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Mysterious survey arrives in Montara mailboxes

In late December, 2004 residents in Montara (about 60 miles north of Felton on Highway 1) received a mysterious opinion poll from the Southern California-based Reason Foundation.

Montara had purchased its water system from Cal-Am in 2003 and embarked on an ambitious program repairing water mains and drilling new wells and revitalizing existing onesthat Board President Scott Boyd says were neglected under Cal-Am's tenure.

The survey asked some rather one-sided questions relating to Montara's purchase of its water district from Cal-Am. You can view the survey here (PDF). The executive director of Reason's Public Policy Institute acknowledged that American Water (Cal-Am's parent company and a past contributor to the Reason Foundation) is interested in the results of the survey.While the Reason Foundation claims it is non-partisan, it is without question pro-privatization and operates the website privatization.org.

We're still waiting for the Reason Foundation to release the results of the survey, but residents who received it immediately questionedwhether its clear slant would allow recipients to accurately record their opinions, according to this story in the Coastsider and this letter to the editor.

A "citizen's coalition" that received funding from American Water shareholders in Lexington, Kentucky includes a 17-page FAQ prepared by the Reason Foundation on their website.

UPDATE!
The Reason Foundation finally released the results of its survey and, not surprisingly, they reported that a majority of people who responded (about 300 total) are not happy with the purchase. What the Reason Foundation decided not to include when pitching the story to reporters was some of the comments included in the 191 pages of written responses. As a public service, we provide a few examples here.

Unlike the Reason Foundation, we've opted not to include the name, mailing address and phone number of each respondent.

"Montara should own its water service. We should all pay the same per household, not depending on amount property is worth, for the purchase. Ivoted against the measure because i believe property taxes is an unfair method of spreeding the cost. Iam happy that a private company is no longer associated with our water sevice. I hesitated in responding to this survey because it is not clear who is behind it, or their motives. it is obvious that the 'reason foundation' has been hired to conduct this survey. Iam not impressed by the form of the questions asked, they will insult the intelligence of most of us in the community."

"I think this phony survey is a naked attempt to incite anger and resentment over an increase in property taxes that we all voted for. Yes, property taxes have increased. People who didn't realize that must have been all asleep. However, in return for the increased taxes, property owners are getting something in return: local control over our water system. Now we see our money going to work. We see the MSWD actually working on improving the infrastructure. We know that problems that come up can be dealt right here in our community, not by some huge overseas corporation that has little interest in our small community. So, doctor moore, do I have to guess who hired you to conduct this manipulative survey?"

"The increase is not significant in light of owning our own water company. I have lived here for 35 years and have had to deal with poor quality service, leaky pipes in the street and very high rates. The local employees have generally always been helpful, when they could be out-of-state owners made it hard to get improvements."

"I resent the manipulation of this survey. A change like this takes time. Our water & water service declined under previous ownership. It will take years for progress. Shame on you!"

"I am greatly pleased and wonderfully comforted to know that the community has voted for owning & managing their own representatives. It sounds like the writer of this questionnaire is trying to slant the out come of this survey by phrasing questions in this survey. This research project appears to be very unprofessional. it feeds the reader propaganda from one viewpoint of a controversial issue, then asks questions about the issue. this type of survey can't possibly be valid."