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Pleasanton's Escalating Water Rates: A Reflection of Deep Leadership Flaws

Original post made by Dean Wallace, Stoneridge, on Nov 7, 2023

At tonight's City Council meeting, a significant proposed water-rate hike has Pleasanton residents worried and angry — a sentiment that calls for a critical scrutiny of our city's leadership. This issue isn't just about water — it's about trust and accountability.

Under the initial plan, rates were set to rise by 30%, 20%, and 12% over the next three years, compounding into a financial burden that could see household water bills skyrocket by up to $1,000 annually. The specific increases, however, could vary significantly — which left many confused about what their increase would be. In an economy where we're all feeling the pinch, these proposed increases were significant, and the confusion around the proposal increased alarm.

Over 1,600 petitioners at the September meeting voiced their opposition against this proposed rate hike, signaling widespread discontent. In response, the city delayed the vote and provided a rudimentary calculator on their website.

The City's initial communications compounded this confusion, failing to provide the clear, understandable information taxpayers deserve. And the confusion that ensued isn’t just inconvenient — it’s potentially unlawful.
Proposition 218 mandates clarity in taxpayer notices, a crucial requirement seemingly disregarded. If the city proceeds with these substantial increases without providing proper clarity, they risk legal challenges, as evidenced by a history of taxpayer victories against cities in California caselaw.

This situation is symptomatic of a broader issue with Pleasanton’s leadership. Consider that since October of last year, under the current administration, the City has approved a series of decisions that seem to benefit elected officials and top city employees – at taxpayers expense — starting with a 10% salary raise for the Mayor and City Council members. Mayor Brown's justification for voting through these self-pay raises was unabashedly blunt: "I'm worth it." Such justifications ring hollow to households bracing for steep utility bills, amplifying the disconnect between City Hall and the community.

And City Manager Beaudin's series of substantial salary increases and additional perks since May 2022 highlights a disturbing trend of self-interest at the city's upper echelons. In just over a year, he's received three raises: A 5% bump at the December 20, 2022 meeting, from $280,000 to $294,000, and two subsequent 6.25% increases were approved on October 17th — raising his salary to $312,372, and then an automatic increase in February to $331,896.

These raises are accompanied by additional perks: a city-funded car up to $550 monthly, a $70,000 executive coaching contract, and a new deferred compensation perk worth another $10,000. The terms are as privileged as they are telling — if Beaudin's contract is terminated, he's guaranteed six months' salary and benefits. Nice work if you can get it!

While the City Manager's compensation grows, residents grapple with rising costs, highlighting a leadership seemingly out of sync with the financial strains of its constituents. It also stands in stark contrast to the modest 4.25% one-time raise given to other City managers and employees. The disparity between the top tier and the rank-and-file suggests a tone-deafness to the economic realities facing everyday Pleasantonians. This widening gap in compensation raises questions not just about fairness, but about the leadership's commitment to the collective wellbeing of Pleasanton.

Compounding the frustration is the fact that while city executives like Mr. Beaudin received substantial pay raises, our dedicated police officers were left without a contract and raises for three months — a clear indicator of misaligned priorities.

And this City Manager, Mayor, and Council majority have also been liberal with their approvals of pay hikes, and spending on projects of questionable value. In June, the Council approved a 7.3% garbage rate increase earlier this year – an amendment that raised rates more than initially planned, further burdening residents.

Moreover, the Mayor and Council majority have approved spending on projects of dubious value. The spending decisions don't stop there; they extend to projects like a new skate park and maintaining an old cabin with questionable historical value, with funds that undoubtedly could have been allocated more wisely. Allocations like these draw sharp criticism when contrasted with pressing community needs and priorities.

The allegations of wrongful termination against City Manager Beaudin, which include serious claims of ignoring legal compliance issues, charging taxpayers for services not rendered, and potential illegal retaliation, not only warrant a thorough investigation but also cast another shadow over City Hall's ethical practices.

The recent decision to cut remote participation in council meetings is not just inconvenient; it's a step backward for inclusive governance, especially critical during times when digital engagement can be pivotal for community participation.

So, this isn’t just about water rates. It’s a symptom of a leadership style that seems to place personal gain over public service. It’s about a disconnection from the reality that the majority face. How can leaders justify lining their pockets when those they serve are being squeezed dry?

The pattern is clear: Pleasanton’s leaders appear to prioritize their compensation and pet projects over the needs of the residents, who ultimately foot the bill. With discussions of potential new bonds or sales tax measures that could reach into the millions, trust in our City officials is waning. Given their track record with spending and prioritizing, convincing taxpayers to support new funding measures will be a significant challenge.

Pleasanton deserves leadership that puts the public's interest above their own, offers transparency, and exercises fiscal responsibility. As residents face increasing living costs, they must also grapple with whether their leaders are making decisions that serve the community or their interests.

With their actions, the trust in our city's leadership is eroding. As they consider new bonds or sales tax measures that could be in the millions, or tens of millions, one must critically question their track record. With this track record, can these leaders be trusted to responsibly manage additional millions from taxpayers? Without a pivot towards transparency and genuine consideration of the public's interest, our leaders risk eroding the very foundation of trust that governance is built upon.

Let this water-rate hike debacle be a wake-up call, Pleasanton voters. The time for civic engagement is now — get involved, attend city council meetings, stay informed on civic matters, and ensure your vote reflects your stance on these crucial issues. It's our collective responsibility to hold leaders accountable and to vote for a future that aligns with the values and needs of Pleasanton's community.

Comments (16)

Posted by MsVic
a resident of Mission Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 4:15 pm

MsVic is a registered user.

Once again Dean hits the nail square on the head. Bravo Dean. And a plea to citizens to get involved and know what is happening.

Posted by Denise
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Nov 7, 2023 at 5:59 pm

Denise is a registered user.

This article is spot on, thank you for writing it. I hope more people wake up and read what is going on in our city council with their spending spree in an inflationary time of rising costs across the board. No idea how they think many will be able to stay up on the burden being created with the increasing cost to live here in Pleasanton, certainly not those on a fixed income.

Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Nov 7, 2023 at 7:26 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

I'm watching the City Council meeting as we speak, and I'm FLOORED at the fact that Mayor Brown is threatening to shut down public comment if anyone claps, and pointing out the Chief of Police and Chief of the Fire Department in the room as a threat to citizens at the meeting. Unbelievably out-of-touch. Just confirms the need for change.

Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Nov 7, 2023 at 8:08 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

Both Councilmember Testa and Councilmember Arkin have just admitted they are still confused about the data on rate increases being proposed by the city, and the number and graphs city staff and the consultant put together. Two SITTING COUNCIL MEMBERS can't understand it. Think about what that means for the average taxpayer confronted with this information. I encourage taxpayers to consider reaching out to taxpayer advocate nonprofits who might consider fighting this rate increase as a possible violation of Prop 218, given the patently confusing and insufficient data and transparency provided to voters.

Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Nov 7, 2023 at 10:00 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

Last comment from me on this: but many commenters tonight, and CM Arkin mentioned the need for a water recycling center to help with the water situation. But you know why we don't have any? Because this Mayor and Council majority voted to renege on an agreement made with DSRSD and neighboring cities. They don't act as trusted partners, and it's why Pleasanton is sitting isolated with these dysfunctions.

To repeat: We don't have a water recycling center locally in Pleasanton or Dublin because of this Mayor, CM Arkin and Testa, and this city's leadership -- who made a decision that costs of a few hundred thousand dollars was too much to bear. Seriously. That's a true story. Instead they chose to put many millions into a skate park and a old building with no historical value other than the fact that it's old and was gifted to the city.

Why are we here? Because of the Mayor and Council. The Mayor has been in a leadership position in Pleasanton -- as Mayor and as a Councilmember since 2012. This absurd situation -- and crisis -- is on them. Nobody else.

Posted by PtownRes
a resident of Birdland
on Nov 7, 2023 at 10:04 pm

PtownRes is a registered user.

Well, the fact that SimpleArkin does not understand information and graphs doesn't mean a regular person can't understand it. She's just incompetent.

How convenient for SimpleArkin, Mayor Brown and Nibert to have voted to end public comment over Zoom right before a meeting where they had to turn citizens in person away!

Vote out SimpleArkin and Brown in 2024!

Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Nov 7, 2023 at 10:40 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

Given the result of tonight's vote, I encourage any taxpayer who is upset about this insane increase in water rates to reach out to nonprofit taxpayer organizations about the way the city passed this increase. A study of caselaw on Prop 218 shows cities losing lawsuits from taxpayers for situations that were far less egregious than what the City of Pleasanton just did. They tried to make things less confusing, but clearly failed. And the fact is the notice that went out is what is legally required to have clarity for residents over proposed increases. And if you watch members of this Council asked questions of city staff tonight, confused themselves about the rate increases... well, "slam dunk" is the thought that comes most immediately to mind when I think of a lawyer showing the mess that was the city's attempt to explain rate increases throughout this process. Anyone up for it can find my contact info and reach out. I'd be more than happy to assist. (I'm a renter, so I can't do it myself, as my increases will be indirectly felt.)

Posted by MichaelB
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Nov 8, 2023 at 8:01 am

MichaelB is a registered user.

"With their actions, the trust in our city's leadership is eroding. As they consider new bonds or sales tax measures that could be in the millions, or tens of millions, one must critically question their track record."

The track record of being fiscally irresponsible (and self serving) is already clear. Vote a resounding "No" on any new bonds and/or sales tax measures that are proposed. And then vote out the majority during the next election cycle.

Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Nov 8, 2023 at 8:34 am

Michael Austin is a registered user.

AI modeling should have been applied regarding this water rate increase. The city's math is flawed. Modeling would tend to support Council member Balch's approach.

Posted by keeknlinda
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Nov 8, 2023 at 10:22 am

keeknlinda is a registered user.

Add one more grievance. The council majority, while shrinking from 4 to 1 to 3 to 2, with Councilmember Arkin moving to the other side, last night voted to assault taxpayer wallets by imposing the immediate 30% increase in water rates, much to City Manager Beaudin's delight.
About 25 people who wanted to speak were left standing in the cold because of maximum occupancy laws. No accommodation was made, when it was apparent city officials knew there would be an overflow crowd.
There was no audio outside so the 25 or so could hear proceedings, certainly no chairs to sit on or heaters. All together an uncomfortable enough experience that many were driven to leave. I was one of them, along with another 80-year-old who had come to address the council. I'm watching it this morning, and in disbelief at the tone of the mayor's opening remarks for item 16, water rates. Her admonishment coupled with the presence of law enforcement and fire officials smacked of a threat to those who would speak against the actions that were eventually taken.
All in all a shameful display of disregard for the community the council serves.

Posted by Jan Batcheller
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 8, 2023 at 11:03 am

Jan Batcheller is a registered user.

Add to the above, the renovation of the City Council Chambers. What is taking so long and how much is this project costing the taxpayers? This seems like another benefit for city leadership. How does this renovation benefit the taxpayers?

Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Nov 8, 2023 at 11:53 am

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

Jan Batcheller -- Getting things done in any sort of reasonable time frame, isn't a strength of the City of Pleasanton. See: the Costco that's lagging more than any other. Other California cities that approved Costcos AFTER Pleasanton, broke ground, built, and have theirs already open. Here... not so much.

Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Nov 8, 2023 at 12:04 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

@Linda Kelly -- their blatant disregard for you and other members of the public is a disgrace. And shame on whomever thought using our city's top law enforcement and fire officials to intimidate Pleasanton residents is appropriate in this context.

And, yes, I saw Mr. Gerry Beaudin rush to celebrate the fee increase -- all smiles -- with the Mayor during their recess. It was on the YouTube feed. Shameful.

Posted by Pleasanton Valley Rez
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Nov 9, 2023 at 5:16 pm

Pleasanton Valley Rez is a registered user.

@deanwallace - I think it's time you get a job. You're spending way too much time on this forum.

Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Nov 9, 2023 at 8:53 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

@Pleasanton Valley Rez – I'm actually working on that, and I'm not at all worried about finding my next gig in the near future. But thank you for once again reminding me that you never fail to sink to what you think are new lows. Have you all no sense of decency? Truly. The rank cynicism and bullying tactics you engage in so naturally, confusing them for leadership and strength, are the opposite. It's weakness and deep-seated insecurities driving you all. And you should be ashamed of yourselves, though I already know you are incapable of shame.

Posted by PtownRes
a resident of Birdland
on Nov 12, 2023 at 7:43 am

PtownRes is a registered user.

@Pleasanton Valley Rez - I am extremely grateful for @deanwallace taking the time to understand and highlight these issues. Every citizen should have some interest in their community, otherwise we end up with City Council members such as SimpleArkin, Brown and Testy Testa. Please keep it up, @deanwallace!

If you want to talk employment, look no further than SimpleArkin. She actually has the responsibility of understanding these issues AND GETS PAID by the city. Yet she has no clue. She also has a "job" with Alameda County Supervisor Miley in which she gets more money from public funds for basically doing nothing. She supposedly represents the parts of Pleasanton in his district but you might as well have a hamster in her role based on the "work" she has done so far.

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