Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why Californians and especially Bay Area voters should vote NO on Proposition 23

(We had a great time at yesterday's Palo Alto Festival of the Arts, and we were the only political campaign to have a table set up in the Free Speech area. In addition to talking to people and giving out flyers to voters, we had the brochure below urging them to vote No on Proposition 23. More info is available here. -Brian)

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 California voters to turn out and vote against Proposition 23, a cynical proposition funded by Texas oil companies to effectively kill California’s premier law combating climate change. You can help California and help your community by stopping Proposition 23.

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 Silicon Valley, we need to provide leadership and support the transition to a green economy that we’re seeing right now

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 San Francisco Bay and at near sea-level creeks feeding into the Bay. Proposition 23 will hamstring efforts to combat climate change. Your taxes already have to be spent to deal with climate change impacts, and the tax impact will get worse if Proposition 23 succeeds in killing efforts to protect the climate change.

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

Working to improve Water District performance - from the files

(Below are comments I filed with the Water District in 2007 as part of my work on the District's 2006-2007 Performance Audit advisory committee. I'm repeating them here partly to document my involvement in that work, and partly because if elected, I hope to return to them and help improve the District's performance along the lines of the comments. -Brian)


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 Opportunity for Improvement Finding No. 6, stating the District “is not fully prepared for future permit-driven monitoring.” More explanation is needed as to why the current system will be inadequate, and if so, why the current system is not currently inadequate.

Page 6 and 7: Strength Finding No. 2, praising the “partner” relationship with the City of San Jose over Coyote Valley, is troubling. The District should be a neutral provider of information regarding environmental protection, water quality, water supply, and flood protection. If San Jose ultimately approves Coyote Valley development and the project goes forward, then a partner relationship could be appropriate, but right now this highly contentious project divides the people that the District works for – the voters of Santa Clara County. There are limits to the Baldrige business model when applied to governments, and this may be an example. At this point in time, the District should not be taking sides.

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 Coyote Valley, and clarify when it is acting as a “partner” and when it is acting as an expert agency.

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.


Brian Schmidt

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Putting Water District assets online, and on Google Earth

Something that I've mentioned before and wanted to document here as an important additional step for Water District transparency is to make it possible to find online all of the property that the Water District owns. All the property, all the buildings, all the infrastructure, and all the easements should be available online for the public to know about.

Making it available on the District website is a good idea, but in addition it should be viewable in some kind of mapping function. Google Earth could provide an excellent framework, where anyone could simply click a button, see what property the District owns in Santa Clara County, and then scan it in detail or click through for more information about a particular property.

I understand that a perfect mapping function onto Google Earth may be difficult, but to give a general idea of what the District owns and where shouldn't be too hard, and will help the public control and monitor what we all own together.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Water District term limits ballot: better, but not enough

I blogged a while back about the letter our campaign sent to the Water District (as far as I know, the only campaign to have submitted a comment) on the inadequate proposal for a four-term limit for Water District directors, to be placed on the ballot this November.

What came of the proposal was an improvement: three terms, and a requirement to sit out for four years before being allowed to start the clock again. That part is good, but they failed to make it retroactive, so directors who have been sitting on the Board for years/decades get an additional 12 years, which isn't a good way to inject fresh blood. As I said before, term limits have their problems and may have been misapplied elsewhere, but at the District, meaningful ones are needed.

At this point, I would vote for the ballot measure and work to get it corrected in the future, possibly through state legislation. That improves significantly upon the original proposal, which was worse than nothing. Still the lack of retroactivity is unfortunate, as is the basic decision to put this on the ballot: it should have simply been included in the legislation passed by the state on a nearly annual basis to regulate the District, saving the taxpayers 1.5 million dollars (page 2 at the link).


Update, 10/12/10: getting term limits through state legislation may not work, so we may have to look at other solutions.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's official! Ballot documents filed, and big endorsements rolling in

We turned in all the paperwork on Friday and we're confirmed for being on the ballot. At the same time some wonderful endorsements have been rolling in - Assemblyman Jim Beall, County Supervisor Liz Kniss, four Palo Alto Councilmembers, former mayor Peter Drekmeier, and two former Mountain View mayors. It's all here on the endorsement page, and I'm expecting we'll see more soon.

I've also been expanding the scope of people I've talked with to include people on the water supply side who interact with the Water District, in order to get a handle on different perspectives for the District's future.

I should also mention that one other person, Lou Becker, has also qualified for the Water District ballot. I've known Lou's been interested for a while. We put up our own campaign website over a month ago and I've occasionally checked to see if Lou's campaign has a website up, but I haven't seen it. If and when they get something up, then I'll be sure to provide a link.