Thursday, December 23, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
After all this time, it's hard to believe that we're here. I'm so very glad to tell you that, barring some last minute strange returns, we've won, and due to your efforts I will be the District 7 Director for the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
So thank you all for voting, for helping, and for all that you did. This was a group effort in the best sense of the word, with different people rising up at different times to seize the opportunity of pushing the campaign forward. The fact that there are too many people to thank is the reason why we've won.
We've won despite our decision to severely limit the size and influence of individual campaign contributions, by voluntarily setting a maximum donation by individuals at $250. We won despite that, because of everyone's work on the ground, and we're now set to bring real campaign financing reform to the Water District in time for its next election.
We will be able to fix the District governance, and work to improve its mission. There's so much I want to do, in addition to cleaning up mercury contamination, keeping development away from streams, and putting environmental restoration on an equal footing with the flood control and water supply. I want to thank everyone who's helped and above all, everyone who voted to make this happen. And I very much appreciate my opponent, Los Altos City Council Member Lou Becker, for his thoughtful and civil campaign.
Now the work begins. Onward!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
....In Santa Clara county the average residential monthly water bill is less than $50 per month. A morning cup of plain coffee at a coffee shop costs more than the 300 gallons or so per day that most households use.
Instead of focusing on reducing the water bill, the new board ought to focus on ensuring the long term supply of clean and abundant water, adding infrastructure to support delivery of recycled water for irrigation, and improving water conservation. Cost cutting to support these objectives is a good plan, but not cost cutting to reduce the water bill. Couple of the candidates:Brian Schmidt and Linda LeZotte appear to have these as their top priorities for the board.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
October 25, 2010
I would encourage consideration of specific examples to see whether the protection the District sought through expanding Ordinance 83-2 has been achieved under present conditions. Several examples that immediately spring to mind include:
· Los Altos Hills, with a 25-foot riparian buffer policy.
In each case the District might analyze whether it could help with riparian protection under current policies. For example, in the case of the Guadalupe Mines Road project, the District submitted a useful comment letter prior to the initiation of CEQA review for the project, but the District did not comment on the CEQA document itself and did not provide comments when the project approval was appealed by environmental groups and another governmental agency, the Guadalupe Coyote Resource Conservation District.
We believe that more can be done to improve riparian protection. Because we are aware of interest in different cities for improving policies (for example, San Jose's proposed Draft General Plan revision to reduce exceptions to its 100-foot buffer policy), we think this could be advanced in a way that shows the District's concern but is still productive and cooperative.
Please contact us if you have any questions.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
October 20, 2010
Policy 11 E-4.1.4, a new Objective to "Protect, enhance and restore thriving populations of key species indicative watershed health." The same issue arises here as above, that Staff interpretation does not remove the need for adequate Board direction, and Objective 4.1.2 is too general to provide adequate direction.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Gage, Lezotte and Schmidt will help reform Santa Clara Valley Water District
According to the Mercury News:
The Santa Clara Valley Water District is ripe for reform in the Nov. 2 election, thanks to the pileup of board outrages over the past three years and the addition of new electoral seats. Finally, there's a real chance to shake up the leadership that too often has provided poor oversight of an agency with an annual budget of $315 million in taxpayers' money. Trustees sometimes stay for upward of 20 years on this board, perhaps addicted to the pay and benefits that are excessive for the part-time job.
Fortunately, in three contested seats for the seven-member board, there are good candidates. We recommend outgoing Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage in District 1, former San Jose Councilwoman Linda LeZotte in District 4 and environmental attorney Brian Schmidt in District 7....
District 7 offers the toughest choice. Both Schmidt and Los Altos City Councilman Lou Becker seem solid on reform and are qualified for the job. We lean toward Schmidt because of his longtime advocacy and deep understanding of environmental issues. His relative youth -- at 43 he would be easily the youngest board member -- could also inject new energy into the board. In addition, his North County orientation would balance Gage, who is backed by the farm bureau and cattlemen.
In recent years, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has sparked major controversy, with accusations of gerrymandering and grand juries questioning its spending.
This year, Santa Clara County's largest water provider is facing a rare occurrence: multiple, high-profile candidates running for its board.
Seven candidates are running in next month's election for three open seats on the board, which oversees an annual budget of $315 million and supplies drinking water and flood protection to 1.8 million county residents....
In the final open seat, for District 7, which runs from Palo Alto to Almaden Valley, environmental attorney Brian Schmidt, 43, faces Lou Becker, 76, a retired civil engineer and member of the Los Altos City Council.
Schmidt, a registered Democrat, is a staff attorney with the non-profit Committee for Green Foothills. He supports a limit of two terms for board members, a reduction in their salaries -- from $260 per meeting to half that -- and a more pro-active environmental stance for the district. Chairman of the county Fish and Game Commission, he supports tougher state laws for mercury pollution, is leaning against an Alviso Port and wants more water conservation and recycling programs.
He is endorsed by the Sierra Club and by Kniss, Shirakawa and Yeager.....
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
October 12, 2010
Santa Clara Valley Water District, Board of Directors
Re: Agenda Item 5 - Board member responsibilities and compensation should be made roughly comparable to those of City Council Members
I am impressed with the importance of the Board's work and the time I have seen given to that work. Chair
The main problem as I see it is that this Board is straddling an uncomfortable middle ground between the full-time, fully-compensated work of bodies like our County Board of Supervisors, and the more limited work and modest compensation of most City Councils in our County. I think it would make more sense to choose one of these two roles and to operate like a City Council, with comparable hours and comparable compensation.
Switching to evening meetings, like most City Councils, would make it much more feasible for people who have day jobs to serve on the District Board, as well as make it possible for more people to attend meetings. Switching to a rate of compensation that is similar to that of City Council Members would therefore be appropriate.
The rate of $260 per meeting and up to $2,600 per month is not similar to what Council Members receive. I suggest cutting the rate by more than 50%, to about $100-$125 per meeting and up to $1000-$1,250 per month. Such a rate would still be at the high end of what council members receive, but at least would be in the general range of comparable payment rates. Making this proposed cut would demonstrate that the District Board is serious about cost control and about reconnecting to the community by adopting a more broadly accepted compensation rate.
Two additional steps should also be taken. First, there is a potential conflict between Water Code section 20201 that allows the District Board to raise the compensation rate, and the District Act that sets a fixed limit significantly below the proposed compensation rate. While I appreciate the helpful explanatory paragraph in today's agenda item, I suggest the Board direct District Counsel to prepare a publicly-available memo explaining in more detail how these two laws interact and the reason why the District does not believe the fixed limit in the District Act is applicable. In particular, the memo should explain whether section 33 of the District Act was passed later in time than the Water Code section, or if the Water Code section has been subsequently restated or reauthorized. The memo should also state why the Directors compensation had not been reset to the rate fixed by section 33 at the time that the District Act was last reauthorized by the legislature (note that section 20201 uses the word "increases," not "changes," when saying increases should be governed by the Water Code and not by legislation).
Second, the District Board should set rules regarding when a Director can be compensated for participating in community meetings if that Director has determined that he or she has a conflict of interest over the primary subject matter of the meeting. My recommendation is that if the Director has determined that he or she has a conflict that prevents participation in a decision at the Board, then that Director should only participate in community meetings on the subject as a private person and should not be compensated for that participation. If the meeting also concerns other Water District subjects, then compensation may be appropriate, but only if the treatment of other subjects is more than de minimus. It is not clear to me whether any such rules currently exist, but I have not seen mention of them.
I thank the District Board for this opportunity to comment, and please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
(Thanks to Trish Mulvey for a pointer to the video.)
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Majority of Board of Supervisors have endorsed, Sierra Club endorsed, and Democratic Party clubs are endorsing
Friday, September 10, 2010
We're now endorsed by a majority of Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, and Palo Alto City Council Members!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Save our water, save our streams, save our jobs
Please vote NO on Proposition 23
On behalf of the Brian Schmidt for Water District 2010 campaign, we encourage all
Proposition 23 will hurt our economy, especially our local Bay Area economy
Proposition 23 only helps the Texas oil companies that are funding it – independent legal analyses show no overall economic harm is caused by implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Particularly in the
Proposition 23 will hurt our streams, the Bay, and your Water District
Climate change is reducing our water supply by changing the snows of the Sierras into rain, which is much more difficult to store. In our local area we have the chance for more droughts and less reliable and predictable rainfall patterns. We will have increased risk from flooding, both from the potential of bigger storms and especially from the rising water levels in
Proposition 23 is telling the nation and the world to do nothing to stop the climate crisis
Texas oil companies are telling Californians that we’re too poor and weak to do anything about climate change, but also saying Proposition 23 is just about California’s actions. It’s not. While Proposition 23 will leave us poorer if it passes, the message it sends to the vast majority of the world that’s far poorer than us, is that they should ramp up their emissions also.
Please vote NO on Proposition 23, and please support efforts and candidates who assist the fight against dangerous climate change. It’s a local issue, it’s a global issue, and your vote makes a difference.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The following are my comments on behalf of the Committee for Green Foothills regarding the Watershed Operations Audit Memorandum of the March 2007 Comprehensive Performance Audit Final Report prepared for the Water District.
(The following page references are to Appendix E of the Final Report.)
Page 2: fieldwork listed for the Watershed Operations Audit does not include interviews with outside stakeholders. I was interviewed by the auditors, primarily concerning watershed issues. My interview is listed elsewhere in the Audit, but I hope the omission here does not mean my interview was left out of consideration for the Watershed Memo. Some of my comments would have fallen into the category of “Opportunities for Improvement,” although I did not take notes when I was interviewed.
Page 4 and Page 18: Strength Finding No. 1, praising the Watershed Permit Management System, appears to conflict with
Page 6 and 7: Strength Finding No. 2, praising the “partner” relationship with the City of
Page 8 and 9: as it appears that no one on the Clean Safe Creeks Independent Monitoring Committee was interviewed, I would like to know the basis the auditors have for concluding that the program is successful. I am not for my part stating it is successful or unsuccessful overall, and the parts I am familiar with appear to be successful, but am interested in what the basis is for this determination.
Page 11 and 12: the statement on p. 12, “the perception local agencies have of the District with respect to floodplain management probably does not match the services the District provides” is unclear as to what exactly is the problem. The worst-case scenario is that the District and the agencies both believe the other side has taken on a responsibility that it has not, and something is not being done that should be done. This needs to be clarified.
Page 15 and 16: The discussion of the Watershed Resources Protection Ordinance misses that this is primarily an environmental protection issue, and the possibility of damage to flood control structures is a secondary issue. It further misses the issue that the Environmental Advisory Committee made recommendations that were not incorporated into the final ordinance (as I understand it). The comparison between the recommendations and the final ordinance would have been a useful place for an outside auditor to determine whether performance could be improved. Issues such as whether the District gave up too much authority that it legally could have exercised to agencies that are unwilling to protect the environment could also have been discussed as part of a performance audit.
My suggestion is the District react to this report by clarifying its role as a neutral provider of information. The District should also clarify that it is allowed to take a policy position supporting or opposing major projects like
I further suggest that any monitoring program tracking overall mitigation required of the district, also track when the District is supposed to be consulted by others. Many land use agencies, for example, will issue conditions to permits requiring landowners to consult with the District before proceeding with certain actions. While compliance in these cases is not the District’s responsibility, it would be very useful to have a single place to go to try and track down when consultation is required.
Please contact me with any questions.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
July 26, 2010
Santa Clara Valley Water District
Board of Directors
Re: Proposed term limits are so unrestrictive that they are worse than doing nothing, and should be drastically altered
Term limits have some disadvantages. In conversations I have had with Board Directors, I've been impressed with the breadth of experience and passion for their community that came with the length of service. However, the need for democratic accountability, the value of fresh ideas, and the virtual impossibility of defeating an elected incumbent mean the advantages of term limits, of meaningful term limits, outweigh their disadvantages.
For these reasons I advocate term limits of two or three terms as part of my own campaign, and I pledge to serve only two terms myself. While the District is to be applauded for its current consideration of term limits, the terms suggested are not truly meaningful and would do more harm than good by forestalling efforts at adequate term limits.
First, four terms are too many. Sixteen years plus additional years in office before the term limits come into effect simply provides inadequate opportunities for contested elections like the one we are seeing now in the District 7 election. The length exceeds other terms of office, including the three term limit set for the
Second, the limits fail to consider the terms served by sitting Directors, creating a situation where Directors who have already served for a decade or more could then be allowed to serve an additional sixteen years. If the Water District acknowledges that term limits should be imposed, then the argument for imposing them applies to sitting Directors and their terms served. I proposed that term limits should apply to anyone serving as Director beginning after the 2012 election, and should consider the previous terms. This would mean that all sitting Directors could participate in at least one more election (2010 or 2012) and serve one more complete term above and beyond the terms already served, while still ensuring meaningful restrictions apply to sitting Directors.
Third, the lack of a meaningful required absence period from the District board reduces the usefulness of term limits and opens the possibility of abuse. While the language of Section 1.B. states that District board members resigning after serving more than two years has served a full term, Section 1.C. overrules that by saying that any period of absence from the Board allows a Director to serve again. So a Director in the fourth year of the fourth term could resign right before the time to file for election and then file, because the language of Section 1.C. states the absence means the four terms "shall not disqualify" the candidate from serving. This problem could be fixed by clarifying in Section 1.C. that a Director who resigns after two years shall not be considered "absent" from the Board until after the conclusion of the Director's full term. This correction might solve one problem, but it is not enough.
There should be a required two-year absence from the Board, so the advantages of incumbency are given a real time period to diminish to an equal playing field, and the new voices on the Board have a chance to make a difference.
I hope the Board will consider these changes so that the proposed limits will have truly beneficial effects, instead of making meaningful limits harder to obtain.
Brian Schmidt for Santa Clara Valley Water District 2010