Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why city & county can’t cooperate on water plan

Hate is clouding their judgment. They can’t see that more water for the County means more money for the City [due to revenue sharing].

Charlottesville, Va.—The City of Charlottesville has reneged on the 2006 community water supply plan agreement. The city offers a revised plan under the rhetorical name “compromise.” Albemarle County has responded in a letter that they see no compromise.

A compromise occurs before an agreement, not after. For example, President Obama is compromising on the tax cuts. Why is he not compromising on the health care bill? Because health care has already passed. Congress can revise the bill and compromise on the revisions yet to be agreed upon.

The City is calling the revised plan a compromise to project a false reality, to give the appearance the City is not going back on their word.

The opponents of cooperation on the water plan cite the “false” assumptions the plan is based on. These assumptions were known to be faulty as the 2006 plan was debated. At the water forums in ’05 and ‘06, there was much public comment and input at each of the meetings. A third to half of the time was set aside to public comment. More than a few people questioned every assumption.

If the assumptions were publicly known to be false when the plan was approved, why was it approved? Because the county wants the water. The County and the University are planning massive expansions and new developments in the next 50 years.

Once I accepted that the real reason for the water plan is desire, not need, I began to support the plan as a goodwill gesture from the city to the county. A win-win for everybody.

Below is an email I sent to Rob Schilling of WINA Friday evening Dec. 10. It explains the situation better than I could write it again.

Challenge to the reader: Name a 2006 water plan assumption and I’ll try to find the documentation to show the assumption was argued in public in '05 or '06.


Dear Rob,

Thanks for playing my call about the dam studies on the air today. And thanks for asking my emailed question about sovereign immunity yesterday of your libertarian guests.

You have an open invitation for supporters of the water plan to debate the opponents. I’d like to offer my theory as to why there are so few takers. I certainly don’t want to go up against a charismatic, fast talker.

Remember the Saturday Night Live skit where characters George W. Bush and Bill Clinton held a joint press conference. When Bush spoke, people booed and jeered. When Clinton said the exact same words, people smiled and applauded with approval. Without charisma, logic often loses to specious arguments and logical fallacies. This was evident when Ken Boyd debated the issue on your show.

You need only listen to the Coy Barefoot show (First Hour Fri. Dec. 10, 2010) for more examples as to why the county and city are not compromising. A compromise is something that occurs before an agreement. The county and city agreed in 2006 to build the new dam. Imagine compromising with your bank to pay half the mortgage you agreed to.


A caller offered revenue sharing, the annual rent the county pays for the city not to seize county territory and revenue, as the underlying reason the county doesn’t trust the city enough even to have discussions.

Coy dismisses this concern, the most basic foundation of any stable government. Coy says Mayor Norris is on the record saying the county can stop revenue sharing and the city will immediately begin annexation proceedings. Some compromise! Give us some of your revenue, or we’ll take it all and your ability to generate revenue. Coy underestimates the importance of county sovereignty because he’s okay with the city exercising powers that have caused many wars throughout history.

So, given the city’s long history of not compromising, not keeping agreements (Meadowcreek Parkway, Solid Waste, etc.), and not respecting the county’s sovereignty, Coy and Dede Smith hammered that the county refuses to compromise. This is a rhetorical technique: Speak of a recent event as if there exists no historical context or historical irony. Criticize one party to give the appearance that the other party is not deserving of the same criticism.

The 2006 water plan began to fall apart in 2007 when Rivanna decided to drop the routine maintenance dredging. During the decision process, many people spoke in favor of dredging. Rivanna repeatedly assured the public that dredging should be conducted but this was not included in the written plan. This reversal is probably the biggest mistake Rivanna has made: its tragic flaw in the current cycle of water supply expansion.

The assumptions of the plan were known to be “false” as the plan was debated. Back in Aug. 2001 Councilor Caravati made the point that demand projections had over-projected by half. In 2006 (and since 2002), it was known the 2002 drought was not the worst on record and the water shortage was exaggerated. But politicians sided with authorities who offered conclusions but no data. The politicians ignored the grassroots and bloggers (the new media) who found the data indicated contrary conclusions.

I still support the mega Ragged Mountain reservoir, originally conceived in the 1800s. If you actually read the Rivanna Four Party Agreement 1972, you’ll see the county is paying for the new dam and pipeline 100% because the new water storage is requested (now due to city breaking its agreement) by the county alone. Of course, the city hates the county and that hate is clouding their judgment. They can’t see that more water for the county means more money for the city, normally a win-win situation.

The city and county are like Lucy and Charlie Brown. Lucy promises to let Charlie Brown kick the football this time. But every time, she pulls the ball away just as Charlie Brown kicks and comes crashing to the ground. For some reason, Charlie Brown keeps falling for it. Maybe the county has finally had enough.

Rob, sorry for the tangent about a different radio show. You’re doing a great job. Best wishes for your family.

Merry Christmas,
Blair Hawkins