Update, June 9, 2020: Enjoy this response by Terry Burns, MD (Alamo Sierra Club) at the June SAWS meeting. Be sure to read our newest report in our News section.
Update, May 7, 2020: SAWS ratepayers received this notice the Vista Ridge is pumping and without media fanfare, an unusual move by SAWS.
Update:: May 5, 2020 (Cinco de Mayo!):
Who are these masked men??? Hint: Both have B-E-R-T in their first names.
Dynamite excerpts from statements made today — Cinco de Mayo — by two SAWS Accountability advocates in San Antonio:
Alice Canestaro Garcia, local artist, former teacher, SAWS Act PAC:
“When I heard about your decision last month to give your general manager the illegitimate power to execute any and all contracts, without limitation, by using a genuine crisis befallen our city, our country, our world, it made me sick to my stomach…When I heard that Mr. Guerra lied to you, claiming the same abuse of power was done by CPS Energy the week before, it made me absolutely furious… For years, now, we have been working to get you to ACCOUNT FOR a multi-billion dollar unnecessary boondoggle known as Vista Ridge.With this latest maneuver, you have totally discredited this agency — there is no accountability. If you want to set off a ratepayer revolt, keep Mr. Guerra on the board and keep lying to us. “
Terry Burns, MD, Alamo Sierra Club:
“I assume, despite the lack of media celebrations, that Vista Ridge water began flowing in April. No contractual change was announced, no reprieve from this horrible expense at this time of crisis.We are I assume receiving or at least billed for about 45 MILLION gallons of water per day, for about 20 days now. What are you doing with this water? What is happening to our bills? And what has happened to the RAC? (Rate Advisory Committee) Will they meet again? Will they be forced to rubber stamp everything in one final meeting so City Council can rubber stamp your rate increases in June?? Why are we seeing no nomination and approval of new Board members today?At the end of this month THREE trustee terms will have expired, Mr. Guerra and Ms. Merritt TWO FULL YEARS beyond your term limits. If Vista Ridge water is flowing, Mr. Guerra promised to be going…Your willingness to serve SAWS in this way could be considered admirable. I still call it an egregious abuse of power, and subversion of ethics and the rule of law. When will the Mayor, SA city attorney, and city council actually represent SA citizens in dealing with an opaque and dictatorial SAWS?”
The response? Trustees passed the same resolution they passed last month, giving Puente dictatorial powers (no limitations), Guerra continues on the Board having “forgotten” his pledge to leave now that water is flowing through the pipeline. (Vista Ridge started on April 15, but they gave no details.) And, no real information was given about the status of Vista Ridge financing.
Instead, they circled the wagons and let Puente counter attack speakers ad nauseam. Staff and Board spent most of the the 2 hour 28 minute meeting forcing us to listen to a load of self-congratulatory hooey. See for yourself but be sure to bring something to help stop you from uncontrollable gagging.
Help us unmask these men. Volunteer here!
Below was posted on May 4.
Pilfering Case Number 3: the Rogue SAWS
LIV sounded the alarm in this article we released on April 14 about the San Antonio Water System’s (SAWS) Board of Trustees using the COVID crisis to give near dictatorial power to their general manager, Robert Puente. Without limitation, Puente is empowered to negotiate AND execute a contract for any amount without Board approval. The Board can approve it later. Seriously!
We suspect this latest SAWS maneuver is about Vista Ridge — The San Antone Hose. Turns out the project apparently hasn’t shored up its 30-year financing terms.
Oops! Do you think that right now might not be such a good time to be negotiating terms for an over-priced, unstable, unnecessary project that carries environmental risks?
So far, SAWS reports that Puente has yet to use his power.
Puente is paid three times that of any public water utility general manager in the US.
SAWS has been opaque in their dealings on Vista Ridge, a public-private partnership, ever since they roped the San Antonio City Council into a rushed execution of the convoluted Vista Ridge contract in 2014.
The 1.3 million ratepayers, and their watchdogs, are more in the dark today than ever.
What We Do Know About Vista Ridge
What we do know is Vista Ridge has had significant and expensive engineering problems. We do know there is far too much water in this project than can be used. We do know Vista Ridge is for real estate speculation. We do know SAWS has been unable to sell this excess water. We know that SAWS must pay for Vista Ridge water whether they can use it or not. And, we know the underlying leases for the project were gathered in Burleson County by a guy on probation for stealing $2.4 million from his oil and gas employer. (Watch our video, “I Oppose the San Antone Hose“.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the City Council have been asked — repeatedly for years — to reform SAWS and to conduct an independent performance audit of Vista Ridge. So far, no action.
On Tuesday, May 5th, the SAWS Board meets again. We will be “attending” by listening to the stream and offering some comments. You can catch it here. The agenda is here along with instructions for how to make comments, if you wish.
Coming as soon as it’s safe to petition! San Antonio organizations and voters will be able to stop the abuse themselves by petitioning for a public vote on the SAWS Accountability Act. Learn about it on this page dedicated to the SAWS Accountability Act!
Join our SAWS Accountability Conference Call on June 2 at 6:30. Call or email us for the instructions.