Waves In Mesa Water's Little Pond
Mike's opening paragraph will give you a little bit of the flavor: "Native American musicians blessed the 'ancestral waters,' valets parked cars for the 150 'VIP' guests and $50,000 event planners passed out catered custom cookies shaped like water drops and redwood trees - $1,500 worth of cookies"
REELING YOU IN
He goes on from there to describe "Mesa Water District's lavish spending on marketing and communications.", including "undergoing a $500.000 branding campaign, including a name change and redesigned logo." By now you've probably got the feel for the article.
MILLION DOLLAR PLUS PR BUDGET
dwarfs those at similar water districts."
Apparently Mesa paid PR consultant Laer Pearce nearly $270,000 in total consulting fees since beginning talks in 2008, including $85,000 specifically for branding. They stopped using Pearce in December and plan to issue a new request for proposals for public relations consulting support.
WHY SPEND SO MUCH?
A customer survey in 2012 found less than one-third of surveyed ratepayers could identify the district by name." He quotes Mesa's Communications Manager Stacey Taylor as saying, "There's a big void. It showed a lack of connection with the community."
GRAND JURY OPINION
in 2009 the Board of Directors voted to increase rates by 25% between fiscal years 2010 and 2014". He quotes district officials as stating the money to be received by the increased rates "is needed to maintain its AAA credit rating". However, Mesa has "about $23 million in reserves and the Orange County Grand Jury issued a report last year recommending districts use excessive reserves to pay down debt."
HERE, and specific information about the compensation program HERE.
NO GRUMBLING ALLOWED!
Yes, we're a monopoly public utility, and customers don't have a choice," Taylor said, "but does that mean we want people grumbling about their government?" That should make us all think just a little about how Mesa is spending OUR money.
FIND IT AND READ IT
DEBBIE COOK COMMENT
Reicher's article is only the most recent of many critical publications about Mesa Water District. In February former Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook published a scathing commentary on the SurfCityVoice blog titled Mesa Water Drops Fiduciary Duties as Ratepayers Pick Up The Tab, HERE.
SURF CITY VOICE ALL OVER IT
SurfCityVoice Blog publisher John Earl has long been a watchdog on water issues in our region, focusing on the planned Poseidon desalination project in Huntington Beach. Last month he published two very critical essays on his blog concerning Mesa Water, HERE and HERE.
Late last month Costa Mesa resident Jay Litvak published a commentary in the Daily Pilot that asked, "What is Mesa Water Up To?", HERE. And resident Howard Hull - one of the cadre of true believers who hover around the power elite in Costa Mesa - published a snarky rejoinder to Litvak in the Daily Pilot last week, HERE.
REAL TRANSPARENCY IS GOOD
Personally, I think a little light on Mesa Water and the other small, special districts, is a good thing. I'm not so sure that Mesa anticipated the kind of attention they're getting when they decided to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a PR campaign so folks would know who is delivering their water. It might be one of those "be careful what you ask for" situations. We'll see...