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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.

 

 

Karen Easterly-Behrens November 01, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Maybe it is election fatigue on my part, but I have read and reread this letter.....much like the ballot language, this letter is disorganized and leads the reader into a state of confusion. Many factual errors and conclusions are presented...but then...this is an opinion piece. Many of us have already exercised our right to vote. We are an educated electorate and made informed decisions....rifling through the chaos and misleading information. If this Proposition fails, it may cause the City of Shoreline to become inclusive of it's citizens into decision making and going forward, we may yet have a chance to live in the city that represents an affordable, vibrant group of neighborhoods that offer an opportunity for diversity, young families and aging in place.
Cosmo November 01, 2012 at 09:27 PM
What parts are "factually errors", Karen?
Tracy Tallman November 02, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Thanks for writing this Ron. I think most of the nay-sayers on this debate don't live in the affected area west of I-5.
Carly Bee November 02, 2012 at 02:26 AM
We're voting on the issue, I'd call that citizen decision making. If the vote fails, we're not going to have any voice on water as those choices will be solely Seattle's. How will that help build affordable neighborhoods?
Karen Easterly-Behrens November 02, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Now as the end approaches, this is getting tiresome. We, the citizens of Shoreline, are voting on this because our elected officials prevented and end run by the City of Shoreline to exempt themselves from complying with the law and bringing it to a vote of the public. I am thankful for their vigilance. I do note that there is nothing in this Proposition that will warrant lowering a water bill. In addition, there are other alternatives that can and should be explored instead of the exploitation of a limited choice purported to be, where we send our taxes. Local control is an oversimplification of a challenging and complex decision.
Tony Dondero (Editor) November 02, 2012 at 07:06 AM
Here's a shot at an analogy, it's not perfect but it's a shot. One way of looking at this is that the City of Shoreline and its Council are like a 17-year-old living at home (the City of Seattle). The plan is to move out in eight years at age 25 and get their own apartment or house away from home. There will be some crucial decisions made in those intervening eight years. Some people in the family (and the son or daughter agrees with this) believe at that time it will be about time he or she moved out and got his or her own apartment or house while others are worried he or she won't be able to handle it and its better and safer to stay at home awhile longer or maybe for the foreseeable future. The bottom line is that it is best to make that decision now.
Tony Dondero (Editor) November 02, 2012 at 07:07 AM
And everyone involved has a financial stake in the decision that will be made.
Carly Bee November 02, 2012 at 02:30 PM
What is the other alternative? The way I understand it, Seattle is basically doing us a favor by selling us the water system. They don't particularly want to lose their "cash cow" (as Shoreline has been called by SPU) but they'll do it in the interest of regional good will. If the vote fails, they're not going to suddenly knock on Shoreline Water's door. That fantasy has been spun by the no campaign and it's just not going to happen.
Karen Easterly-Behrens November 02, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Wow Tony! Good analogy and one that hits close to home. We are launching our youngest 20 something in the very near future. Each individual has differing needs and paths. My goodness, the situation at 17 was different for each of our 3 and very different paths were taken. What is important is that each stakeholder's needs be considered and the decision is what is best for the group as a whole. As the electioneering time wanes, we await the outcome, with excitement and trepidation as we do most things. Thank you for the discussion.
John Behrens November 02, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Shoreline will continue to receive water from Seattle. Those advocating for this so called acquisition believe we can (1) Buy the system,(2) separate the system from seattle,(3) establish a utility department. The costs of purchasing the system has not been set. The costs of separation may be up to 50% understated. City Hall proposes subcontracting with SPU to run the system after we buy it or paying SPU employees to spend 2 years training Shoreline employees to run the system. None of these costs have been factored into the purchase.If everything the city proposes works exactly as projected, your water bill will not increase. If anything the city plans is wrong, your bill will increase. This is a huge gamble without a benefit.
Cosmo November 02, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Hi Karen - Still waiting for you to point out the "factual errors" in Mr. Hanson's letter.
Tom Jamieson November 02, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Is Seattle truly interested in extending regional good will? Then why charge the allegedly exorbitant surcharge to Shoreline ratepayers these past umpteen years, and why continue the practice for the next 8. Good will? To be sure, if Seattle sells their facility to Shoreline, they will get top dollar for it.
Karen Easterly-Behrens November 02, 2012 at 04:38 PM
The ballots are in the mail....the counting has started.....the micro dissection of the errors will not add to the body of knowledge and provide value at this time. I too must allocate my personal resources for ROI. Thanks!
Cosmo November 02, 2012 at 06:13 PM
So, there aren't any "factual errors". I thought not.
Karen Easterly-Behrens November 02, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I expected this reply....quite a leap. I will not dignify with any response. I use my real name and I am thoughtful.
Cosmo November 02, 2012 at 07:33 PM
And I too, expected your reply. If you were truly thoughtful you would point out the inaccuracies in Mr. Hanson's letter as you allude to above rather than trying to pull out the "I'm much too busy" or "I won't dignify with any response". It's easy to yell 'liar' or 'error' as a knee jerk reaction but a bit harder when you are asked to prove it.
Arthur Maronek November 02, 2012 at 08:08 PM
After reading Mr. Hansen's opinions, I am surprised by the many errors and mistatements they contain. There is no mention of Shoreline's failure to do anything about low fire flows or broken hydrants, something he blames on Seattle, even though the State Superior Court said Shoreline is responsible and Seattle cannot legally spend money on those things in another city. He does not mention that, if the voters approve Proposition 1, there will be no money to fix low fire flows, broken hydrants, and leaking water mains until 2030 or later. He does not mention that there is no money in the proposed budget to deal with emegencies. He does not mention that both the Seattle City Council, the State Department of Health, and the citizens of Seattle will all have to approve the sale, and that many concerns have already been expressed by all three. Mr. Hansen is doing what developers want him to do- try to shift their costs to residential rate payers. How very disappointing from an elected official. Art Maronek, awarded "Outstanding Public Servant" by the Seattle-King County Municipal League and "Manager of the Year" by the Seattle Management Association
Karen Easterly-Behrens November 02, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Thank you!
Cosmo November 02, 2012 at 09:09 PM
It is perfectly legal for Seattle to spend money in another city if it is on the utility that they own. The water system is owned, run by, operated by, billed by Seattle. They collect all the income from it. Should Shoreline tax payers be expected to update an infrastructure that they do not own or have any say over? I don't think so. Why would Seattle want to spend money in an area that does not have a say on how the money is spent, what decisions are made, who runs it, or who is in office? The citizens of Seattle do not have to approve the sale. Seattle has already agreed to go ahead with the sale. This isn't only about developers. It is about having a say in your public utility, having infrastructure improved upon rather than just fixed as necessary. I believe the city of Shoreline is already planning what it will take to improve the area. I don't believe that they are as clueless as you want us all to think.
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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