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