Board violated Brown Act before raising rates


The West Kern Water District had a simple task to accomplish.
It wasn’t pleasant but just about everyone knew it was necessary.
Water rates have to go up.
We understand the realities. Through both natural and man-made problems, the amount of water to serve the area is becoming more and more scarce and more and more expensive.
Just about everyone understands that means it’s going to cost customers more for their water.
Therefore, it is hard to believe that the West Kern Water District could handle a public discussion of the matter in such a clumsy way. Even more inexplicable is the fact that the board, in one of the most blatant violations of the state’s open meeting laws, met in closed session to discuss the rate hikes and misled everyone by stating the meeting was to discuss “potential litigation.”
Didn’t anyone from the district attend a recent workshop on the Brown Act?
Or did they go but not listen?
Public involvement and comment in the decision making process is crucial to a free society, and is, in the words of media attorney Jim Ewert,  “A fundamental right under the Constitution.”
Monday’s closed-door meeting violated both the letter and the sprit of the law, which gives the public a right to know how public agencies decide public issues. With the exception of a few specific matters – personnel, real estate, or the real possibility of a lawsuit, the state’s laws demand that public policy be conducted in public.
That didn’t happen here in Taft this week.
 The district has one choice – do the right thing. That means they need to call another special – and public -- meeting to formally rescind the action that was taken improperly Monday night, then discuss and vote before the public on the new rate schedule.
The action it took earlier this week will not stand if challenged by anyone.
If the district doesn’t do the right thing, that challenge will come from this newspaper.