Saturday, July 31, 2010

Attending the All Democratic Clubs Picnic, and boot camp for candidates

I went today to the annual picnic of all the Democratic Party clubs in Santa Clara County. Great place to meet many of the party leaders and elected leaders, and to talk them about our hopes for the Water District.

Spending a lot of time as well this weekend in planning out the campaign, so we'll be ready for the weeks ahead.

And the endorsement list continues to grow, with Walt Hays, Suzanne (Suzie) Wilson, Dianne McKenna, and Enid Pearson being some wonderful people who are supporting what we're trying to do.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mountain View General Plan heading the right way on water

I attended a community workshop today that's part of developing the revised General Plan for Mountain View.

They're doing good work on incorporating recycled water and emphasizing "green" stormwater techniques. I mentioned the need to use permeable pavement surfaces that allow rainwater to percolate through and into the ground instead of immediately flooding streams, and this is something I researched in my work at Committee for Green Foothills. I also brought up the value of low-water use landscaping and native plants to reduce water demand, and it seems like these will be part of the City's future. So far, so good!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Letter from our campaign to the Water District on term limits

(Below is a letter we sent on Monday about the proposed term limits and why they were inadequate. The District eventually improved upon the original proposal, although not quite enough. We'll post about that later. -Brian)

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

Dear Chair Santos and Members of the Board:

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 County Board of Supervisors. Two terms or three terms constitute a meaningful restriction that should be applied.

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

Brian Schmidt for Santa Clara Valley Water District 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Remembering Stephen Schneider, and voting No on Proposition 23

Driving to a meeting of the Water District's Environmental Advisory Committee earlier this week, I heard the sad news about the unexpected death of the prominent Stanford climatologist, Stephen Schneider.

While a student at Stanford Law School, I participated in one seminar where he guest-lectured and heard him on other occasions during school and afterwards. I thought he gave the most convincing demonstration of who to trust in the climate debate by showing a survey of the mainstream climatologists and the small number of scientists that doubted climate change. Schneider showed that the mainstream scientists were reasonably confident of their predictions but also admitted a wide margin for error. The few skeptic climatologists admitted nothing, and were absolutely confident that they were right. He had given the best demonstration I could imagine of scientific honesty on one side and over-confident hubris on the other.

Schneider's death comes as California wrestles with Proposition 23's demand to suspend its premier climate change law, AB32, a theoretical suspension that would actually kill it if Proposition 23 passes. I know that Schneider actually had some criticisms of his own of AB32, but I can't imagine he would favor the misguided effort to kill the law and do nothing in return.

I'll be voting No on Proposition 23, an initiative that will harm efforts to fight climate change and efforts to protect our water and watersheds. We will have to learn from Schneider's legacy as the state and country move forward.


For a eulogy about Steve Schneider, read RealClimate here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Our campaign's been endorsed by Palo Alto City Councilmember Greg Schmid

We're very happy to receive the endorsement today of Palo Alto City Councilmember Greg Schmid. We've added him to the growing Endorsements page of the campaign site.

We hope to continue working on issues that concern north County and all of Santa Clara County, and we're looking forward to more councilmember endorsements in the days ahead.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Second news media discussion of our campaign is online today

Following the Mercury News Op-Ed where the newspaper notes my candidacy, the Mountain View Voice now has an article up discussing the Water District race:

Three candidates have filed papers to run for a seat on the governing board of the Santa Clara Valley Water District in the November election.

Bern Beecham, Lou Becker and Brian Schmidt have thrown their hats into the ring to represent the newly created District 7, which covers Mountain View as well as Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno and Los Gatos.

Both Beecham and Becker are veteran politicians familiar with municipal water administration. Schmidt, a Mountain View resident, is an environmentalist and lecturer at Santa Clara University who is familiar with water issues.

....Schmidt has served on the water district's Environmental Advisory Committee and the Performance Audit Committee. He, too, is concerned about finances, but wrote in an e-mail that he believes his experience working on environmental issues will give him "an opportunity to lead the way on mercury cleanup and water district environmental leadership."

Schmidt said he is interested in protecting the Permanente Creek Trail, as well as cleaning up Moffett Field and restoring wetlands in the area.

Additionally, Schmidt would like to make some changes to the way the board operates. Should he be elected, Schmidt said he would work to have public board meetings moved to the evening so citizens with day jobs can more easily attend. Currently, meetings are held every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 9:30 a.m.

"Clean government is the only way you can get real fiscal reform," Schmidt said.....

Looking forward to seeing the candidate positions spelled out in detail, as we've already done at the website.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New endorsements yesterday

Picked up some more endorsements yesterday - Jim Foran of the Open Space Authority, Margaret MacNiven from Bucks restaurant, and Jeff Segall, scientist and Mountain View resident/activist.

We've added them to the endorsement page, and are starting to divide up the endorsements in categories.



Friday, July 16, 2010

More on mercury problems from the Mercury News

This week the Mercury News had yet another article on mercury issues, this one dealing mercury in the household, titled "Compact fluorescent lamps save energy but need to be disposed of properly." Some excerpts:
For years, consumers have been urged to switch to CFLs, or compact fluorescent lights, which use about one-quarter of the electricity of incandescent bulbs. But unknown to many, CFLs come with a health risk if they're broken: They contain small amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin that can be particularly harmful to children and pregnant women.

...."It's a public health issue and an environmental mess if they are not disposed of properly," said Rob D'Arcy, the hazardous materials program manager for Santa Clara County.

California and several other states ban disposal of CFLs in the trash because they could contaminate landfills. But there's little enforcement. one has called for CFLs to be banned because, on balance, they offer a wealth of environmental and energy-saving benefits. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions in the air, so using CFLs, which use less electricity than incandescent light bulbs and last longer, is still a better deal for the planet.

....Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the California Product Stewardship Council, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to shift responsibility for waste management from local governments to manufacturers and producers, is among those who believe "we're still better off using fluorescents."

"But what's happened is that we're trying to keep mercury out of the air by not burning coal, and now mercury is in all of these lamps that are in people's homes," she said.

The regulations prohibiting CFLs from being disposed of in the trash went into effect in 2006, but there's no state funding attached to it. That means each county in California has had to develop its own consumer awareness and recycling program in a time of strapped budgets, and some have done a better job than others.

"This is a problem that cries out for a big, comprehensive solution," said Bill Pollock of the Alameda County Household Hazardous Waste program. "But no one has the funds to tackle it. Right now, the recycling is totally voluntary — people have to make an effort to do it."

The problem does indeed call for a comprehensive solution that solves the mercury issue and the funding issue, and the Extended Producer Responsibility proposal of my campaign can do just that.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Gracias por su visita

Muchas gracias por su visita al sitio de web por mi campana por Santa Clara Valley Water District, districto 7. Como se puede escuchar en el video, mi espanol es muy lejos de perfeccion, pero funciona por el fin de conversacion y interaccion con gente con problemas sobre el agua.

Muy pronto vamos a tener mas traduccion en el sitio de web. Si tiene preguntas, por favor llamenos en el numero de telefono que esta en el sitio de web.

Brian Schmidt

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mercury problems receiving increasing coverage

Two recent mass media articles highlight increasing awareness of our local mercury problems. The (appropriately-named) Mercury News wrote on how five of the top 20 mercury-contaminated water bodies in California are found here in Santa Clara County:
Almaden Lake, a popular San Jose city park off Almaden Expressway, has fish with the highest concentrations of mercury contamination in California, according to a new state study.

Four other bodies of water in Santa Clara County — Anderson, Uvas, Calero and Chesbro reservoirs — also rank among the top 20 lakes whose fish have the highest mercury concentrations in the state.
The findings come as part of a survey released Thursday by the State Water Resources Control Board. The agency tested 4,905 fish in 272 lakes and reservoirs during 2007 and 2008 for methyl mercury, PCBs, DDT and other contaminants, the most extensive such survey ever completed in the state.

And the website version of the San Francisco Chronicle covered the problem of mercury-contaminated fish just north in San Mateo County:
When researchers wanted to test largemouth bass at Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir for mercury levels, the reservoir's managers in San Francisco figured the scientists were simply looking for a clean sample to compare with toxic results at other spots.

Instead, the study showed that the fish in the San Mateo County lake - which collects rainwater as well as water piped in from Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy reservoir - had some of the highest mercury levels in the state.
Read more:

As in the case in San Mateo County, some of our mercury contamination is from far away, but we can take immediate steps to address our local contamination, which is one of the reasons for why I'm running for the Water District Board.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

More info on the Water District

(An excerpt from a repost below):

The Water District is pretty unique, combining responsibility for water supply, flood control, and watershed protection.  Many water districts have been extremely destructive water-grabbers or dam builders - this one is different, but a lot more can be done to make it even better.  It may not sound immediately important, but it does a lot of work, and I've been involved with it as chair and vice-chair of its Environmental Advisory Committee over the years.  The elected position occupies a somewhat-vague middle ground between the all-volunteer, supposedly-limited time commitment of most city councils, and the full-time, paid positions at the county and state level.

So will I win?  I'll exceed the accuracy level of many campaigners by skipping the false certainty and admit that I don't really know.  It would be hard to lose just right now - it's an open seat and I'm the only one who's filed an official Intent to Run.  On the other hand, other people are interested and have their own very good qualifications, so we'll see.  I do plan to run a serious campaign - I'm very certain of the support of the local environmental community and that I have more experience than any other name I've heard with the District.

Coming back to the relevance to this blog - the Water District is very clued in to climate change, but again it's always possible to do more.  I also want to highlight the foolishness of Proposition 23 on the November ballot that would suspend California's premier climate change law, AB 32, on the false pretense that the law has anything to do with high unemployment. 

(I wrote this on another blog, Backseat Driving, which is mainly about climate change and other random issues.  If I write something during the campaign that overlaps both blogs then I'll likely post it in both places.  -Brian)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

We're in the news - Mercury News published an Op-Ed by Brian referencing the Water District election

The Mercury News published my Op-Ed on a "Silicon Archipelago" that can replace Silicon Valley sprawl as the model for economic development in South Santa Clara County.  An excerpt:
Goodbye, Silicon Valley. Hello, Silicon Archipelago.
The low-density, land-wasting sprawl of Silicon Valley's past does not have to continue through the South Bay. A better model can be an archipelago: a chain of urban islands emerging from an ocean of green space, all interrelated but separated. This Silicon Archipelago model has a realistic chance of describing the future geography of our region as our high-tech economy extends southward.
Fixing sprawl will have enormous benefits to conserving water, avoiding dangerous development in flood-prone areas, and improving our watersheds.  A Silicon Archipelago will be a much better future for the Water District.
The byline lists my employment at Committee for Green Foothills and says I am "a candidate for Santa Clara Valley Water District seat 7".  It's great to get the news out!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Welcome to the Brian Schmidt for Santa Clara Valley Water District 2010 blog

Thanks for visiting this blog, where we'll be posting updates about my campaign for the District 7 seat for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, representing much of northern Santa Clara County.  The main website is at, and information will be shared back and forth between there and here.  Please keep coming back as news develops!