Saturday, November 16, 2002
It was good to hear the City Council commit last week to another run at consolidating with the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District.
After all, there is a sense that the community supports consolidation, even if 57 percent of residents voted against the agreement that was presented to them Nov. 5.
City Council President Kathy Connell took a lot of criticism during the election season for the consolidation agreement she helped negotiate. The harshest criticism came from a long line of former council members who accused her of, at best, being duped by Mount Werner and, at worst, having some sort of financial interest in seeing the agreement weighted in favor of Mount Werner.
We don't believe either is true. While Connell did not always do a good job of defending the specifics of the agreement during the campaign, what she did demonstrate is a willingness to compromise and work with Mount Werner in a way no previous council had.
Connell doesn't suffer from the "us versus them" mentality that seems to have consumed some of her predecessors in their negotiations with Mount Werner. And it is to her credit that, having endured the stinging criticisms that came her way on this issue during the campaign, she is willing to try again.
"John Fetcher and I continue to be bullish about the fact that we need to look toward consolidation and we do not want to lose the momentum," Connell said last week. "We want to bring Mount Werner back to the table, to write a letter saying we believe water consolidation is good for the community."
Water consolidation is good for the community, and Connell and the council should be applauded for trying to rekindle negotiations. We hope that those who criticized the agreement, particularly the former council members, are willing to contribute to crafting a better one. So far, that hasn't happened. Instead, all we have seen from those critics is a complaint filed with the Secretary of State's Office.
The complaint, filed by former council member John Ross, alleges the city violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act because City Manager Paul Hughes wrote a letter during the campaign disagreeing with criticisms of the consolidation agreement. Ross contends Hughes wrote the letter on city time and that more than $50 in city resources was used to support consolidation. Hughes said that's not the case. Either way, the complaint seems little more than a waste of time and money. What's needed now are not election complaints but solutions to the problems that dragged down the consolidation agreement. Foremost among those issues is the fact that users in the Mount Werner Water District have rates that are less than half those of users in the city. It's unrealistic to expect Mount Werner users to agree to more than double their rates immediately, and as we saw in the election, it's unrealistic to expect city users to support an agreement that does not address rate equalization at all.
Connell and the council have shown they are willing to work on resolving the issues that led to the consolidation agreement's failure. Those efforts should be applauded and supported.