Last night (8/6/2002) I attended a Trinidad city council meeting for the first time in the nine years I've lived in Las Animas County. The reason being that, for the first time in those nine years the city council is making decisions that affect us county residents as well as those residing inside the city limits.
The issue is water. When the attempt to fulfill a basic need is about to be seriously hindered, it moves one to get out and see for oneself exactly what is going on. The council meeting room was packed with concerned county residents. For the most part, the gallery of citizens was orderly and respectful, often reading from a carefully prepared script in order to get their concerns and observations stated in the allotted three minutes.
The common thread was the concern that the city council was not treating city and county residents equitably in this current water crisis. While everyone was in total agreement with the urgent need to conserve our common water supply, there was distinct disagreement where the starting point should be. Whereas most city residents have not experienced the need to alter their lifestyle along water conservation lines up until this current crisis, their county counterpart have been incorporating water conservation into their lifestyles for the past decade by virtue of the fact that most of us need to haul home, or have delivered, every single drop of water we use.
Practically everyone outside the city limits not on the city water delivery system (piped-in water), gets their water from Art Trujillo's water service, whether we haul it home in our own portable water tanks or have Art deliver it. The average monthly consumption per person has been 1000 gallons. (I happen to use 600 myself.) The average per capita consumption of a city resident is about ten times this amount.
The problem is that the city is ordering "across the board" reduction in all home water consumption. Do the math. Upon which group will this mandate inflict the greater hardship? Which group ends up with less water to fulfill basic needs?
To further complicate this simplistic attempt by the council to solve our water shortage problem, there is absolutely no way at present to assure that each county resident receives a fair water allotment to meet basic water needs. Whereas city residents have a water meter that tells the council how much water they are getting, the county resident has no assurance at all that they will get enough water for drinking and basic hygiene. The only way the city can enforce the water consumption reduction mandate for county folk is to padlock Art's water station after his meter reads 700,000 gallons in each month for the foreseeable future. This is likely to cause a "run" on water, resulting in some residents being left without adequate water toward the end of each month. What is more important, since most county residents have already been conserving, being asked, no, FORCED to consume twenty percent less than the one-tenth of the amount of water being consumed by their city brethren, is downright inhumane.
Getting back to the city council meeting where county residents were attempting to express these concerns, I mentioned that the gallery was mostly respectful and presented their concerns according to the set rules. Not so the council itself, including hizhonor the mayor, who behaved in a shamefully immature, defensive, and sometimes outright rude manner toward the citizens who were only intent on making their point in the required three minutes or less. I was singularly appalled that these council members and the mayor himself, elected by the people, entrusted to make good, informed decisions on their behalf, were such a pack of childish, egotistical, petty, ignorant pack, apparently incapable of seeing both sides of an issue and making fair decisions.
In conclusion, I can only say God help us all, especially this poor, ignorant bunch of city officials we're all stuck with during this time of crisis.