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Couple of points:

  • Looks like a win for Donna Frye. For several months, the city councilwoman was fighting a low-level war against the city’s practice of billing residents monthly for water usage. She had found that the city was charging a slight bit more than it should.

It was never really the amount of the overcharge that fired me up, though. It was what was really behind this method of billing.

Several years ago, the city billed its residents every other month for their water usage. In 2002, the City Council raised water rates but, in its typically courageous fashion, it didn’t want to residents to really feel the impact of that decision. So the city decided to switch to monthly billing. They actually raised water rates and were able to figure out a way to lower water bills at the same time.

Brilliant!

You might remember my interview with Fred Sainz from the Mayor’s Office about this several months ago:

So where does the mayor stand?

“We ultimately may end at bimonthly billing,” Sainz said.

But …

“The mayor is very concerned about the impact bimonthly billing will have on working class families in San Diego and their ability to save money to pay the bill,” Sainz said.

In other words, even though they’d be paying a bit less for water, the fact that the actual bill that they receive would be bigger and come less often would just confuse them.

Right?

Yes:

“The water department argues — and I think very effectively — that if you increase the rates, as we’re planning now, and then you go to bimonthly billing, people will have no sense of the impact of the rate increase we’re planning,” Sainz said. “They’d get confused.”

Frye was apparently able to annoy city management enough about both the cost of sending twice the number of bills out per year and the slight overcharges residents were facing to force change. And sure enough, the council just voted unanimously to support her.

  • If you haven’t read this new column yet, it’s pretty good. Every other week, North County journalist Ian Port will give us a take on the unique issues San Diego’s northern suburbs face in his new regular feature “The Merge.”
SCOTT LEWIS

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