility fund.) and an additional 15% utility tax (this goes into its general fund.)  This will continue as long as Seattle owns our (Shoreline rate payers') utility.

On the backside of their mailer there are statements, some of which are true but are presented in such a manner as to be misleading.  Yes, there are special purpose districts in Shoreline, but the ones listed have no authority over Seattle Public Utilities' (SPU) operation of our water district.  SPU operates the water system for the entire western portion of Shoreline.  This represents approximately 2/3 of Shoreline's area and population.

The mailer states, "You pay no utility taxes."  I guess they don't think the 15% ($17-$20 million) utility tax that we have paid and are still paying to Seattle is a "utility tax."  When you and I have to pay taxes, I want those taxes kept in Shoreline for the benefit of Shoreline residents, not transferred to Seattle for the benefit of Seattle residents.

They state, "Your bills finance good maintenance".  That is patently false for the residents of the west side of Shoreline.  SPU maintains our system on a "fix only the immediate problems" basis.  We have had gravel in our system which indicates inadequate flushing. When we had a leak in our mains they came and put a collar on the leak.  They did not replace the pipe.  We have had areas where the pipes "dead end' instead of being "looped" which is what they should be.  There are areas of inadequate flow which could compromise the fire department's ability to fight a major fire.  In Seattle's defense, their system is even older than ours and is, as it should be, their first priority.  Shoreline is a secondary priority.

They state, "If Shoreline buys the water system you will pay more."  While that is unlikely, I can guarantee, you will pay more if Shoreline does not buy the SPU system now.

Next they state "your water bill will be 11 percent higher than it should be" but it is already 29 percent higher than it could be.  "Saving" 18 percent would be a bargain! We know the projected rates for Seattle are going up, and if that is the case the 29% will go up, also.

Next they state "Ronald Wastewater and Shoreline Water Districts will be the next takeover targets."   I do not know what they mean by the implication of being a "takeover target," but here are some facts.

1.  The Ronald Wastewater District signed and executed an agreement with the City of Shoreline approximately 7 -8 years ago.  Per that agreement, the Wastewater District will begin transfer to the City of Shoreline beginning in 2014 and become complete by 2017.  If the wastewater district now tries to back out of their agreement, it will cost their ratepayers a lot and would         likely cost the Shoreline taxpayers, also.

2.  The Shoreline Water District and the City of Shoreline have operated side by side for 17 years and no contract that I am aware of has ever been negotiated or signed (to change that).  I was part of City government for 14 1/2 years, and while I was there, we did consider having the Shoreline Water                   District operate the City acquisition of the SPU operation for the City of Shoreline.  As far as I know the City has no plans to "acquire" the Shoreline Water District, as that district has been doing a very good job for its ratepayers. If the City of Shoreline acquires the SPU operation in Shoreline it will not be complete until 2020 or later.  After that, if Shoreline has acquired the         operation, it may make sense to combine the two districts into one district or it may not.  That is a question that should be left up to the taxpayers and ratepayers sometime after 2020.

Finally they state the City of Shoreline has "no agreement to purchase from Seattle, no agreement on price, no operating plan after purchases, and no certainty of separation costs."  While there is an informal agreement as to cost, i.e. $26.6 million, there cannot and will not be an agreement to purchase until Prop 1 is passed by Shoreline voters and approved by the Seattle City Council.   Until then, while there is an informal and incomplete plan of operation, a formal plan with all the details will not be done until after an agreement to purchase is signed.  There is a certainty of the separation costs with a high range and a low range.  Even if the highest range were exceeded, this purchase still makes sense.  Remember, Seattle collects on the "Blank Check" to the tune of $3 million/year until a formal agreement is reached and fully executed.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to west side Shoreline ratepayers to get Proposition 1 passed as it will save all of us on our utility bills.  And while the Shoreline Water District ratepayers will not be affected by a change in utility rates, all of Shoreline's taxpayers will benefit from utility taxes going into Shoreline's general fund and not Seattle's.

This purchase will be paid for out of utility bonds issued and repaid from west side ratepayers only, eastside residents will not have to pay for any of this program.

Sincerely,

Ron Hansen, former Shoreline City Councilmember and Mayor, retired from city government for almost 3 years.

 

 

Another thing.... November 02, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Read and see for yourself if there is an agreement: http://noblankcheck.nationbuilder.com/ or Go directly to the City of Seattle site and watch the interaction. Also, go look up the Lane Decision
Arthur Maronek November 02, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Cosmo says that is "perfectly legal for Seattle to spend money in another city if is is on the utility that they own". Cosmos is apparently unaware of the State Supreme Court decision (Lane v_ City of Seattle File Date 10-16-2008) that makes Shoreline and every other city in the state responsible for the hydrants, fire flow, and fire supression inside their boundaries, with payment from each city's General Fund and not from any utility fund. Mr. or Ms. Cosmos: It is better to know than to pretend to know before commenting. If you would like to learn about the other 7 errors in your comment, I will be happy to oblige. Art Maronek, awarded "Outstanding Public Servant" by the Seattle-King County Municipal League and "Manager of the Year" by the Seattle Management Association
Les Nelson November 04, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Thank you Art and John for your accurate comments. I served on the Citizens steering committe as a water utility expert and do not believe acquisition is a wise choice. Many years lately SPU has invested more in the water system in Shoreline than they have received in return, and the claims to the contrary are simply rhetoric that Shoreline would like voters to believe. SPU has vast resources to respond to water emergencies 24 hours a day, have the varied engineering expertise at call and the City of Shoreline will never be able to provide that level of service. Currently any emegency breaks are simply paid for by Seattle and provided at no additional cost to Shoreline. Consider who will pay the direct pumping costs and emergency repairs if Shoreline owns the system.
Wendy DiPeso November 04, 2012 at 10:02 PM
The entire budget for Proposition 1 is dependent upon water revenues increasing 56.4% between now and 2020. The City of Shoreline has decided that the 10% increase in population goal set by the Growth Management Act is sufficient to obtain such an increase in revenue without raising rates. However, SPU has already discovered that there was a 30% DROP in water consumption in its service area between 1975 to 2004 WITH a 15% increase in population. SPU anticipates that water usage will continue to DROP. Even when consumption goes down, fixed costs remain the same. THE ONLY WAY TO INCREASE REVENUE WHEN CONSUMPTION DROPS IS TO RAISE RATES. Since the City of Shoreline's basic assumption that revenue will increase 56.4% has no basis in reality, the rest of their budget is blown out of the water.
Tom Jamieson November 05, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Prop 1 will make I-5 Shoreline's Mason-Dixon Line, ensuring a long and bitter feud between East and West, culminating in the West winning the War Between the Utilities in 2027. Consider former Mayor Hansen's remarks. He says, "I cannot stress enough how important it is to west side Shoreline ratepayers to get Proposition 1 passed as it will save all of us on our utility bills. And while the Shoreline Water District ratepayers will not be affected by a change in utility rates, all of Shoreline's taxpayers will benefit from utility taxes going into Shoreline's general fund and not Seattle's." Mr. Hansen's second statement refutes his first. In the short run, Eastsiders will have everything to gain and nothing to lose by raising utility taxes on the Westsiders. The West won't suffer that injustice for long before they rise up demanding assumption of Shoreline Water District and litigating for rate equity. The result will be a movement for City Council representation by district. The Council of Neighborhoods will split into East-West factions. Light rail consensus will be 'Gone with the Wind'. Prop 1 is divisive. There will always be a natural line of conflict. That line belongs between Shoreline and Seattle, not between East and West. And do not be fooled into thinking Seattle's water 'cash cow' would amble over to Shoreline. Seattle does not buy water. The City will have to, to the tune of 3 to 4 million dollars a year. The cow evaporates.

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