Cal Water rate hike – did you get the insert?

Waiting by the front door when I came home last week.

I found this perfectly pink cactus flower waiting by my doorstep when I came home, a busy bee working away inside.

What a funny Summer we’ve had – here this cactus that usually blooms in June has finally put out one single, perfect flower. In June it was so hot, the half-dozen furry nodules that erupted from the thorny skin all dried up and fell off before they were as big as a decent-sized marble. Over the course of that last cool spell, I noticed another tiny bump that grew and grew, despite the rising temperatures over the last week. Here we are, back at 100+, and out pops this gorgeous bloom.

Life is full of surprises. 

My husband managed to gather a half dozen tomatoes this morning before it got really hot in the garden. We chopped them into a nice batch of salsa and he made us a quick easy lunch of “nachos”.

When I was a kid in Glenn County, "Nacho" was a pretty common boy's name, short for "Ignacio," which is way too hard for small children to pronounce.

When I was a kid in Glenn County, “Nacho” was a pretty common boy’s name, short for “Ignacio,” which has too many syllables for small children.  

At the ballpark or at Cal Skate, “nachos” are a pile of corn chips under a blob of Velveeta. Eeeeech. We like to dress ours up a little, starting with some diced chicken, maybe some canned beans, homemade salsa, and a sprinkle of cheese. We layer it into a baking dish and pop it into the oven for 10 or 15 minutes. This is a pretty substantial meal, especially if you add a green salad. 

I’ve been busy lately, had to make the best of meals on the run. I’ve been following the Cal Water rate hike, I’m asking around Chico – have you got the insert that was supposed to be included in your most recent Cal Water bill? They applied for a rate hike in July, and I was told at that time they would be noticing Chico customers in the next billing cycle – August. 

My bill says, “”Please review the enclosed bill insert about Cal Water’s required General Rate Case filing…”  but, there is no such insert enclosed. This seems like a violation of the process, so I e-mailed the CPUC Public Advisor’s office to let them know about it. At first I didn’t think she would take me seriously, so I made sure to include my supervisor, Maureen Kirk.

Maureen has been working on this case since she became aware of the proposal in July. She’s trying to become “a party” to the proceedings, which means, you get e-mail updates from CPUC as the process winds along. That’s more than Cal Water customers are going to get. Problem is, it’s a really onerous process, and the CPUC rep has already admitted that most people get some sort of legal assistance in filling out the forms. He suggested she get the county counsel to do it, we’ll see how she progresses. 

I also sent out notes to various people I know, asking if they’d received the insert, or even got the bill with the note in it. I received the sad truth – several people got right back to me, saying, they don’t read their bill, they round-file any inserts without a glance. Boy, is that depressing. But, a couple of people have said they’re still waiting for this month’s bill, we’ll see if they get anything.

Today Claudia Portillo from the Advisor’s office got back to me – she says I wasn’t the only one who didn’t receive the insert, I was shocked. I don’t know how she knows this. But, she says, it was a small enough glitch that it will not affect the process. Cal Water has promised to send around another notice. 

No, I don’t think Cal Water purposely left that insert out of (how many?) bills, but I think it shows the weakness in the system. Why aren’t they required to post public notices in newspapers, on tv, maybe billboards? Shouldn’t they be knocking themselves out to make sure this process is fair? Somebody certainly should. 

But ultimately it’s the customer who is responsible.  To think people would admit throwing out these notices without a glance, but still expect to complain when rates go up.  

Ms. Portillos says, “Unfortunately I’m not surprised to hear most people throw their bill out and don’t really pay attention to the other materials that accompany it. It’s a problem we’re always trying to work around and consider especially when it comes time to noticing of public hearings. Some utility customers say they don’t know about rate changes, even though the information is published in local papers and sent in bill inserts because they just throw them out.”

I’ll tell you the really funny part – the same bill includes a notice telling us that the last approved rate hike just kicked in. 

What a funny Summer we’ve had. Funny weird, Funny bad, not Funny ha-ha.











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