James Hunter

San Jose Water Company "Leadership" Barbecue

This is the 10th Anniversary of the "San Jose Water Company Leadership Barbecue". The was a very nice catered event. My complements to Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme who appeared to do a 1st class event. PSRT also apparently catered the 2007 BBQ. My invitation for this BBQ was apparently mislaid, as was the Mercury News noted, in their article.

Please click for a larger picture
SJWC Leadership BBQ 2007-8
Visit the photo coverage click here

Visit PSRT Facebook page, to see all the photos of the event they catered, a great job, as the photos show. (http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151162588324642.472570.113236479641&type=1)

This raises several questions:
  • SJWC has proposed to raise our water rates over the next three years 44%. Which raises the issue of how much the 2012 BBQ cost us, the ratepayers? There appeared to be 200-250 attendees, including present and past local government officials, as well as SJWC Officers and staff management. It appeared to be an open bar in the pictures posted on the PSRT Facebook pages and was also the source of the headcount estimate. My estimate, not counting the time and effort of SJWC staff planning and supporting, (200 attendees X catering food service $60/attendee + open bar $20/attendee)  $80 = $16,000. It's likely the total cost may have exceeded $25,000.

    Is this a fair and reasonable event to hold while proposing to raise our water rates 44% over the next three years?

    The 2007-8 BBQ featured grilled lobster tails, looked really good! Also catered by PSRT.

    Which brings to  mind that if this is the 10th Leadership BBQ have they spent $250,000 of our money and have they raised water rates since 2003? Yes, they have raised our rates. Is the Annual Leadership BBQ a fixed cost and part of the justification for raising our rates?
  • What is meant by having a "Leadership" BBQ, whose Leadership does this refer to? While SJW/SJWC Officers and staff seemed to be wearing company shirts was that the "Leadership" the event was targeted on? or was it our local and county past and present officials whose opinions may help or hinder SJWC to get their 44% rate hike approved?
  • Keep in mind if it's explained as being paid for by SJW Corporation, over 95% of SJW Corp. revenues come from the wholly owned subsidiary San Jose Water Company!  It doesn't matter which company paid for the BBQ, the harsh reality is we the ratepayer paid for it.

    What appears to be, Mr. Jensen SVP must be having a good time as he seems to be smiling or does he know something about the 44 % water rate increase we don't know. Or is it his annual compensation published by the Security and Exchange Commission, in the most recent SJW Corp. 14A on page 37, he made $605,557, in 2011. His job appears to be to increase SJWC revenues by insuring rate increases and adjustments occur in a timely manner. Mine and your water rates.
We seem to have very little access, to specific information on how San Jose Water Company is spending the money we are paying them for our water. We see they have a Senior Vice President whose job is "Regulatory Affairs", who was compensation in 2011 was $605,557. What is his bonus based on? possibly is it based on getting a more favorable financial treatment for San Jose Water Company? or is it even potentially possible his bonus is based on reducing our water rates? Hmmm come to think of it - want to buy a bridge? From the SEC filing reference it apparently shows he is paid by SJWC not SJW........appears like his expense will be considered part of the costs of SJWC.  I really enjoy this we're apparently paying him and he's part of the fixed costs justifying the 44% water rate increase and it's very possible his incentives are based on raising the water rates.  Not to mention the request for SJWC to be approved use WARM:

American Water Intelligence article "Decoupling (WRAM) gets mixed reviews in CA four years on", states "Our opinion in general is that these mechanisms give the investor-owned utilities too much protection,” Brooks said. “They go beyond removing the disincentive to conserve, but they are also shielding the utilities from declining revenues due to other factors like the economy or the weather.” 

WARM separates revenues from profits and guarantees the utilities (for example San Jose Water Company), a pre-determined PROFIT! See my blog for more on this topic.

How do we get fair and objective disclosure, so the ratepayers and the press can see if the rates are reasonably justified? We presently see bits and pieces of information and they paint a bleak picture, of high salaries, bonuses and benefits. We apparently have very little consumer/ratepayer advocacy on an on going basis, rather we have a "for profit" motivation and the benefit of the shareholders, directors and management. This is stated clearly in the annual reports of SJW Corporation, which are available on the SJW Corp. web site. Since SJWC is a 100% solely owned subsidiary of SJW Corp., legally they only have to abide by SEC requirements. This hides the details of SJWC financials. Keep in mind that SJWC is a regulated utility and has a monopoly position.  While it has to disclose and justify rates requests with CPUC, apparently much of the disclosed information is "Classified or considered Sensitive", resulting it being not available under the Freedom of Information Act or the California equivalent.

An Assembly bill has been proposed to reduce supposedly the restricted access to this type of utility information. Others have been proposed and failed or were substantially changed, so the access to information remained restricted.  This is not new CPUC has had this authority since 1951. 

One of the very few hopeful signs is DRA (Division of Ratepayer Advocates), they continue to represent California ratepayer interests and provide us some insight into the water and other utilities business practices and financials.

It's also very interesting to see a Director of the Santa Clara Valley Water District charge $305.90 to attend the 9th Annual Leadership BBQ. on 15 September 2011. Click here and look in the month of September, he also got a great lobster dinner!

The following are links to recently published articles or Internet information:




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