Monterey Peninsula Water Management District "Water System Local Ownership and Cost Saving Initiative," Measure O (June 2014)

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A Monterey Peninsula Water Management District "Water System Local Ownership and Cost Saving Initiative," Measure O ballot question was on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District in Monterey County, California, where it was defeated.[1]

Measure O would have done the following:[2]

  • made it district policy to establish and maintain public ownership of the district water system,
  • commissioned a report, to be completed in nine months, on the feasibility of the acquisition of the water system assets and the formation of a plan and schedule,
  • instructed the board of directors to begin the process of acquiring all water system assets and infrastructure, provided the report is positive.

At the time of the measures proposal, the water system of the district was owned and operated by California American Water (Cal-Am).[3]

Election results

BallotMeasureFinal badge.png
This ballot measure article has preliminary election results. Certified election results will be added as soon as they are made available by the state or county election office. The following totals are as of percent of precincts reporting.

Measure O
Defeatedd No8,82656.39%
Yes 6,827 43.61%
Election results from County of Monterey Elections

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:

Shall the citizen-circulated initiative entitled 'Monterey Peninsula Water System Local Ownership and Cost Saving Initiative' be adopted?[4][5]

Executive summary

The executive summary of Measure O reads:[2]

Executive Summary of The Local Ownership and Cost Savings Initiative The initiative defines an unbroken line between voter passage and public ownership:

1) Adds a District policy and rule to establish and maintain public ownership of all water delivery system assets and infrastructure within its territory and to acquire, if economically feasible, all assets of Cal Am for the benefit of the District as a whole.

2) Completion, within nine months, of a “Feasibility Analysis and Acquisition Plan” that includes a required appraisal, calculation of all acquisition costs, an implementation schedule, and documentation of the net savings in public ownership.

3) Provided the report concludes the purchase is both feasible and beneficial to ratepayers within the District as a whole, the District is directed to immediately begin the process of acquiring the assets through negotiations or, if necessary, through court-directed public necessity hearings.[5]

Full text

The full text of the initiative is below:[2]

Section I - Name

This Measure shall be designated as the Monterey Peninsula Water System Local Ownership and Cost Savings Initiative.

Section II - Purpose

The purpose of the Measure is to ensure the long-term sustainability, reliability, cost-effectiveness and quality of water service within the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District as a whole, to lower the cost of monthly service to rate-payers, to promote sound water management measures, and to establish public ownership of water system assets, by establishing regulations requiring the District to take affirmative action, to the extent financially feasible, to acquire the water system assets owned and operated by the California American Water Company that currently provide water service to the District and its ratepayers.[5]

The remainder of the full text of the proposed initiative is available here.




The group Public Water Now was behind the initiative.[6]

Arguments in favor

Proponents of this initiative claimed that Cal Am was irresponsible, had mismanaged the water system in the Monterey Peninsula District and was over charging residents. Public Water Now claimed that the district could afford to buy out Cal Am and that the long term savings would make it more than worth the investment over time. The Public Water Now website also stated:[7]

At the forefront of all issues is the fact that over 70% of all water we use in 2018 will need to be replaced because of the state mandated cutback on the Carmel River. It will require expensive infrastructure investment. In fact, the current value of Cal-Am will nearly triple as things are going (as will rates), and THERE WILL BE NO COMPETITION or cost-saving public alternatives allowed.[5]

Campaign finance

As of March 24, 2014, the most recent campaign finance filing of Public Water Now, submitted in January of 2014, showed contributions of $52,000, most of which came as donations from individuals who supported a public water system.[8]



The name of the No on Measure O campaign was Risk We Cannot Afford.

Cal Am was also a very active opponent of Measure O. Cal Am was responsible for most of the war chest of the Risk We Cannot Afford campaign committee.[8]

Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett said, “I advised Ron Cohen [director of Public Water Now] almost a year ago this was exactly the wrong time for this initiative. Undermining Cal Am at this juncture is shooting ourselves in the foot.”[9]

Arguments against

Opponents of the measure said that it was not the time to be worried about public ownership. They argued that as water shortages were becoming a real crisis in the district, the voters should not authorize a complete switch in the operation and management of the water system. They pointed to the proposed desalination project that Cal Am was working on, at the time, positing that the development of such crucial infrastructure would come to a grinding halt if Measure O was approved. They also argued that if Measure O was approved, the district would spend a lot of money and time on a feasibility study and legal proceedings needed to initiate the public purchase of the water system, while ignoring any real solutions to the water crisis, namely the purchase and construction of new technology and facilities. Opponents also argued that public ownership and operation of the water system would not guarantee lower water rates, as proponents claimed.[10]

Campaign finance

As of March 25, 2014, the campaign finance filings of the Risk We Cannot Afford committee showed total contributions of $465,000. Nearly all of this substantial war chest was donated by Cal Am.

Donor Amount
California American Water $453,971
Water Not Politics committee $10,000
Democratic State Central Committee $1,029

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California
Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of March 25, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $52,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $465,000

Initiative proponents needed valid signatures equaling 10 percent of the registered voters in the district to qualify their initiative for the ballot. On January 13, 2014, Public Water Now submitted 8,517 signatures in the petitions for the "Water System Local Ownership and Cost Saving Initiative." Through a random sampling of 500 signatures, it was determined that approximately 7,563 of the submitted signatures were valid. This was 134 percent of the required 5,644 signatures, giving the district board of directors the option of either enacting the initiative without alteration or presenting it to the voters. During their January 29, 2014, meeting, the board of directors approved a resolution putting the initiative on the June 3, 2014, election ballot in the form of Measure O.[11]

See also

External links

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