Water and the Monterey Peninsula
The election is finally over and the voters of the Monterey Peninsula, as expected, have made it crystal clear that they don’t want to know whether or not owning their own water system would make economic sense. The preliminary count shows 8,826 no votes on Measure O to only 6,827 in favor (56.39% to 43.61%).
In achieving this result, Cal-Am has doubtless smashed all previous records for Monterey Peninsula elections, both in terms of total spending, and on the basis of dollars per vote. We don’t know the final total yet, but it was up to around $2.4 million, or better than $271.00 dollars per vote attained, at last count.
To put this in perspective, most local elections are won on budgets amounting to less than $10.00 per vote. Obama and Romney, in by far the most expensive presidential election in history, spent respectively, about $16.00 and $20.00 per vote. Meg Whitman, in her losing 2010 bid for Governor, blew all previous California statewide spending records out of the water by dropping $57.00 per vote received.
So it’s safe to say that Cal-Am really, REALLY, doesn’t want to lose the millions they extract from Peninsula ratepayers each year. And, clearly, they have little to worry about in that regard.
The truth is that dislodging a corporate owner, like Cal-Am, from something as profitable as providing the Monterey Peninsula with water will never happen without a strong majority of ratepayers, not just voting, but organized and unified behind that goal (something which Cal-Am will always work tirelessly to prevent). Even if Measure O had passed and Cal-Am had been unable to prevent the resulting study from demonstrating that a public buy-out would be advantageous, there are dozens of ways in which they could have torpedoed any effort to actually move the process forward. Especially with the Peninsula’s political leadership so firmly in their pocket.
The proponents of Measure O do deserve our thanks, though. It’s not like they’ve accomplished nothing. Thanks to them, Cal-Am has, through its delirious campaign spending, actually pumped a tiny bit of its profit back into the community. Providing so many jobs for college students was particularly helpful. And, thanks to Measure O, we no longer have to guess about whether preserving lower rates for business customers is a higher priority for our mayors than keeping water affordable for lower income families and the elderly on fixed incomes.
It will be interesting to see what ramifications, if any, this election will have in the months and years ahead.