City Council must not shirk its fiduciary responsibility to protect SAWS customers from financial trickery involved in the Vista Ridge project.
Ed. Note: This is the most serious and comprehensive critique of the Vista Ridge project we’ve seen to date. Mr. Burns of the Alamo Patriots Sierra Club hits the nail on the head:
“We insist on an independent analysis to assure us that all is honest and above-board. Our representatives on City Council owe their constituents this much.”
It is not surprising that Mayor Taylor is not concerned. After all, she writes her own ethics rules, and City Council approves. It is we, the citizens of San Antonio, who should be concerned. As we see in so many places, our politicians seem to work only for the wealthy who finance their campaigns.
Since 2014, San Antonio citizens have been told many tall tales about Vista Ridge: that it is vital to our water security; that there is little or no opposition; that Abengoa of Spain is the perfect partner for this project; that Abengoa will bear all the financial risk; that we will pay only for the water delivered (but have to take all the water, whether or not it’s needed); that Vista Ridge will not harm our Central Texas neighbors; that Vista Ridge will be water “for tomorrow at today’s prices.”
Since contract signing made it “a done deal,” SAWS has offered more falsehoods: that Abengoa-Spain’s financial collapse will not affect Abengoa-Vista Ridge; that the firm will not use public financing; that reducing Abengoa-Vista Ridge to 20 percent minor partnership from 80 percent majority control is insignificant; that the Abengoa-Vista Ridge application for Texas “SWIFT” low cost public loan funding is only a back-up; that Garney Construction is the perfect partner to take over the pipeline project; that Garney will be applying for mere “bridge loan” funding to complete the project; that SAWS can take over the project if other investors don’t; that the 50 percent rate increase approved by City Council for SAWS customers is fair and reasonable. All untruths and half-truths, serving interests other than those of the people of San Antonio.
Sierra Club has opposed Vista Ridge as an unnecessary and highly costly project that will aggravate sprawl. Sierra Club is deeply concerned about the injustice embedded in the SAWS’ rate structure that puts the Vista Ridge costs disproportionately on residential rate-payers, while Chamber of Commerce interests derive most of the perceived benefits.
We now have new serious concerns — the ridiculous claim that complete financial rearrangement of the project is still the same contractual agreement. Vista Ridge financing has become ever more complex and largely hidden from the public, while official statements become ever more misleading. Our City Council has guaranteed a 21 percent return on investment (a huge profit at ratepayer expense) to the investors in Vista Ridge. We have a right to know who these investors are, what their ties are to city politicians and SAWS, and how they stand to gain at our cost. That is why Ms. Wright’s complaint is serious and appropriate.
We demand full public disclosure and examination of every part and party to Vista Ridge finances. The intricate, opaque financial dealings of all the various parties call out for independent review immediately, before SAWS customers are drawn into a morass of multibillion dollar magnitude.
City Council must not shirk its fiduciary responsibility to protect SAWS customers from financial trickery involved in the Vista Ridge project. We insist on an independent analysis to assure us that all is honest and above-board. Our representatives on City Council owe their constituents this much.
We will not accept the mayor’s lack of concern as an answer to our very real concerns.
Terry Burns, M.D., is chairman of the Alamo Group Sierra Club.
Republished from MySanantonio.com, CLICK HERE to read the original.
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