Please Dig In

To Don Bauder and Moss Gropen: Regarding “the voters” having widely rejected Mike Aguirre and voted for Prop C profitization, I don’t believe it (“Bar Rejects Charges Against Aguirre” and “Water’s Monopoly Game — Public? Private?” “City Lights,” February 10). The Republican-appointed registrar of voters office has been cheating the vote as have Republicans nationally for ten years. Mike Aguirre polled 50–50 on his election, and the 2-to-1 loss is suspicious for a 2-to-1 program. This also happens with many, many propositions that are rigged to outmaneuver our Democratic-majority lawmakers. In the recent election, Howard Wayne was within automatic-recount margin and the spread suddenly switched on the TV screen (a red flag) to an unrecountable five points. As well, Steve Whitburn’s county district has two-thirds Democrats, yet he lost by 2 to 1.

Please investigate these rigged elections as well as antigay Prop 8, which also flipped suddenly onscreen in a mirror image of the vote for Prop 4 antiwomen’s rights, which was defeated. I also believe the corporate tea party house candidates ousted long-term Democratic favorites because there are still 18 paperless voting states. Please, please investigate the subterfuge of this most basic right on which all our financial, health, freedom, and peace rights depend.

Val Sanfilippo
via email

Spin Left Us Dizzy

My colleagues and I are sadly disappointed with the lack of journalistic integrity displayed by Moss Gropen in his February 10 “City Lights” story “Water’s Monopoly Game — Public? Private?” Not only are there several factual errors and misquotes throughout, but Mr. Gropen replaced the nuance in my answers with blatant innuendo to exaggerate our position from cautious consumer advocates to fanatical ideologues.

While we may expect this level of spin from a media outlet with an obvious political agenda, the fact that an independent, community newspaper like the San Diego Reader would publish something so deliberately biased is especially disheartening.

Throughout the article, but particularly at the end, Mr. Gropen questions Food & Water Watch’s standpoint on water privatization, which seems odd since our website clearly states who we are, what our mission is, and that Maude Barlow is our chairperson. What is not transparent in this article is Mr. Gropen’s agenda. There is no bio of Mr. Gropen on the San Diego Reader’s website to let readers know that he is a business lawyer with a possible vested interest in the issue.

Mr. Gropen is entitled to his opinion, of course, and differing opinions should be voiced on your pages. But passing off opinion as fact, and worse, deliberately reporting on an interview with a source inaccurately, does a disservice to your news outlet and to the cause of civic dialogue about these important issues.

Below is a list of errors and misquotes:

Paragraph 3: “…a recent spin-off of Public Citizen, a band of ‘consumer advocates’ led by cranky populist (and perpetual third-party presidential candidate) Ralph Nader.” The caption under the photo also states that Food & Water Watch is linked to Nader. As it clearly states on our “About Us” page, Food & Water Watch was founded in 2005 by 12 former members of Public Citizen; we are not “linked” to Ralph Nader in any way.

Paragraph 4: “They say that if Mayor Jerry has his way, San Diego will be no exception [of water rates surging because of privatization].” What was said is that in our research, we found that rates have gone up when systems were privatized and so that was a concern in any city considering privatization. It was never said that San Diego’s rates would be guaranteed to surge because of privatization.

Paragraph 5: “Starmer acknowledges, the study doesn’t focus on the type of privatization deal that the City is contemplating.” The wording of this paragraph suggests that we offered our report despite acknowledging that it was not relevant to the case at hand. Actually, we told Mr. Gropen both in our initial email pitch and over the phone to look specifically at the 18 remunicipalizations outlined in the report because they were all management contracts, which are relevant to San Diego.

Paragraph 6: “Food & Water Watch maintains that all privatization is bad.” This was never said and is a dramatic oversimplification used to make us appear naively ideological. What I made clear to Mr. Gropen was that privatization of the infrastructure that delivers water to people’s homes is problematic due to the inherently monopolistic nature of those systems. This was the specific focus of my comments reiterated to Mr. Gropen in a follow-up email.

Mr. Gropen simplistically states “Food & Water Watch is still vehemently opposed to the private sector running the water show,” but he doesn’t explain the other factors that must be weighed besides rates going up and that lead consumers to be concerned when a city considers privatizing its water system, all of which were listed out to him during the interview. These include a lower investment in infrastructure, water quality concerns, and a lack of accountability.

Paragraph 7: Misquote: Mr. Gropen claims that I stated that the Reason Foundation was behind the impending push to bid out the water system and that the Reason Foundation has ties to Carl DeMaio. Both of these are blatant misquotes and were never said. I stated that DeMaio has been regularly referring to a number regarding the savings from privatizing, and I stated that the number he uses came from a Reason Foundation report. I never in any way suggested that Reason was advocating on the bid or was “behind” the mayor’s push, nor that Reason and DeMaio had any sort of relationship other than the fact that DeMaio uses their number. Mr. Gropen seems to have created this statement out of thin air.

Paragraph 12: Misquote: Mr. Gropen claims that I stated that San Diegans “didn’t get all the facts” when they were voting on Prop C. My statement was that when voting on Proposition C, San Diegans were asking the city council to consider all the facts and make a decision that would be best for the city, and we hoped they would do that.

Thank you for your attention to these concerns.

Elanor Starmer
Western Region Director
Food & Water Watch

Moss Gropen responds: My quotes are accurate. As for Ms. Starmer’s suggestion that I may have a “possible vested interest in the issue,” although I am an attorney who practices business law, I have no connection to the water industry or its champions.

Audit This

Moss Gropen is correct when he questions the City’s strategy to sell its assets and outsource its services (“Water’s Monopoly Game — Public? Private?” “City Lights,” February 10). Water and sewer alone take in about $2,000,000 per day. Private industry would love a piece of that action.

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Comments

SurfPuppy619 Feb. 20, 2011 @ 6:29 p.m.

It’s important to understand that the goal of all private businesses is simply to make money. They have little concern for public good. Their only obligation is to their stockholders, whose goal is to make money.

======== All private businesses need to make a profit to survive, but that is NOT their ONLY goal, or even the main goal.

The notion that they have little concern for the public good is ridiculous. That would apply to Wall Street for sure, but to make that claim about all is just dumb.

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