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.