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I got quite a chuckle from Jack Stuart's letter in the Register and various endorsements in the Star which made absurd claims about the competence of Mayor Alan Galbraith.

Jack served as chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Water Rates in 2015. The scenario he advocated and Mayor Galbraith fully supported in September 2016 included: (1) over collected water revenues by $10 million over five years (2) over collected wastewater revenues by $7 million over five years (3) egregiously overcharged small commercial businesses (4) gave favorable rates to hotels at the expense of residents and (5) under collected from wineries, lending further burdens to residents. And these over collections were after consideration of debt service to bring all facilities up to standard.

On the other hand, Geoff Ellsworth noticed these problems, and together with two other members of the council, was able to see that rates were properly adjusted for fairness to residents.

Mayor Galbraith only acknowledged the poor condition of city facilities, while prioritizing development of several new resort-hotels as a means of adding to City coffers. He led a "we're broke" campaign throughout when such was not the case. When the new City Manager arrived, he said the city is not broke, while the mayor had continued this scenario well into 2017, even after financial reports proved that to be inaccurate.

Geoff Ellsworth doesn't overlook matters such as this. He thoroughly researches issues and has a good grip on reality, and the realities of what residents want, willing to listen to all views, working for consensus.

Vote for Geoff Ellsworth to keep us secure in every way.

Lois Battuello

St. Helena

Editor’s Note: The Star asked Mayor Alan Galbraith for his response. It is as follows:

There is nothing easy about rate design. The 2015 Ad Hoc Committee made choices in accordance with governing law. It discharged its duty of reviewing the proposed rates for reasonableness based on the underlying projections. Its recommendations were thoroughly reviewed by the City Council before adopting the new rates. This is how the process should work. Above all, there was no “favoritism” at play. The allegation is painfully misplaced -- painfully because the writer without basis challenges the integrity of knowledgeable volunteer residents acting in the best of faith.

This is unassailable fact: before the rate increases, the Water and Wastewater Enterprises were failing businesses: (1) they were not able to maintain themselves in good operating condition, as required by our bond covenants; (2) they were not meeting the net revenue requirements imposed by creditors, which impaired new borrowings to finance system improvements; (3) projected revenues coming into each system were far short of what was needed to meet regulatory requirements and fight off other legal pressures.

Now, as to General Fund operations, I have never said, “we are broke.” When I became mayor, the concern was whether our projected General Fund revenue was sufficient to allow us to maintain then current levels of service (with a 25 percent reserve target). We were mostly able to do so though not completely. At the same time, we were not making progress toward addressing the deteriorated state of city assets. We were also deferring replacement of city equipment remaining in operation well after its useful service life (worn out police vehicles, street sweepers, and so on).

Now, I have prioritized economic sustainability, both near term and long term. This is consistent with both our vision and mission statements. Knowing that we needed new revenue, I then led our local sales tax (Measure D) campaign in 2016. Measure D revenue in its first full year was $1.6 million. This indeed has provided us some breathing room to begin to tackle other city needs.

As for “prioritizing” hotels, I am not aware of any new hotel project authorized by the city since I have been mayor. The only hotel to open in the last four years is Las Alcobas but that was authorized well before I became mayor.

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